It’s no secret that I love food in a way that surpasses simply being greedy.
When you take a bite of something that you’ve never tried, with ingredients you’re unfamiliar with, or usually turn your nose up at, it can be like hearing your favorite song for the first time. It makes you feel various emotions as it unfolds like a beautiful, mysterious story.
Sometimes it brings up memories and sometimes it just makes you dance and wiggle in an obnoxious jig while you chew. I almost don’t want to share this experience with you because my visit was just that transcendental.
DeKalb Restaurant, at 564 DeKalb Avenue.
While waiting for my host to return with my menu, my attention is drawn to a camera crew that I later learn is channel 12 news. If that’s not an endorsement of things to come I don’t know what is. My waitress comes over and guides me through the entire menu, which though is one page, is no less daunting.
I listen intently as she confides that though she had the evening off the previous night, she came in to satisfy a relentless hankering for their veggie burger. I assessed the vegetable laden menu, filled with playful takes on seasonable farm-to-table staples.
Admittedly I was nervous because vegetables and I are not exactly the best of friends. I finally decide on three dishes and hope for the best.
Though I was dining alone I had more than enough company as owners, staff, and associates came by to talk to me about their connection to the space and the thought process behind it, show off their dinner selections, and even to simply sing along with me to a verse of a Sam Cooke song that saturated the warm space.
I looked down at the menu to make sure I hadn’t forgotten anything and notice a disclaimer at the bottom. “Don’t be a d*#k, fast food is not good food. One Love.”
I was home.
First up, was the parsnip gnocchi with seeds and grain mustard.
A delightfully earth toned dish that implied brown butter, like little nuggets of hugs with just enough density courtesy of the parsnips. Each bite bloomed in my mouth, light, yet comforting, and crunchy from what looked like sesame and pine seeds.
Then came mustard seeds that added a sharp, vinegary pop at the end of a subtle sweetness that made you keep going in for more. The dish was garnished with a contrast of bright, raw brussels sprout leaves sitting gingerly atop of the petite caramelized mound of heaven.
Next, came the parsnip and butternut squash tots, accompanied by a sweet and savory pear sauce, masquerading as what at first glance looked like a honey mustard sauce. Oversized golden brown hunks were reminiscent of the nostalgic deep fried side dish of my youth but that’s where the comparisons end.
This was something intensely more mature. The bite-sized shape-shifters gave way to an unsuspectedly creamy center, boasting a sweet puree of parsnips and butternut squash. The dish is a fun surprise that is amazing on its own, but made otherworldly coupled with the sauce, which is not to be overlooked.
The final dish was my wildcard. I had no idea what to expect but I was confident that anything that included the words melt and gruyere cheese in the ingredient list couldn’t be all bad. I was wrong…It was LIFE CHANGING!
The kohlrabi, kimchi melt was housed in a warm crusty baguette, lubricated by a cured egg yolk mayonnaise. I’m going to let you think about that for a minute….
Like….what in the what?!
I vaguely remember being told that kohlrabi was a cousin of daikon, root veggie; bulb and stem used…yadda, yadda.
Forget all that! This sandwich is what Willy Wonka’s dreams would be made of if he was a foodie. I would never be able to do this dish justice in writing but I will tell you that if this sandwich doesn’t give you the feels, check your pulse, because you’re dead.
The house made mayo serves double duty, causing me to peek at the inside of the sandwich to see if some eggs had been snuck in. Nope. Look, I don’t know what kind of sorcery produced this sandwich, but it was buttery, crunchy, roundly sweet, salty, and vinegary. It gave me breakfast, it gave me brunch, it gave me everything! If you try nothing else here you must eat this. Oh, and for my veggie-philes, they snuck those tricky brussels sprout leaves in this too.
Let’s recap, shall we?
Windows from an old hospital, church pews turned chairs, reclaimed wood floors, kohlrabi, kimchi, SAMICH!
Friendly, attentive staff, kohlrabi, kimchi, SAMICH!
Vegetarian-friendly, farm-to-table, seasonal menu, kohlrabi, kimchi, SAMICH!
Why are you still sitting there reading this?! Kohlrabi, kimchi, SAMICH!
Save me a seat,