Since opening in September, Gardner Junction has managed to fly relatively under-the-radar while still attracting a crowd of curious food-enthusiasts. A project 3 years in the making and helmed by Chef Steve Brown, it's no wonder that the place has attracted a certain amount of curiosity already. And did we mention that it was designed to recapture the look of the area's old Red Car trolley station? Gardner Junction pretty much hit our requirement for visiting: a bit of hype, and an extremely attractive menu. Unfortunately, we arrived on a rare rainy night, so we didn't get to enjoy the outdoor bar, lit by vintage lanterns and it's signature, bright clock. At least we got to enjoy the train car-style interior, with it's leather booths and low lighting. But you'd be mistaken to think this place is all flash and no substance: the menu was certainly one of the most inventive and decadent we've experienced in awhile.
For drinks, we both started out with two hearty cocktails. For me, I enjoyed the Junipear; while I usually opt for lighter, brighter drinks, the Junipear was pretty much Fall in a glass. The pear, apple, and allspice was like a warm, indulgent apple pie in alcohol form. Definitely a fun, different choice. Kyle got The Wise Old Man (which, seeing as it was his 27th birthday, seemed very appropriate), and really enjoyed it. Both of these drinks were fairly strong, and had a real vintage feel to them that went well with our leather booth.
For our first dish, we had to get oysters, and these came with a bush berry granita. The oysters were certainly fresh, and the granita was subtle-- it definitely allowed the oyster flavor to stand out. A nice oyster dish.
Another dish that Kyle and I can never pass up, we opted for the charcuterie plate featuring venison salami, country pate, country ham, and more. The venison salami was super flavorful, and really great on a crostini with just a bit of mustard. The country pate was also great-- the texture was creamy, and the ham was also really nice. I actually loved the mustards-- one of which was a beet mustard, and I'm usually not a fan of beets, so that was a pretty big coup. The pickled vegetables were surprisingly fantastic and cut through the fattiness of the meat nicely. A really great charcuterie plate!
Here's where the meal really hit its stride. The pork belly dish was so great-- the pork belly was crispy on one side, and tender and juicy on the other. I loved the additions of the pickled chili and watermelon rind, which added nice acidic and fruity elements, making this a perfectly well balanced dish. I think we both could've had about 20 pieces/person.
Alright, get ready; I can honestly say that this was one of the most creative and decadent dishes I've ever eaten. Basically, it was a dollop of seared foie gras on a black waffle (I feel like they said it was squid ink, but I don't remember...oops), and the foie gras just melted into the waffle for a mouth-watering combination of meatiness, sweet, and decadence. In case that wasn't enough, the charred meringue, peanut, and grape jam provided additional sweetness that made this like a dessert version of a PB&J with foie gras and waffles. Sooooo good. I can't possibly explain it all-- you just have to try it.
Never underestimate a simple potato dish. The potatoes were perfectly crispy on the outside and soft on the inside, while the garlic chive and creme fraiche added a cool, creamy element that enhance the flavor of the potatoes. The perfect side dish.
Another winning dish, our last one was a kale linguine with heirloom ragu and rabbit sausage. Though made from kale, the linguine was really nice and had a lot of flavor. The rabbit sausage was undoubtedly the star of the dish, and added a nice meaty element. I loved the cool, creamy addition of the goat ricotta. All together, a well-balanced and well-composed dish that was just delicious.
Overall, we both loved this meal. Chef Brown has really created a winning menu in a cool, low-key atmosphere. We're certainly looking forward to our second visit and sampling more creative and inventive dishes.