After Friday’s post, one of the most frequent questions I received over the weekend from readers was, “were you able to finish your lunch anywhere?” As you may recall, I had just shared three small plates with my dining companion (gazpacho, shrimp-avocado, risotto) at g.e.b., and once we were told they would not serve us anymore, we only had about 30 – 45 minutes left to get something to eat. Looking back on the experience – and the events that precipitated it – I now realize how important it is to offer a few recommendations in the area, since other potential customers who’ve had bad things to say about unrelated dining experiences may show up at g.e.b. one day, and face the same conundrum.
I had been to Grange Hall Burger Bar before, but only for dinner. We quickly walked across the street, into the darkened, barn-like dining room. Before we even ordered, our server recommended some blue cheese covered home fries, which sounded good to my friend. We took the bait.
STELLA BLUE CHEESE FRIES was how they were listed on the menu; they arrived in a giant mound, these crispy russett potato fries, flecked with Wisconsin stella blue cheese. Dressed with a bit of “Red Neck’s hot sauce” that reminded me of a Buffalo wing, plus some julienned celery, they were a crunchy, salty and creamy start to our second lunch.
We decided to split a burger, opting for the grass-fed, farm-raised beef option (6 oz., $9.25; 9 oz., $12.25). We also chose a sesame poppyseed bun and a slice of sharp white cheddar from Darlington, Wisconsin. I love how they serve the burger with the cheese barely melted – their reasoning is too much heat will kill the powerful flavor of the delicate cheese – along with the usual suspects of lettuce, tomato and mayo. Cooked to a perfect medium, this burger defies the grass-fed stereotype of too lean, not enough juice. I had it almost dripping down my arm, and the ratio of beef-to-condiment-to-bun was spot-on. I wouldn’t hesitate to walk over to Grange Hall again for a quick lunch. Had we not already sampled three dishes, we probably would have opted to try a slice of strawberry-rhubarb pie as well.
I’m also a fan of De Cero, just down the street. A lot of locals swear by Perez – a typical Mexican taqueria up the street – but I find it a little too predictable (although the guac was nice). De Cero has a street food approach to Mexican, billing themselves as a “modern taqueria,” with a serious lineup of tacos and a bevy of refreshing drinks – great on a hot summer day. It’s located right next to the old Red Light space on the corner, which will one day become a Little Goat diner for chef Stephanie Izard (based on the state of the construction, it’s going to be a few months).
I should also point out that there’s a Jaipur right next door to g.e.b., but the last time I was there, they didn’t really have an affordable lunch menu and most entrees were priced between $12 and $15, so not the greatest bargain at lunchtime. If they ever institute a $10 lunch buffet, I’m there.
One place I love in that area is the La Colombe Coffee Shop. You feel like you’re walking into a coffee lab, where the baristas are more interested in steeping times and roasting temps than they are your spare change for a tip. There’s a small roaster in the back, but most of their beans are coming from their Philadelphia plant. On Thursday, when the mercury hit well over 100, I stopped in for a quick iced coffee (cold press, of course) and was surprised to see they have it by the keg:
So if you find yourself faced with having to make a quick decision on West Randolph for lunch, stop by one of these fine establishments for a little nosh, and think how lucky you are to eat in one of the greatest food cities in the world.