- Arts & Lifestyle
- Special Sections
- Community Directory
- Ticket Offers
What the Devil? The best fare at Devil's Advocate out of place in Downtown
Devil’s Advocate—that’s what they’re calling the new downtown café. It represents the third food enterprise to occupy the original Hell’s Kitchen spot—and maybe a suitable homage to its former CEO (OK, just kidding)—before it moved across the street. I’ll play devil’s advocate, myself, here and suggest that it might not be around long, either. Not with a quirky and limited menu more suitable for a college campus than a block from Orchestra Hall. So, if you like meatballs, get in here fast—because that’s it: That’s what they’re serving. Plus beer—40 distinctive taps in all, and they’re well-curated indeed. I enjoyed a stout from Wisconsin while my pal sipped a summery Belgian ale.
89 South 10th St.
The best plan is to order the meatball sampler ($10 for four; otherwise, $3 each on a bun), which includes a modest smear of each designated sauce. Golf-ball in size, they’re plenty juicy and discretely seasoned: the beef mix of ground short rib and Angus chuck blade with ricotta and oregano, Italian style, and paired with a simple, up-front tomato sauce.
The ground pork comes traditionally conceived, tossed with fennel and a hint of chili flakes, then set upon a skim of tomato cream and drippings gravy. Classic lemon and dill were, again, the natural options for the Swedish-style salmon ball, moistened with sour cream—a mild-to-unassuming flavor hit, heightened a tad by an also-unassuming skim of pesto. Our favorite of the quartet—surprise on us—was the falafel, a vegetarian combo of ground chickpeas and fava beans kissed with a waft of cumin and cilantro and moistened with a hint of yogurt. More yogurt, abetted by a pinch of garlic, mines its sauce.
The menu presents a few side dishes on offer, too. Those labeled “healthy” ($5) range from asparagus with balsamic, Parmesan and bread crumbs (which we should have ordered) to braised greens, which we did, to our regret. The kale et al proved bereft of flavor, unvisited by the pleasant bite of vinegar that brings stewed greens to life in many a Southern kitchen. Instead, it’s like eating lawn clippings, tossed with bits of long-cooked pork (thus missing out on the awakening, salty hit of ham or bacon—also the religion in a Southern kitchen, and for a good reason.)
An arugula salad fared far better, its spicy leaves tossed with tart-sweet grapefruit segments—a genius foil—along with almonds and a shimmer of Pecorino Romano cheese.
From the list of “hearty” sides (also $5 each)—noodles, fries and more—we picked the polenta, which earned my eternal gratitude to the fellow at the range who knows how to construct this iconic dish to perfection. His bliss of creamy, uber-buttery, uber-cheesy Cheddar grits might just well be the best north of the Mason-Dixon line.
Desserts, untasted ($5 again), are perfunctory (and that’s OK): ice cream, milk shakes and a fried pie with fruity filling, which sounded dangerously like a Pop-Tart.
Décor is the same-old, same-old: the rough-hewn wood and trappings that served previous incarnations, and nothing wrong with that. Service can be a bit overly familiar—again, more suited to a college beer crowd than for those with a few more years to boast.
© 2012 Southside Pride