Sunday, August 3, 2008

Would You Like to Be My Neighbor?

I thought after my first read through this month's Bon Appetit (the restaurant issue) that it would be a slightly disappointing issue. There weren't recipes that jumped out and said "Go to the store and buy every ingredient required to make this. NOW." I usually get at least one.

Now, I will make the Philadelphia's Osteria's Semolina Gnocchi with Oxtail Ragu when the air conditioner is no longer needed for life. And you'll probably like it a lot.

But the most striking piece in the magazine was an article I only skimmed on first read.
I've always liked the idea of a neighborhood restaurant. In a perfect world, we all would have one: a warm, dimly lit cafe around the corner; a bistro just a stumble down the block; a spot up the street where you could always get a table. We all would have a reataurant where we truly belonged - like the bar from Cheers, only without the kooky customers.

In this perfect world, the maitre d' would greet you with a kiss on the cheek. The server would set down your usual drink before you'd even taken a seat. The menu would open up like an old, familiar novel, the one you've read a half dozen times but never seem to tire of. You could eat and drink and carouse as though you were at your own kitchen table - bat at the end of the evening, you could tumble into bed without washing a single dish. When I die, I've decided, I don't want to go to heaven. I want to go to my neighborhood restaurant.
This is such a touchstone description of the Bluegrass Kitchen it literally caused me to reread the article twice.

Author Molly Wizenberg, author of Orangette, goes on to wax awesome about her favorite dish on the menu.

It's a slow-roasted tomato served with perfectly grilled crusty bread. And I'll probably make it after connecting with the sentiment of the article.

Like Wizenberg, I am discovering the benefits of local living on the East End. There are Italian restaurants, barber shops, book stores, the Capitol Street Market, Power Park.

And the BGK.

It's dimly lit, the staff is family to each other and to me. Hell, the owners are my landlords and I live in a four-unit building with the chef, the sous chef, and Herbert.

When I roll in for dinner on a Saturday night, there's a reserved card with my name at one of the six bar stools, usually the one at the end closest to the kitchen (I get the most interaction with the wait staff that way).

Herb is making a Manhattan for me. He uses bitters. Like you all should.

New chef Gary is recreating the experience at dinner.

The standard menu is a wonderful mix of black bean-poblano enchiladas and perfect chicken, red lentil hummus and squash ribbon pasta.

And now there are truly 'special' specials. Fresh, exciting dishes that make even the old comfortable neighborhood restaurant an adventure every day.

The Piedmontese-style beef tenderloin with deep-fried potato-cup spinach and Maytag blue cheese souffle smothered in mushroom-truffle oil sauce.

The Escolar (white tuna) on a sweet corn Johnny cake with green tomato sauce.

The Gnudi (naked ravioli) with ricotta pan sauted and served with arugala pesto, roast pumpkin seeds and roasted red-green tomatoes.

The chewy bacon and market fresh tomatoes on the BLT with gorgeous tender sourdough bread.

The perfectly poached egg everytime you order the ham steak with sawmill gravy brunch special.

All while chatting with Eileen, Eduardo, Herbert, and John. A glass of the Cousino Macul unoaked Chardonnay to pair simple wine with the complex acid tomatoes, herbed pesto, and creamy Gnudi.

It's a comfort zone that everyone should find in food.

I know the place, the people, and the food. I don't get tired of walking in to meet up with friends for a meal and I never hesitate to walk over on my own if I haven't made or don't want to make plans.

And now I get to watch the progress of the deck being added to the front of Tricky Fish across the street too.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I love the places that make you feel like you belong there -- the atmosphere and the people. That works for bars as well as restaurants. I can imagine Galway was a bit of that for you before.