When chef Ben Meyer left Ned Ludd last year to open a public house with Upright Brewing's Alex Ganum, the city's fooderati wondered how much of Ludd's elevated spin on rustic ingredients would make the transition. Wonder no more. Grain & Gristle has enough touches from Meyer's previous spot to allow a comfortable familiarity, but with enough new ideas to stay fresh. Plus: a deep fryer. While it may not quite reach the culinary heights to be considered as a "dining destination," the product coming out of the back of the house displays an attention to detail and level of care that is often lacking in your typical bar.
As at Ned Ludd, pickles play a prominent role throughout the menu, not only in the pickle plate ($4) but also liberally applied in the mains. Meyer's acumen with all things briny remains undiminished, his tangy chunks of vibrant purple chard mingling nicely with cumin-infused carrots and earthy beets. A variety of olives ($3) are brined in-house, swimming in fennel-seed-and-thyme-infused oil that just screams for an accompanying order of bread with which to sop it up. The potted rillettes ($5), spread over thin, dark bread and dabbed in a grainy mustard, dredged up memories of a childhood spent raiding the cupboard for cans of deviled spread armed with a loaf of sandwich bread. It's uncomplicated and wholly satisfying.
A plate of grilled spring onions ($7) had marvelously charred bulbs that were sweet and smoky, but their green stalks could have used more BTUs, as they were simply wilted. The accompanying romesco sauce was bizarrely smooth and lacked any roasted red pepper flavor.
The salt-cod fritters ($8) have potential for greatness, with a deep fishy, salty flavor, but on our visit, were on the greasy side, with one completely obscured by a giant dollop of aioli. The accompanying fennel salad was exemplary. The burger ($9) came out a perfect medium, well seasoned and nicely apportioned. While it may not stand toe to toe with the best pub burgers in town, if you spring for all the optional extras (cheddar, bacon, egg) you've got a lovely mess on your hands that plays perfect foil for any of the beers on tap.
For a place that has only been open since December, Grain & Gristle boasts an atmosphere of establishments many years its senior. It may not be the sort of place one would drive across town for, but it is among the very best the area has to offer. Consider the folks in Grain & Gristle's neighborhood very lucky indeed.
- Order this: Burger with all the extras ($11.50).
- Best deal: Potted rillettes ($5).
- Iâll pass: The grilled spring onions ($7) could use some work.
EAT: Grain & Gristle, 1473 NE Prescott St., 298-5007, grainandgristle.com. Monday-Friday noon-midnight, Saturday-Sunday 9 am-3 pm 5 pm-midnight. $ Inexpensive.