It takes real confidence, I think, to name a restaurant Chalk. It’s not the most appetizing of names, really. And while I don’t usually mind identifying a slight chalky flavor in my wine, I can’t say I’m searching for it in my food. Lucky for us, Chalk far surpasses its name.
I’ve read reviews from other bloggers who aren’t so thrilled with Chalk. I think they go in expecting Pho Paris and well, it’s not. Chalk is whimsical and fun. The menu is happily filled with gourmet takes on comfort food. Chalk is upscale food that you can eat in jeans and Converse – it doesn’t require a little black dress and heels.
I’ve now been to Chalk twice, and both times the experience was excellent. We had a full evening out, complete with dinner, drinks, and a table for 5 on the second day the restaurant was in operation. I later returned with a girlfriend and we had drinks (and more drinks) and snacks. Both times, we had great service. In fact, both occasions (but especially on the first), our servers went out of their way to figure out what I could eat and what I couldn’t due to my nut allergy. On our first visit, our server Molly actually found out what desserts I could eat before I even asked. Considering that nuts can kill me, that’s the kind of service I appreciate.
The menu at Chalk is divided into four sections: Start (appetizers), Hand Food (sandwiches), Eat Us (entrees), and Friends (sides). I’m under the impression that the menu will change and evolve, as more and more local ingredients are available. (Winter is a rather hard time to grab winter ingredients.)
Kevin and I started with a bread & cheese plate ($11) and our dining companions ordered the short n’ puff ($8), which is short rib, onion, and boursin cheese. We all dived into our appetizers. Kevin and I had a varied selection of cheese and flatbread, whereas the short n’ puff, while not what any of us imagined, was incredibly tasty.
I reverted to my childish tastebuds for dinner and ordered a grilled cheese ($7). It wasn’t just any grilled cheese though. Between slices of homemade bread were sliced tomatoes and several types of cheese. The sandwich was served with a side of tomato sauce for dipping. I also ordered a twice-baked potato side. Kevin ordered the chicken pot pie ($8) as his dinner. It arrived with that wonderful puffed pastry top, as a chicken pot pie should really look. Our friends ordered the STBLT (BLT with smoked turkey) and the Salmon (drunken salmon with white beans), which were quite well received. In addition, we also had two orders of fries with the most heavenly cheese sauce (I know boursin was in it, but I’m not sure what else). Honestly, I could have just had the fries (or anything) with that cheese sauce and been content.
So obviously we all went the comfort food route. But you’re certainly not limited to that. The menu also offers duck, steak, lamb shank, and a tasty sounding pork dish, all as entrees, not sandwiches.
As I’ve mentioned before, my favorite part of any meal is dessert and Summer Genetti, the pastry chef, does not disappoint. I ordered a flight of miniature cupcakes that included such tasty treats as coconut, red velvet, and key lime (although there are several other tempting options on the menu). Later, we got to visit Summer in her pastry kitchen. She’s turned a basement area into a cheery, wonderful place with brightly colored trims and curtains. It’s just the place from which you’d expect miniature cupcakes to be born.
The wine list is approachable and focuses on wine by the glass, although bottles are available. My favorite off the list was a Syrah-Viognier (admittedly, I’m on a syrah-viognier kick lately) by Yering Station ($12/$48). The mark-up, by the way, is comparable to that of Bouquet and other area restaurants. There is a small retail area and wine bar that is not open yet, but they’re working on it. It looks like a great place to host small functions, wine tastings, and wine dinners. In addition to wine, they have a fantastic martini list. I’m a big fan of creative martinis. I had a mimosa royale that was slightly lacking in something but my friend had a cucumber basil martini that she thoroughly enjoyed.
The atmosphere at Chalk is fun and relaxed. There are giant food art pieces hanging from the walls and ceiling, and the walls are filled with chalked drawings that have been permanently affixed to the blackboards.
A month or so ago, when I first published the press release announcing Chalk, I received two kinds of comments: those from folks who love Jean-Robert de Cavel and those who can’t stand him (personally, I’m a fan). I ask you to remove that from the equation. Judge Chalk not on the folks who are investing in it, but by those who are delivering your food and service everyday. Manager Bryant, Chef Jared, and Summer are working hard to deliver an excellent and unique product. Simply relax and enjoy it.
chalk food + wine
318 Greenup Street
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