"What's your favorite restaurant?" That question, recently batted around at our weekly editorial meeting, got us all thinking. If we had to choose one favorite at gunpoint, what would that restaurant be, and why? Each week, a different Short Order blogger will celebrate his or her favorite eatery -- be they celebrity-chef-driven or a neighborhood hole-in-the-wall. Why? Because we're tired of having to explain our favorite dining spots at cocktail parties and weddings.
The first time I walked into Blue Collar, I was not charmed. The room is small, cramped, and sparsely furnished, and decorated with vintage lunch pails. Rock 'n' roll from the '70s blares over the speakers. The room is slightly smoky from the open kitchen that works with all burners fired to keep up with the seemingly never-ending supply of hungry diners. I generally like a space that's dark and quiet. If I could eat in a cave, I would choose to do so. Blue Collar, or so I thought at that instant, wasn't my type of restaurant.
But, like an eager puppy, Blue Collar worked its way into my heart. Not for
what it isn't, but for what it is -- a place to just get a damn good
plate of food.
Chef-owner Danny Serfer's smile is
infectious. He's hands-on not only with his food but also with his customers. He's concerned not just about tonight's
meal; he's concerned about converting you into a regular. He might point out the chalkboard filled with vegetable options (my personal
weakness) or describe where he sourced his fish. He suggests. He cajoles.
He's enthusiastic and he wants you to be as eager about eating his food as he is about preparing it.
does not present a meal that's petite and pretty. If you want edible
flowers, go somewhere else. The curried puréed cauliflower is damn near
ugly, but I find myself craving it like a junkie joneses a fix. Same goes
for the pork and beans. And the Billy Corben -- twin brisket sandwiches served with a side of au jus -- is decadent, rich, and simply amazing. It's a meal that's interactive. You find yourself eating, laughing, and (ultimately) wearing your food by the time you're done.
Serfer (who I'm sure
will love this tidbit) feeds every patron like he is a Jewish mother (or
father, as the case may be). From over the grill, he talks to his
guests, almost like he's conducting an interactive dinner party. He entertains,
tuts, and frets over the meals. Always with a smile. Always making sure
you're cleaning your plate.
Each time I finish my meal with a
plaid Thermos of Panther Coffee (why doesn't every restaurant use Thermos containers to keep coffee warm?), Chef Serfer sidles over and convinces
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me that I do have room for fresh cobbler or bread pudding. At that point, I mumble something about being in a food
coma. "Mission accomplished," he replies.
Mission accomplished, indeed.