Had I eaten nothing but a couple of poke tacos washed down with an adorable little flight of beers, I would have been happy enough. But the Dinner Date and I were at to check things out. We’ve been in a farm-to-table groove, and wanted to try something further afield.
We swanned into the restaurant on a quiet midweek night and immediately sized up the landscape—comfy dining room, some tables along the expanse looking out onto Orange Avenue, and an inviting bar.
Here's what we found:
The bar: We zeroed in on the first order of business – cocktails. After poring over the lineup of more than two dozen mixed drinks, we narrowed the choices down within a favorite liquor category.
Our old friend gin came through once again.
So much so, in fact, that the DD declared his Pimm’s No. 3—a combination of No. 3 gin, carpano antica (a sweet vermouth) and ginger beer—the only thing he would drink for the rest of his life. That’s doubtful, but it was darn good.
My basil gimlet was a yummy concoction of Nolet’s dry gin, basil and lime. Refreshing, though a hint of mint was detected—an after effect, perhaps, from the muddler being used to mix a mojito.
Appetizers: Relaxed, appetite piqued, we ordered the local deviled eggs and local beets.
The eggs were fine. I don’t know how many versions of these fat bombs I’ve eaten in my life—wasabi deviled eggs, bacon-bleu cheese deviled eggs, chipotle deviled eggs—but it’s a lot. These purported to be seasoned with garam masala and chicory, but they just didn’t wow.
The beets were lovely, presented like a tray of rubies for our picking. The dish is served with a toss of watercress, bucheron (though it was delivered with some blandish bleu cheese the night we visited) and a surprising addition of spicy almond brittle for an unexpected sweet crunch.
The main event: Having laid down a solid foundation, we decided to share a main course and ordered the bacon-pepper prawns, served with mascarpone polenta, hot pepper jelly and some kind of sautéed greens we were told were mustard, but believe to have been Swiss chard.
The perfectly cooked prawns arrived on a islet of polenta, a spicy-sweet sea of syrupy sauce washing up against its shore. The greens were tasty. We locked forks scrambling for the last bits of bacon.
Extras: To our beer-loving delight, it was flight night, and the bartender obliged us with three brews—a double Belgian, a double IPA, and a double red—served in petite glass steins.
And a nice surprise: And that’s when we met Fletch, his wife and their two friends, all in town from Kansas City huddling over the cocktail menu. Unable to contain my enthusiasm for gin, I went ahead and advised our recently arrived bar mates on the choices. Good folk that they are, they tipped us off to what would be our favorite plate of the night—poke tacos.
Buttery tender, sea sweet sashimi sits nestled in fried wonton shells, topped with Napa slaw and spicy crème. One bite and I immediately saw the error of my eating ways and dedicated myself to creating a religion celebrating their deliciousness. Paired with a second flight of tiny beers, I was lifted to heaven.
Conversation rolling, making fast friends with Fletch and his crew, we were happy to stay put, enjoy the scene and discuss the pros and cons of wet vs. dry barbecue.
Fletch is a dry barbecue man, and—liking the cut of our jibs—insisted we come to his Kansas City home for a taste of the real deal. His wife nodded in agreement.
They really meant it. I'll be on Expedia later looking at airfares.
The atmosphere at Leroy's Lounge and Kitchen offers a sort of rustic roominess. The DD and I couldn’t quite pin down a name for it—Industrial Provencal? Manhattan Farm House?
Distressed granite at the bar, open-beam ceilings and exposed brick and ductwork give the space solid bones. The mix of wood, stone and metal provide texture to a comfortable palette of brown, copper and cream. Garage-door windows suggest an abundance of sunlight and draw in ocean breezes during the day.
Leroy’s Lounge and Kitchen was on the bubble, but the poke tacos put it over the top. It gets a thumb’s up.