Don't Miss: Lower48 Kitchen's "Each" Menu

December 20 2013, 10:30 AM

Since Thanksgiving, there's been a flurry of new restaurant activity: SugarmillLos ChingonesEl ChingonOlive & FinchMasterpiece Deli UptownPikkas Peruvian Cuisine & Pisco Bar, and Lower48 all opened within weeks of each other. So, how to prioritize your dining escapades? By meal, of course. Hit Sugarmill and Olive & Finch for breakfast; Masterpiece and El Chingon for lunch; Pikkas for happy hour (pisco sours!); and Lower48 and Los Chingones for dinner. That's a start anyway, but above all, put Lower48 at the top of your list.

Here's why: Even if you didn't know that Lower48 Kitchen's co-owners Mario Nocifera and Alex Figura have a collective resumé that includes Frasca Food and WineBlue Hill at Stone Barnsthe Little Nell HotelVetri, and El Cellar de Can Roca, their pedigree is immediately on display. The high ceiling-ed dining room is casual but polished, likewise the service, which Nocifera oversees. Settle in with the "Each" menu: one- to two-bite starters (pictured) that offer a glimpse of executive chef Figura's immense talent.

The cornmeal-based hoecake (pictured top and bottom) is a flawless bite of corn cake, citrus-cured salmon, sour cream, and horseradish. The combination sounds simple, but to taste it is to experience layers of texture and flavor that far extend the southern staple's origins as a snack cooked on the blade of a planting hoe. Not only is Lower48's version delicious, it also embodies the restaurant's mission of mining the lower 48 states' culinary traditions. You'll find American ham folded onto grilled, house-baked bread spread with smoked butter; smoked chicken wings with mustard onions; and an excellent (carrot) veggie burger with smoked sour cream.

The price for these tastes? A mere $2 to $3. Add a cocktail or glass of wine, and you could make a small meal out of the eight offerings. Or, do as I did and select several before moving on to the equally impressive menu that extends from braised squid to grilled brisket.

Bonus: Service Bar opened Friday in Lower48's adjacent space. Although owned by Nocifera and Figura, the bar functions separately from the restaurant. That said, Figura has worked up a menu—biscuits with smoked honey butter and American ham; hand-cut fries with sweet-and-sour mayo; beignets with whipped lardo and scallions—specific to Service Bar. Also look for large-format beers and bottled cocktails like Negronis and Manhattans.

Follow food editor Amanda M. Faison on TwitterInstagramFacebook, and Pinterest.