Around the BLOCK

Gram & Dun

Written By: Mary Bloch - Jan• 09•12

Gram &Dun is the latest restaurant under the Bread and Butter Concepts flag, an independent and local group that also owns BRGR and Urban Table in Corinth. The owners decided to jump the state line and open on the Plaza, where it’s getting a ton of buzz. Evidently, I’m not the only one delighted that there is now another non-chain worth going to  in addition to seasoned veterans like the Classic Cup, Starker’s and Blanc Burger. 

Housed in the old Baja 600 and Parkway 600 space, you’d have to look hard to see the vestiges of those restaurants. The re-do is striking and the neutral colors the designers chose are very effective. The overall effect is a soothing one, though the place has been anything but calm each time I’ve been there.

At a preview event right before the restaurant opened, I sampled a number of appetizers, including shrimp fries, bison meatballs, shishito peppers and not-so-standard potato chips with three ketchups (guacamole, vanilla bean, blood orange-habañero), the last being the only one of the bunch I would consider ordering. Rather than being thin chips, they were a thick cut round, with a dollop of sauce on top. I wasn’t wild about any of the ketchups,  but it’s a visually appealing appetizer and a worthwhile concept.

On another occasion I tried the French Onion Dumplings, and they were quite good, bursting with slurps of traditional soup by the same name.

I had heard great things about the Brussel sprout salad, but I think the main appeal is that the sprouts are not roasted, but rather raw and shredded. They are tossed with Manchego cheese, celery, cranberries, walnuts, arugula, and a rather bland lemon vinaigrette. Similar to a slaw, the texture is pleasing, but the dish would benefit from stronger flavors.

The salad with ahi tuna didn’t need more oomph, just less dressing.The salad comes vertically, with the tuna layered precariously between lettuce and crisp won ton strips. Had it not been drenched with the chili vinaigrette or totally lacking in vegetables besides watercress, it would have been a triumph. I’d probably order it again, but with the dressing on the side. The Flat Iron Steak salad with oyster mushrooms, roasted red peppers, golden raisins, watercress, spinach and chimichurri vinaigrette was not overdressed and had more going on.

My husband tried the Roasted Mushroom Trio, a sandwich on sourdough that pairs mushrooms with radicchio, watercress, balsamic, pecorino and truffle aioli. It tasted as good as it sounds, but the bread to filling ratio was off. I’d rather have more “stuff” and less bread. The house salad that accompanied it was dressed with a tart sangria vinaigrette, along with cherries, bleu cheese and pistachios.

Shrimp and grits has expanded well beyond the South, and it’s become a hit on every menu in town that it graces. Webster House has a masterful rendition, as does Gram & Dun. The shrimp here were coated with blackened (Cajun) seasonings, the grits were creamy (but not as addictive as they are at Webster House and Chaz) and the jalapeno avocado gravy took the dish beyond the traditional. On my first visit, though the shrimp were cooked perfectly, they were too salty. The next time I went to the restaurant my companion couldn’t resist ordering them despite my admonition and fortunately, the kitchen didn’t use such a heavy hand. She practically licked the bowl. (Unfortunately, that was the one dish that I have no pictures of…I must have been too focused on eating the dish rather than photographing it.)

Chicken and waffles used to be served only at soul food restaurants, but the last couple of years this combination has gone mainstream.

While I’ve never understood the appeal of eating two fried/starchy items together or why the two foods would even be paired together, after eating the CFC & Waffles at Gram & Dun, I get it. The corn flake fried chicken was crisp and devoid of grease, and the waffles got an upgrade from the addition of cheese and herbs. But what won the day was the vinegary hot pepper sauce for dipping.  Just as the maple syrup was a natural for the waffles, so too was the hot pepper sauce for the chicken. For a town that loves its barbecue to distraction, we might all have to consider that chicken and hot pepper sauce is also worthy of love.  It’s really just an upscale version of hot wings, but oh so much better.

The servers must love the Gram & Dun bar, because they push it hard. With good reason as it turns out. Billed as a faux Snickers bar, if you love peanut butter and marshmallow, this is for you. They come two to an order, so ask for an extra spoon.

The profiteroles are less inspired. The pastry was a bit gummy, and they were way too stingy on the chocolate sauce. It was more a decoration than for enjoying with the ice cream filling, and where’s the fun in that?

Even on chilly nights, groups can be seen huddled by the gorgeous firepits that grace the restaurant’s patio. In warmer weather, seats on the patio will surely be a hot commodity. Right now the restaurant is packed in the evenings, and loud. The bar is unfortunately too small to handle the current crowds, but no one seems to mind waiting for a table, especially since a hostess will text you when your table is ready. How 21st Century is that?

Gram & Dun on Urbanspoon

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