Home-style hospitality comes together with Cassy Vires’ upscale fare.
The east end of Cherokee Street, dominated by the old Lemp Brewery, has fewer colorful storefronts than the antique shops and Mexican enclaves farther west, but its bare-brick facades hide a diversity of businesses—pallet makers, costume warehouses, artists and random others—that value space more than ambiance. Table, on the other hand, welcomes the public into the brewery’s former stables, an elegant, historic space full of character.
What’s Mine is Yours The best place to start experiencing the restaurant’s communal dining theme is with Bites, a dozen appetizer-style dishes such as deviled eggs with spicy mustard, Gruyère cheese puffs and thin, crispy sweet potato chips. Figure about one-and-a-half portions per person, and hang onto a copy of the menu for easy reordering. The kitchen, under the oversight of Executive Chef and Owner Cassy Vires, has tapas-style pacing down pat. Table is the second restaurant for Vires and her husband, Josh Renbarger, and although they’re not always on-site, they’ve brought along experienced key staffers like sous chef Alan Varner to take the reins when they’re away.
Table’s menu mirrors a trend popularized on wine lists: divvying things up by style or flavor instead of traditional courses. Here, most categories areligned by ingredients—hoof, snout, beak, roots, leaves, offcuts and breads. Feast is the header for Table’s three entrée-sized offerings; Fresh labels seasonal dishes, like the roasted wild salmon, flaked into spikes and served with pickled strawberry jam. This was our group’s second-favorite dish, after the grilled flat iron steak. Its bed of spinach and wild mushrooms were similar in presentation to another favorite, grilled chicken paillards—tender strips nestled on a bed of arugula with a scattering of smoked blue cheese, fresh fig wedges and pomegranates. A similarly fruity dish of lamb meatballs with blueberry-chipotle glaze, however, was a bit on the sweet side.
Mine, All Mine There’s a good reason sharing is hard for little kids (and some adults, too); usually you’re giving away something you really want. Like the last of the white truffle arancini, deep-fried, crispy-coated balls of risotto. But who wants to be “that guy” who won’t share at a communal restaurant? Likewise, it’s tricky to steamroll over individuals’ dietary preferences when ordering as a group.
Those disinclined to share should focus on the cocktails and beers. (If someone does venture to ask for a sip, a well-timed cough will deter them.) The mixologists’ hooch of choice is brown liquor—whiskey, rye, bourbon, Scotch and spiced rum. Local microbrewers dominate the craft beer list, but the wines are nearly all international. They’re sold by the bottle or decanter, with the smallest beingroughly equal to a glass and a half. Wine pricing, a carryover from Home Wine Kitchen, is tiered—$12 for small, $30 for medium and $42 for large—making it easy to try something new.
Desserts are another place it might be possible to stake a solitary claim, with libations such as sweetened cocktails and ice cream floats, or plates like the chocolate pâté with blackberry mustard and warm shortbread cookies, accompanied by a pile of addictive vanilla salt to cut the sweetness.
Despite Table’s communal dining concept, until the restaurant’s ample seating starts to fill, parties have liberal elbow room. For a guaranteed meal among strangers, sign up for The Table, offered on Fridays and Saturdays, where Vires cooks for 12. Set in the new restaurant’s striking, glass-enclosed private dining room, it’s akin to her popular No Menu Mondays at Home Wine Kitchen.
Photo credit: Jennifer Silverberg