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March 17th, 2004 KELLY CLARKE | Bite Club
 

Specially Sauced

     
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MARK GRECO
IMAGE: MARTINTHIEL.COM
We've been stewing over Gravy's gravy for what seems like months now--yet the damn place just opened 14 days ago.

The Bite Club first heard several months ago that chef Mark Greco was planning to open a NoPo all-day breakfast and lunch joint named after our favorite savory topping. All winter long, as we fried pork chops and braised beef--reserving liquids and incorporating roux--we wondered if Gravy, the latest blast in North Mississippi Avenue's restaurant boomlet, could live up to its saucy promise.

Yes, it does.

This gravy is some special sauce indeed, thick yet silky, its flavor enriched with a creamy Cajun edge, thanks to Greco's homemade fennel sausage. And the gravy's flavor is especially good when ladled atop a three-finger-width biscuit.

Even better, though, this hangover paradise dishes up its souped-up comfort in intimidatingly sized portions--at time-warp prices.

Greco credits home schooling for his gravy-making skill. "I come from a traditional Italian family," shrugs the burly Chicago native.

And drawing upon that family attitude may be what will make Gravy a neighborhood hit. The chef's sister Michelle Greco decorated the hip-looking tan space--dare we call it gravy-colored?--with eBay finds, from gravy boats and crocheted doilies to tractor seats, which were transformed into bar stools. Michael Banker, her contractor husband, crafted the restaurant's wide skylights and custom bar from timber recycled from surrounding businesses.

The 1970s neckties that bind the front window curtains once belonged to the Grecos' uncles Bill and Dick. Michelle even recycled father Jerry Greco's worn Levis to create aprons the staff wears with tool-belt swagger.

"North Mississippi is short, just a ghost of a street," Michelle says. "But there is something about it--there is such a good mix of people here." In fact, inspired by the revitalized area, the family commissioned local artist Brett Superstar to create the four large "neighborhood portraits," that hang above diners' heads.

"Gravy already had regulars before it opened," Greco says of the curious neighbors who lined the block waiting for a taste during the cafe's opening weekend. "Now we want to keep seeing those same faces every day."

When Bite Club visited, we matched a mountainous scramble of gooey fontina cheese, mushrooms and triple-glazed ham with tiny cinnamon-sugar fry cakes and herb-laden spuds. But don't worry, our heart still belonged to the, well, you know what.


Gravy3957 N Mississippi Ave., 287-8800. 7:30 am-2:30 pm Tuesday-Friday, 8 am-3 pm Saturday-Sunday.Closed Mondays in March. No checks. $ Inexpensive.
 
  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.
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