Well, I was on the road again last week – on this trip I spent a couple days in Greenville. I had an open evening to dine, so I visited the bar at American Grocery Restaurant, a venue I’ve only visited once for a Bulleit bourbon dinner, which as I recall, was a creative fixed menu, executed without blemish.
The restaurant espouses values which anyone in Atlanta will easily recognize, as the mantra of local, sustainable, and seasonal have been forced down our throat with gavage-like bruteness. Unlike our tasty geese brethren, I maintain a working gag reflex, and often find myself choking on marketing as execution and tastiness is lacking.
I pondered the many intriguing menu offerings while sipping on a “New” Old Fashioned, a “teachable moment” where I recalled how classics become so. The drink was too sweet for me, lacking the sharp edge of hard liquor I desire in an Old Fashioned. Really, I should have known better, as it’s a personal preference, though I will critique the fact that a fruit seed was floating around in my glass, something the bartender should certainly prevent.
As a card carrying member of the confrerie of food snobs, I was immediately drawn to two appetizers which appear on menus with less frequency – sardines and sweetbreads. I chose both, forgoing an entree, though the braised beef tongue with gnocchi and smoked tomato cream appeared promising. Beef tongue is underutilized, unless you’re at a taqueria on Buford Highway. I really wish more advanced chefs would try their hand at this protein – I still reminisce of a revelatory ox tongue at Diavola in Geyserville, CA.
On to dish #1 – grilled sardine, crispy potato, swiss chard, pickled onion, romesco – $12
The largest sardine I’ve ever seen, I enjoyed picking this tender fish apart, though I did consume a few tiny fish bones which I missed during bar-side surgery. The crispy hash brown potatoes and chard were well done and appropriate, and the creamy romesco, while not my favorite style of this Basque sauce, was well balanced by the small bursts of acid from the pickled mustard (made popular by Tom Colicchio, of Diet Coke fame), while also adding some visual punnery with its mimicry of fish roe.
Dish #2 - Veal Sweetbread, sunny side egg, zephyr cake, bacon brown butter – $14
A dish as sinful as it sounds, everything was just very well done here, with proper usage of everyone’s favorite and oft/over-used ingredient – bacon. There’s a reason it’s popular, and this chewy, smoky version was a fine example. Texture and flavor, the dish had it all; the sear on the thymus, creamy egg, savory bacon brown butter, with a burst of sweetness from the Saba Mitica (below), an Italian grape must reduction which I really enjoyed.
Upon review, it looks like this brand is available in Atlanta at Alon’s Bakery.
A traveling wine rep sitting next to me shared some wine – thank you sir!
Oh yeah, I guess I should summarize the experience. How about – if you are in Greenville, and enjoy food, don’t miss American Grocery.