Me and some of my favorite gal pals took the stroll up the street today to the neighborhood’s newest dining establishment Ellerbe Fine Foods. Weeks of anticipation has built this place up for us greatly, and luckily we weren’t disappointed. Co-Owners Richard King and Molly McCook (executive chef) have a good thing going here, and in the spirit of other Magnolia Ave. eateries like Lili’s and Nona Tatta will keep it packed with near south side foodies craving seasonal, local fare.
Upon arrival to Ellerbe’s I was a bit confused on how to get into the building. There are several false entries to the building. Once we made it in we were greeted by several smiling faces that quickly turned to horror when they noticed the several small children that we had in tow. They wanted a test for their soft opening, and we gave it to them!
Earlier in the month one of my accomplices had stopped by to make sure that they could accommodate a large party with several small children (three adults, four kids) and she was assured that it would be no problem by both the owner and restaurant coordinator. Obviously they had forgotten about this meeting, as they were unable to accommodate us at one table and only had one high chair available.
Vera drew the longest straw for the high chair, so I was the lucky one not dealing with a baby in a booster seat. Of course she is also the smallest at eleven months, so it worked out well. We ended up splitting our party up between two tables which left one parent and her son sitting alone, but we were still close enough to socialize without disturbing other parties.
The decor is very clean, and almost a little lacking. But what is up is very personal, ranging from a vintage apron collection, and fresh herbs in mason jars, to photos of the owner’s three spaniels. I could stand to see more of the decor to tone the place down and make it seem a little more welcoming. Also, one of the things that I mentioned to Richard, is that the uniforms seem to be a bit stuffy. The starched white shirts, sage green ties, and khaki pants are a bit too Olive Gardeny for my personal tastes. Also they make the staff seem very uncomfortable and un-inviting. I would like to see them dressed a bit more casually, perhaps in black t-shirts and dark colored jeans. I think that it would just be one small step to make the place seem a little more casual, and draw more attention to the food. Upscale with a casual twist, which I feel is a perfect description of this establishment.
After we had baby proofed the tables, i.e. moved all knives, glasses, and plates out of reach of small hands, we were able to review the menu. The menu consisted of great seasonal offerings such as cauliflower soup, fresh salads, and sandwiches made from fresh baked breads and same day purchased veggies. One more kid related rant and I will stop, there were no options on the menu for kids other than a $12 hamburger. However, I got the cauliflower soup for Vera and she loved it. And about halfway through our time there (which was almost two hours) they decided that bread would make our kids happy.
It did take a while for our food to come out (about 30 min once we ordered), which is a bit extreme for two hamburgers, two bowls of soup, and three tomato and basil sandwiches. But they were very busy trying to get everything organized and streamline their operation. Once the food came though, it was all worth it. The Cauliflower soup, which I have developed a severe addiction to, is indescribable. The little bits of roasted cauliflower, truffle oil, and guere crostini all blended together to make a creamy bowl of perfection. I HAVE to have more, and will probably be going back sometime this week for my next fix. I also ordered the tomato and basil sandwich with arugula salad. That is the worst description ever by the way. Basically the bread was fresh with bits of proschuttio baked in, filled with fresh tomatoes and basil and an aoli spread. The arugula salad was simple, just arugula tossed with lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper. My husband, the arugula fiend would be so jealous. I wanted to cut off my waitress’s hand when she took my bowl of soup without asking if I was finished, which I wasn’t!
I think that it’s safe to say that Ellerbe’s soft opening was a success, and I will definitely be going back on a regular basis.