A few weeks ago, I trailed at a very polished, professional kitchen putting out nicely plated, well-conceived food. I talked to a cook there about where I work now, which is a bar in Adams Morgan, a sort of gritty, wild-partying neighborhood. I talked a bit about the food we put out there, which I like to think of as often interesting and well-executed, especially for a bar. He said "well, it's not fine dining, is it." No question mark; a statement. I quickly agreed. A lot of our food is definitely pub grub and our prices are modest. We're a bar first and maybe last.
Last night changed my thinking. For Valentine's Day, we offered four special items, each featuring a game animal: a quail app, and entrees with duck, venison, and rabbit. Prices were still modest, though a bit higher than the regular menu. The quail app went for $7 and the most expensive plate, the venison, went for $20, which was probably still not enough to justify the food cost. The plates that went out, however, looked and tasted as good as the stuff coming out of that fine dining restaurant I trailed at. They could easily have fetched ten dollars more at a restaurant whose service, decor, and reputation matched the quality of the food. I don't think we'll ever do fine dining, but we served food on a higher level last night, and I couldn't be more proud.