The bar menu, available only upstairs, has just eleven dishes. Johns does bar food wholeheartedly but wholesomely, as in one-bite stuffed dates--dates threaded on a toothpick with gooey warm blue cheese from Carr Valley Cheese in Wisconsin and that house-made chorizo. This was a very shareable plate, as was the charcuterie platter with a rough country pate, chicken liver pate, sausage, and a mix of tart pickled carrots, cauliflower, and beans. The charcuterie was a fine effort for starters, but I'm looking forward to more exciting smoked and cured meats as the restaurant gets going; these things need time. I liked the cornmeal-breaded whole smelt deep-fried, crunchy bones and all. A real Great Lakes treasure, smelt is alas nowadays a rare one; these were terrific.
Chef Johns has also reinvented a junk food classic with his duck confit poutine. It's crazy, and crazy good (and maybe crazy fattening, too). For those unfamiliar with poutine, it is a Quebecois specialty of French fries, gravy, and cheese curds--sometimes with meat and peas added. Johns uses shredded duck confit from white Pekin ducks raised at Back Forty Acres, hand-cut potatoes deep fried in duck fat, a relatively light dose of brown gravy, and a sprinkle of cheese curds. Formidable!
Desserts are the work of Jennifer Green, Johns' sister-in-law. The ones involving fruit and pastry were off the charts. The only true dud was a panna cotta that was like mushy Jell-O, but blander; the semi-dud platter of local cheeses ought to have been more carefully composed. But I'd make a special trip for the raspberry-peach crumble, soft baked fruit with a rich, scone-like topping, accompanied by a scoop of Calder Dairy ice cream.
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