2000s Archive

Menu Changes Daily/Often


The tea-brined duck at Francine, a culinary bright spot in the town of Camden, Maine.


Aqua Santa

You might find the same sautéed greens accompanying several dishes, but a bit of repetition is a small price to pay for the freshness of the ingredients and the light touch of the cooking at Aqua Santa. Locals still talk reverently about chef-owner Brian Knox’s Café Escalera, which closed in 1996; his current restaurant won’t put an end to the nostalgia, but crisp baby artichokes, chorizo-stuffed quail with fennel and olives, and the Eurocentric wine list should help create new memories. 451 W. Alameda St., Santa Fe (505-982-6297)


Sexy, sophisticated, and sure of itself, this bilevel supper club is straight out of a 1940s noir film. Executive chef Bruce Hill’s food ensures substance to go with all the style. During the warm months, choose organic heirloom tomatoes and a house-made mozzarella from a swanky rolling cart or sample the outstanding tartare of local tuna with chopped preserved lemon. 56 Gold St., San Francisco (415-433-6300)

Boulettes Larder

It’s hard to think of Boulettes Larder as a restaurant, since most customers come in to carry their food out—and it is only open for breakfast and lunch (except by special arrangement). But there are few places more pleasant than a seat outside, almost underneath the San Francisco Bay Bridge, and few restaurants more dedicated to making a menu from what is available at the farmers market right outside the door. 1 Ferry Building, San Francisco (415-399-1155)

Floataway Cafe

Anne Quatrano and Clifford Harrison have three restaurants, but the Floataway Cafe is the freshest and most lighthearted. The couple live on a farm, and they often bring their vegetables and stone fruit to work. They cure their own salumi, serve spicy homemade peach preserves alongside country terrines, skewer their chicken livers with fresh rosemary, and always have at least eight unpretentious, thoroughly original desserts on the menu. The restaurant floats on an edgy industrial landscape, and the dining room uses old milk bottles and photographs of clouds as whimsical elements. 1123 Zonolite Rd., Atlanta (404-892-1414


An utter lack of pretension is not a description that can be applied to many establishments in the chichi tourist mecca of Camden, Maine, but this 25-seater in a slightly drab converted bicycle shop is so low-key that you could walk past the door and not realize that one of the finest restaurants in the state lies within. Chef-owner Brian Hill understands the soul of a real bistro. He keeps his menu as spare as the decor—four starters, four mains—but his flavors are intense and imaginative. Swiss chard soup, silky with just a tickle of bitterness. Pan-roasted steak with Provençal herb fries that’s all about a hunk of beefy, grass-fed meat. Sweet littlenecks with peas so recently picked you can still see where they were attached to the pod. And because it happens to be the very height of the season, strawberries that seem to be warm from someone’s sunny garden, with incomparable maple walnut ice cream. 55 Chestnut St., Camden, ME (207-230-0083)


One of the nation’s premier farmers markets is situated directly across the street from Harvest, and owner Tami Lax (once a full-time forager) and 28-year-old chef Justin Carlisle take full advantage of it. Their focused, moderately priced menu showcases local duck in the form of eggs and duck prosciutto, freshwater fish from area lakes, and the region’s celebrated mushrooms, berries, and cheese. 21 N. Pinckney St., Madison, WI (608-255-6075)

Literati II

Campanile alum Chris Kidder has found a venue for his heartfelt cooking at Literati II, an offshoot of Literati Cafe next door. Done up in a literary theme, this Brentwood restaurant is easygoing and fun, with a menu that changes frequently. Kidder is serious about using local ingredients—expect rock cod, squid, Channel Islands sardines, California king salmon, and sand dabs. Starters like roasted figs with blue cheese, toasted hazelnuts and wildflower honey, and steamed artichoke with organic-egg aioli are natural for sharing, but when it comes to the double-cut all-natural pork chop with potato walnut gratin and roasted nectarines, you’ll want it all to yourself. 12081 Wilshire Blvd., Brentwood, CA (310-479-3400)

Queen’s Hideaway

Liza Queen is a great chef, but she’s an even better shopper. The menu for her small, funky restaurant—in a Greenpoint, Brooklyn, neighborhood that is sprouting small, funky places at an alarming rate—is written at the farmers market every day. A lettuce, pea shoot, and baby pea salad was the only dish with an attributed ingredient: The cheese shaved over it was Ouray, which is made at Sprout Creek Farm, in Poughkeepsie, New York. Queen works hard to source beautifully fatty skirt steak, which she slow-cooks and then grills (pesky city regulations shut down her beloved smoker, but she is nothing if not adaptable). 222 Franklin St., Brooklyn, NY (718-383-2355)

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