Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Electric Avenue B

This post has been a long time coming. A very, very long time coming. But worth the wait, I'd have to say!

In early March, PID and I finally decided it was time to take a few of our FORTs out to celebrate their recent engagement. We batted around a few locations, including Spoon and Willow -- two of our favorites.  But we simply couldn't ignore the untapped mystery that lay on the corner of Graham Street and Center Ave in  Friendship, Avenue B.

That's right -- the so-proclaimed sensation specializing in American Cuisine was one that PID and I had been anxious to discover.  It came not only  highly recommended by local restaurant critics galore, but also by our newly engaged FORTs who couldn't wait to give it a second go-round.

So we picked a date and my forgetful mind forgot to make reservations until a mere three days prior to our visit.  By that time all tables were booked well in to 9 p.m. So I snagged the 9:30 spot and we decided to eat heavy lunches to avoid starvation.

We were greeted at the door by a pleasant host at the forefront of a charming dining room and chalkboard menus featuring the specials of the evening.

Keep in mind that Avenue B (the B, if you were curious, stands for Bonfili -- as in chef and owner Chris Bonfili) is quite unique in that they have a very small core menu (about 6-8 items) and feature ever changing "chalkboard menus" that update constantly to please any palate.

We......were definitely pleased.

It all started with the wine. Which we brought with us because it's a BYOB establishment. How much do I love that? A small corking fee and the ability to choose absolutely any wine I want (for a much lower cost) is very appealing to me.

So on to the bread... nice and warm and came with a homespun-tasting butter ball with what I thought to be just a touch too much herb.  

We started off with the deconstructed rainbow roll which called to us from the chalkboard. The roll brought together familiar flavors of a traditional favorite, introduced in a whole new and delicious fashion. Our only complaint about this appetizer was that we didn't order two.

We also tried our taste-buds at the General Tso's Rock Shrimp with a spicy vegetable slaw.  I'm going to be honest.  I don't remember this dish.  May have something to do with the fact that I ate it nearly two months ago.  But then again I remembered a few other dishes so maybe this one just wasn't for me.  Regardless -- I do remember that it was all gone very quickly.

Finally, PID and I decided to round out the appetizers by ordering a bowl of the Butternut Squash Soup which we gobbled up immediately competing with thrown elbows for the final bite.

Future Mrs. FORT (FMF) had ordered the meatloaf upon her first visit.  Really? Meatloaf?  Um....no thanks.Yeah, that was my reaction too.  Until she ordered it again out of a sheer love for it and I had a taste. I can't say I tasted a hint of mama's meatloaf.  This was the real deal.  Kobe meat, tomato jam and "gourmet" onion straws brought this dish together with amazing flavors.  Though I didn't try the goat cheese & chive whipped potatoes, I believe it was only because I didn't have the chance to do it before FMF finished them off.

Mr. McFORT (MM), though equally captivated by his first experience with the Kobe Meatloaf, decided to take a new route and go with the NY Strip Steak with truffled smashed Yukon gold potatoes.  Seared to perfection, this dish was one MM would not soon forget (but would VERY soon finish).

PID and I chose the fish dishes.  PID went with the Wild Striped Bass with Rock Shrimp Etouffe. What the heck is etouffe? Just think of it similar to gumbo, but with more seafood. PID loved his dish and I did too. It was far from overdone which I often find bass to be. If this meal makes it's way back to the chalkboard anytime soon, I definitely suggest casting your line its way.

As for me, I went with the Arctic Char.  A fish I've not tasted is a rarity indeed, so this was particularly enticing for me. Plus it came with brussel sprouts and a pepper relish so...it was pretty much a no-brainer.   I will say of all four dishes, mine was the one with which I was the least pleased.  But that doesn't mean I didn't thoroughly enjoy every bite.  I would absolutely suggest any of the above options over mine unless you're a Char-nut. In which case g'head and reel'er in!

To wrap up the night, we knew that nothing paired better with our Papa PID homemade red wine than CHOCOLATE!  Don't shoot me, but I cannot remember what this beautiful looking, delicious tasting dessert was actually called.  But best believe when I say "delicious" I really mean it. Four of us sharing this thing was an awful idea. We all wanted nothing but more.

Restaurant Information:
Avenue B
Address: 5501 Center Ave
Phone: 412-683-FOOD
Hours: Lunch -- Tuesday-Friday, 11a-3p
           Dinner -- Tuesday-Thursday, 5p-10p
                          Friday/Saturday, 5p-11p
Reservations: Call ahead, and call early.  We went on a Tuesday, called 4 days in advance and still couldn't get in until 9:30.

Cliffs Notes:
I'll be honest -- I don't at all recall the corking fee or non-alcoholic beverage cost.  Don't yell at me.
Appetizers:    Butternut Squash Soup @ $6
                     General Tso's Rock Shrimp @ $12
                     Deconstructed California Roll @ $12
Entrees:         Kobe Meat Loaf @ $21    
                     NY Strip Steak @ $26
                     Wild Striped Bass @ $24
                     Arctic Char @ $24
Dessert:       Chocolate thingy @ $8

Overall Opinion:
Though two months later I'm still steaming that I made the least appealing decision in terms of the entrees up for grabs, I'm still remembering the good times and great food that we all enjoyed that evening.  The ambiance was absolutely something worth remembering as well -- a small but charming establishment in an up-and-coming neighborhood.  All of the eateries that had occupied this space prior to Avenue B had failed rather quickly, but I certainly foresee chef Chris Bonfili and his staff sticking around for a very, very long time.

Avenue B on Urbanspoon

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