Voted Bon Appetite’s Best New Restaurant of 2016, it is nearly impossible to score a reservation at Staplehouse. The brainchild of Jen and Ryan Hidinger, the restaurant was originally planned as their brick-and-mortar location for their wildly successful supper club. However, life took an unforeseen turn in the winter of 2012. Most likely you know what happened next. From the tragic events that followed, The Giving Kitchen was born.
LS and I dined there this summer. We got a reservation? Uh, no. In order to do that, one must go online at precisely noon on the first Friday of each month. If you try at 12:03, it will be sold out. However, we had a gift card to use so we planned to snag two seats at the coveted eight seat bar, which required arriving at 5:00pm before doors open.
Once inside the gate, guests can see the gorgeously manicured grounds and smokehouse behind the historic brick building in the Old Fourth Ward. We made a bee line to the bar, passing the open kitchen on the left and a row of tables along the exposed brick wall on the right. White subway tile backs the bar shelves made of rustic wood.
The bar staff was ready for the onslaught. Unlike most restaurant bars, the expectation at Staplehouse is that the folks seated there will be eating. Placemats and silverware were set. Indecisive about drinks, I blurted out “El Diablo” and without hesitation, our server shook one up that rivaled those made by Greg Best at Paper Plane.
Finally, LS and I could focus on the food, an abbreviated menu relying heavily on vegetables. Dishes are described only by their ingredients, starting with small, light plates followed by a couple of heartier entrees. We started with a chilled dish of snapper with shiso, black garlic, and radish, finished with a flourish of green tomato.
Awaiting our next course, we followed a neighboring diner’s cue and ordered Grandma Lillian’s puffy and flavorful potato bread. We needed the extra volume as dishes at Staplehouse are tiny, like the plate of chilled crab adorned with sunflower seeds, marigold, dill, and leeks which was devoured seconds after it arrived.
Seems as though a mandatory kitchen skill at Staplehouse is perfecting the use of the mandolin, as demonstrated by dishes like the carrots and potato. Accented with hazelnuts and a swirl of tart green sorrel puree, whisper-thin flutters of the vibrant orange veggie landed delicately on top of a bed of slices, steamed with vadouvan spices.
Thinly sliced potato was layered and baked, then sliced into servings, each accompanied by crispy chanterelles, sliced fennel, and porter vinegar. Ingredients are often prepared in multiple ways in each dish, for example, the fennel was also made into a luscious puree that was great paired with the earthy flavor of the potato and mushrooms.
We didn’t know what to expect of a dessert described as blackberry, pine, almond, and sorghum. However, the result was a medley of textures from crunchy to creamy, and was one of my favorite dishes of the evening. Blackberries were transformed into a custardy tart, to be enjoyed with candied almonds and housemade gelato.
Throughout our meal, Service was so smooth, relaxed, flawless. Since the menu is based upon what is available through local growers, chances are you will not have the opportunity to try any of these dishes. It’s best to be surprised and let the kitchen do its thing, that is, if you can get a table.
541 Edgewood Avenue SE 404-524-5005