2310 decatur st. near washington ave
the chowhounds and i made it over to beaver's for lunch a couple weeks ago to say hi to newly posted chef jonathan jones (aka "JJ"). after some positive reports, we were anxious to see for ourselves what kind of progress he was making with improvements to the food. luckily for us we picked a wonderful day to come in. JJ had a bunch of surprises in store for the table.
i had not planned on blogging about the experience b/c really, i just couldn't bring myself to write another lukewarm review about beaver's - a place i wanted to love so much but couldn't. besides, in all fairness JJ hadn't been there very long enough, the menu was still the same, and i knew the camera in my purse had nearly dead batteries anyway. but that was before i knew what was coming to our table.
corn puppies. a definite improvement over the first time i had them almost a year ago. more pronounced beer flavor. i still find the remoulade dipping sauce a strange combination. fried pickles. this is something i would never order on my own. delish! i went back for another half pickle. buffaloaf sandwich. moist, tangy sauce, lots of mushrooms which i love. the bread is still the same and slightly sweet. i can't say i ever liked the sweet bread. others at my table enjoyed the new and improved beaver burger, the gyro wrap, chicken tacos (huge!), and the pulled pork and chopped brisket sandwiches. we all nodded in approval. we liked the changes we were seeing.
my only disappointment was seeing the sad little iceberg lettuce side salad arrive at the table. it came with my buffaloaf sandwich. seriously, it's a waste of lettuce with no tomato or other vegetable to be found in the small bowl. the old vinaigrette was tasteless, the new one is too sweet. some good ole non-fancy ranch on it would have pleased me more.
then we were told JJ was sending out a few items for us. keep in mind we had just eaten a full lunch. first out, a brunch item he was working on. think 2 thick slices of texas toast topped with a thick bisque-like sauce (tomato cream based?) with small bits of shrimp and 2 fried eggs on top. YUMMMMM. anything involving cream and fried eggs is a guaranteed winner in my book.
then a huge basket of some of the most tender pork ribs i've ever had. OMG. and warm bbq sauce came on the side which i definitely appreciated. everyone loved the sauce and slathered it generously all over their ribs. it wasn't overly vinegary and it wasn't overly sweet. it had a great kick. the table was quiet. we were all knawing on our ribs which is a good sign. our group today was a loud one.
then we got a platter of items JJ was preparing for the outstanding in the field dinner being held the next day. we knew exactly what dinner he was talking about. it had sold out well before summer. there were huge grins on our faces and maybe even a bit of anticipatory drool.
head cheese made with pig trotters, spine, knuckles, and various other head and body parts. it was the most appetizing head cheese (or what i like to call meat jello) i've ever seen or eaten. also on the plate were crostini sticks fried in pig fat neatly stacked on top of each other.
and still warm pork cracklings! pork valhalla. my tastebuds sung. the pork fat crostini were over the top. so yeah, i busted out my camera. i could no longer resist the urge to document this outstanding and outrageous meal. thankfully i got in a few photos before my batteries died again.
JJ sat down with us and showed us a photo of the whole pig that he had on his cell phone. his inspiration for the head cheese was a couple fergus henderson recipes. he said that he used 95% of that pig. talk about nose-to-tail eating. see photos from the OITF dinner on alison cook and cleverley's blogs. this is something i hope to participate in next year.
boy are we glad JJ is working inside the loop again. if you haven't yet, it's definitely time to go back to beaver's and give it another go.