Innovative spins on comfort food
Canard Portland, Ore.
To understand why Canard ranks as our city’s best new restaurant, “one need only look around,” said Karen Brooks in Portland Monthly. To your right, a middle-aged gentleman is licking a soft-serve cone. Behind him, a few punk-rock kids swirl wines fit for a sommeliers’ party. And all credit goes to chef-owner Gabriel Rucker, who’s deservedly been showered with accolades since he opened Le Pigeon next door 12 years ago and proved that nonconformist French fare was exactly what Portland needed. At Canard, the 37-year-old is “still bending rules, still surprising us, still just cooking what he loves,” but here, no dinner option tops $20, and the kitchen is open from breakfast through midnight. Maybe you’d expect a Rucker breakfast menu to include half-shell oysters and champagne cocktails, but there’s also French toast that’s been deep fried after soaking overnight in soft-serve vanilla, plus a steam-grilled sausage sandwich with Tabasco onions. Come dinner, his “holy-schnikes-good pancakes” reappear, but now buried under duck gravy and seared foie gras. “I could eat here every day. I’d die, of course, but with a smile.” 734 E. Burnside St., (971) 279-2356
MeMe’s Diner Brooklyn
To operate a diner in New York City these days, you have to bend a few rules, said Ryan Sutton in Eater.com. Libby Willis and Bill Clark have “struck gold” in Brooklyn’s Prospect Heights by serving only dinner and weekend brunch and creatively redefining comfort food. Step into their 31-seat dining room in an off hour and you can read The New York Times leisurely over endless coffee refills or share a single dessert with a friend. But MeMe’s also serves one of the city’s best brunches, which can mean long waits, and you never know when the weeknight crowd will pour in for craft cocktails and a bite. The menu “ranges from deliciously dorm room–y to healthfully voguish,” from scrambled eggs and cilantro served in a bag of Fritos to fried pickled cauliflower and carrots. Also, “this is precisely the place to order a patty melt”—each perfectly charred burger served on rye alongside brasserie-quality fries. In the morning, you want the fried eggs served on a bed of wilted kale and pepitas surrounded by a shallow pool of chile oil. 657 Washington Ave., (718) 636-2900
Foreign & Domestic Austin
Nathan Lemley and Sarah Heard seem to have made the right decision, said Matthew Odam in the Austin American-Statesman. Assuming control of a hit restaurant just as its creator prepares to open its first satellites in Cincinnati and Houston, the two-chef couple is subtly putting a personal stamp on the operation: “It’s a similar song, but one sung with a new voice.” Ned Elliot’s “ethereal” Gruyère-and–black pepper popovers are still here, as is his crispy beef tongue—braised, then seared, and “as good as or better now than it’s ever been.” The emphasis on whole-animal cooking has been retained as well. But “there is something very hard” about making simple dishes deeply appealing, and the new owners do that with their salad of sweet peaches and greens, and home-made pastas like the gemelli in a ramp pesto with bits of cashew, grana padano cheese, and lemon zest. The new Foreign & Domestic is humble for a destination restaurant, but “labels don’t really matter when the food is this good and this honest.” 306 E. 53rd St., (512) 459-1010
David Reamer, Gina Ferazzi/Los Angeles Times ■