Monday, April 30, 2012

Town Brookhaven bites

I'm over in the Brookhavenish part of town, which means I've been eyeing the TOWN development warily since construction started (and stopped, and started again). It seems, in lots of ways, like a lint trap for everything I dislike about this part of town -- namely traffic and dude-bros of various ages & levels of entitlement -- but it contains food and also beverages, so I've been exploring parts of it over the past couple months. Some initial impressions:

The movie theater, CineBistro (an swankish version of the dinner-and-a-movie concept) has nice seats, good snacks, and behind-the-times mixed drinks. Try the popcorn calamari -- a mix of well-seasoned popcorn and tender, deep-fried squidbits, the perfect answer to salt cravings and more-than-just-carbs-level hunger during an action flick. Skip the cocktails -- the mojitos are the only ones that don't rely on commercial sour mix, and mine came with wilted mint and stale limes. I'm hoping that they'll improve and expand their drink menu in the future (it's neither difficult nor expensive to squeeze fresh citrus, and it makes a Universe of flavor difference). In the meanwhile, the beer list is short but competent, and I'll be sticking with that. If you're planning on eating, do make sure you arrive at least 30 minutes before showtime to place your order at the bar. And don't bring the kids: This theater is 21 and up.

There Bar is one of the small pubs that's cropped up in Towncenter, and it's my new favorite neighborhood hangout for its casual, friendly atmosphere and small menu of consistently tasty pub fare. The chef, Ryan Hickey, formerly worked for Concentrics' Trois and Bocado, and he's brought those joints' senses of whimsy (and sensibilities about sausage) along with him. If you're carnivorous, ask your server about what meats are in the grinder when you go -- the kitchen's been sourcing a variety of game meats for their burgers and sausage dishes. I haven't had a dish I didn't like, so try what strikes your fancy -- but do go for the garlic rosemary fries on the side. Fresh cut and smothered in raw minced garlic, rosemary, and parsley, they're completely worth the calories.

As of early May 2012, you can still expect occasional hiccups in stock and service, and the cocktails are inconsistent at best: classic Moscow Mules have been perfect, but Manhattans came way watered down, and the house creations have been the over-sweet, syrup-thick sorts of things you'd expect in a frat-house kitchen, not a self-proclaimed "upscale dive bar." They have some great local beers on draft and in bottles, though, that are perfect with pub food. There is also the most reasonably priced non-fast-casual joint in the development -- you get plenty of food for the cost. (For more current information than their website offers, check There's Facebook page.)

The owners of Cafe at Pharr (who I desperately wish would redesign their logo to something that reminds me less of Mellow Mushroom) opened an offshoot called Baci that's serving the usual sandwich & salad suspects during lunch hours and delightful plays on Italian/American/Asian bistro cuisine at dinner. Try the mussels of the day (ours came in a red wine/fresh tomato/herb sauce that sounds iffy but was absolutely drinkable). The beet salad and burger were also excellent -- the latter involved thin double patties, near-magically cooked to temperature, and is my new city favorite of its kind (previously an honor bestowed upon Bocado's). The staff seems to be family, and be prepared for them to treat you like honored guests in their own home: impeccably polite and a bit familiar.

Next time: Noche, Old Blinde Dog, and the Olive Bistro. Let me know what you think if you've been!