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Retro “Contemporary Comforts” Found at food.

The time-capsule of a restaurant serves up culinary highlights of the ‘50s and ‘60s with a few new twists.

I really like the idea of food. (the restaurant). When the unemployment rate is at an all-time high, when a celebrity's indiscretions are more newsworthy than actual news, and when the world is going to hell in a handbasket, there's nothing more comforting than a step "Back to the Future," a simple, unpretentious menu, and food priced lower than a tank of gas. That is exactly what food., which replaced the Broadway Grill on Springfield Avenue last summer, hopes to bring to Summit.

food. has managed to distill the essence of a bygone American era and pair it with a few minimalist, updated touches. The avocado green wall of kitchens past is represented, as is the large print, black-and-white wallpaper and an old-school luncheonette/soda fountain counter. The effect is retro yet contemporary, functional yet comfortable, and in a word: neat-o.

But what about the food at food.? The moderately priced dinner menu is divided into four categories: salads ($7-11), appetizers ($6-13), burgers ($11-12), and entrees ($11-23). Several good-ol', "remember when" classics have been modernized with interesting ingredients that make a lot of culinary sense.

For starters (both figuratively and literally), the chefs at food. have reinvented mac and cheese, America's favorite, cheap dinner-in-a-box, with orzo pasta, fontina and gruyere cheeses, hearty bits of poached lobster, a panko-crust topping—and if that's not decadent enough, a drizzle of truffle oil to boot. Every component—from the cheeses to the pasta shape to the seafood selection—lifts a lowly but loved dish to the 21st century. The Lobster Mac and Cheese ($13) starter has definitely been well-thought out and epitomizes what food. is trying to achieve.

Also interesting was food.'s Mini Meatloaf, a play on and tribute to the TV dinner. Each component of the dish is plated side-by-side, a clear compartmentalization homage to the original (see photo). The meatloaf itself has an excellent texture and is far superior to many other restaurants' brick-like versions, as is the ketchup-based brown gravy. Equally enjoyable are the accompanying mashed potatoes which must have three sticks of butter in it. The peas and carrots are also bathed in butter, although I wish the extremely undercooked (almost raw) vegetables would have stayed in the pot a great deal longer.

Like the rest of the menu, food.'s burgers have been transformed from its Broadway Grill predecessors. There are six different varieties, all of which feature two four-ounce beef patties (a blend of hangar, short rib, and brisket) and a sesame seed brioche bun. There are also vegetarian and turkey options. The Rodeo Burger ($12) which I sampled was piled high with fried onion strings, cheddar jack cheese, and a spicy barbeque sauce. There's no doubt the burger was juicy, but it lacked a depth of flavor beyond the condiment. The burger was also overcooked, which is an easy thing to do given the smaller patty size. The grill Daddy-O might want to cut back on the cooking time, or the server should not offer rare or medium rare as options. The brioche bun and side dish of (upgraded) lightly dusted, herbed truffle fries, however, were outta sight.

The Brie & Nutella Crostini ($10) appetizer, as well as the Brie & Fig Grilled Cheese ($11) entrée, also looked like interesting culinary remakes, but neither of those dishes were available the night I visited. Perhaps someone forgot to order the brie, the restaurant ran out during lunch, or there just weren't any free bodies to run to the store. Whatever the case, it was a slight disappointment.

The BYO is open for breakfast, lunch, brunch, and dinner, and the "Back to the Future" twist is carried over across all four menus. food. is admittedly still perfecting and putting the finishing touches on all of its efforts, including the dessert list which is currently a moving target. Kudos to management for taking into consideration its customers' sweets choices before coming up with a final list. I'm hopeful the kitchen will work out some of its execution kinks as well, because the idea of food. is primo. If they do, I'll be cranking the DeLorean to 88, because food. has the potential to be a real gas.

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food.

339 Springfield Ave., Summit

(908) 277-6222

Hours of Operation:

Breakfast, Monday through Friday, 9-11 am

Lunch, Monday through Friday, 11 am-3 pm

Brunch, Saturday and Sunday, 9 am-4 pm

Dinner, Monday through Sunday, 5-10 pm

BYO. All major credit cards accepted.

 

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