Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Mid-Range Lovin': Where Do You Go for $25?

Congratulations to our fair city, now basking in the national spotlight for our kickin’ food scene! It’s truly fantastic to see others heap praise on Bryan Caswell (who was just named to Food & Wine’s list of best new chefs), on Feast (which received a stellar write-up in the New York Times), and on Textile, VOICE, REEF, and Feast for their spots on Travel + Leisure’s list of the 50 Best New Restaurants.

Indeed we get much recognition for our awesome-n-expensive... and plenty of accolades for our awesome-n-cheap. But where, prey tell, are the awesome in-betweeners? Are they lost in the shuffle -- or do they not exist at all?

What I’m looking for is a simple, nice night out with friends for about $25. I could do well for $15 or $50, but that elusive mid-range is where we fall short, methinks. I *love* Backstreet Café, Shade, and Café Rabelais, but always end up spending well more than intended. Am I looking for value in all the wrong places?

Here are five faves...

Dolce Vita – No surprise here. Dolce Vita cranks out amazing apps and some of the best pizza around. And while they only take reservations for parties of 6+, the cozy bar offers decent people watching, as well as a nice selection of reasonably priced wines. The prosciutto pizza is a long-standing favorite, as are the amazing green beans (fagiolini).

Seco’s – This place is a bit of a paradox. It’s an upscale Mexican joint with crazy-fresh ingredients, yet the price is beyond reasonable. Truly it’s the restaurant trifecta: great food, great space, great service. Spinach enchiladas are epic, and the fish dishes are outstanding as well. Actually, I dare you to find something you don’t like.

Shandy’s – This tiny café on Memorial at Westcott serves terrific sandwiches, soups, burgers, and salads with absolutely zero pretense. Menu items are homemade with fresh ingredients and served up by Shandy, herself. When you go, be sure to note the amazingness of her arms. Also, fyi, there’s a small wine list, and I’d like to re-nominate Shandy’s BLT as the best in the city.

Oporto – I both love and hate the small plates concept, but they work well at this semi-swanky wine bar. One-and-a-half or two tapas and a glass of wine does the trick here, all for about $25. The Oportobella (a marinated portobello baked with a spinach and artichoke gratin) is fantastic, as are the piquillo peppers. Oh small plates, why must you taunt me so?

Tiny Boxwood’s -- Open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, Thompson + Hansen’s beautiful café achieves an enviable mix of comfort and style. Beautiful simplicity reigns when it comes to both food and setting, but not price (why does simplicity always cost so much?). Anyway, I luuurve the Pizza Bianca, and the turkey/avocado club on sourdough ranks high, too.

Your turn! What are your favorite mid-range spots?


Jessica said...

Go to Shade at lunch. nothing over $15.

Ruthie J. said...

Thanks, Jessica! There are actually several great places with lunch specials right now (Beaver's and Feast, for two), but I'm looking for dinner spots.

Jessica said...

barnaby's, empire cafe, dry creek, chatters are also good for mid-range dinner.