If you’ve ever wondered why I don’t write a full review as soon as a restaurant opens, let me tell you about a place I love that has improved immensely since opening day: The Press.
I was officially introduced to John Harris, Joey Morris and Cody Rowan just before they did the impossible. Three buddies, all veterans of the local restaurant scene, were trying to open a restaurant together. And not just any restaurant, but one that serves a dish most people feel they can make at home just fine. And it would be a bar. And it would be in this little neighborhood that didn’t have much else in the way of restaurants.
And, you know, I think The Mule is doing just fine these days. So fine that the law firm of Harris, Morris & Rowan followed up by opening a corndog bar called Anchor Down that’s also been fairly successful.
So when they told me they were opening a third concept, this time around the corner from their first, I wasn’t exactly worried.
“These guys know what they’re doing,” I thought. “And their hair looks great.”
But, as great as their hair looked during the soft opening, things were still off to a rocky start. I still wasn’t worried. The point of soft openings is to iron things out. And any restaurant that doesn’t improve in the first year isn’t trying. It didn’t take long for The Press to find and solve its problems.
Go in now and you’ll be hard pressed to remember those early stumbles, because the service and the food have joined the already top-notch atmosphere and gained quite a following in the meantime.
As many of you know, I’m an extremely lapsed vegan. I only occasionally eat vegetables and rarely miss an opportunity to devour the flesh of animals. While the majority of restaurants seem designed to cater to me, quite a few less are as friendly to the extremely non-lapsed vegans and vegetarians among us.
The Press is the kind of place you can take a vegetarian on a date and let him or her know it’s just not going to work out in the long run.
Or you could order the vegetarian options yourself, because the culinary minds behind The Press are the kind who make meatless food that tastes good to everybody, regardless of their flesh-eating preferences.
I’ve had both the sweet potato fritters ($8) and the house tots smothered ($8) and let me tell you, when it comes to frying potatoes, these folks have a knack.
The sweet potato fritters are a magic trick. How do they get the center so creamy without just turning to ooze in the deep fryer? Oh, and let’s not pretend these are an acceptable appetizer, even though I ate them like one. This is dessert, pure and simple. A delicious dessert, covered in powdered sugar and cinnamon icing.
ICING. When is the last time you had icing on anything that wasn’t dessert? If your answer is the film “The Mighty Ducks 2,” you are correct.
The house tots are much more savory (and can be made vegetarian by asking for them sans bacon, like a sociopath) and I can almost guarantee they’re designed to kill me. Freshly made cheese-stuffed tater tots, covered in bacon and then smothered in cream gravy. C’mon. Clearly these guys have it out for me.
I love Buffalo chicken and I love macaroni and cheese, so it pains me deeply that I cannot recommend the Buffalo chicken mac ($11). Each piece of the dish is done well — potent Buffalo sauce flavor on the chicken and creamy radiatori pasta with cheese sauce — but combined it’s not quite right. The abundance of Buffalo sauce and bleu cheese completely subsumes the mac and cheese and the pungent sauce obliterates any chance of picking up on the subtleties of the pasta.
My recommendation to you? Get the chicken strips ($10) and ask for the Buffalo sauce. Then order a side of mac and cheese ($3 small, $5 large). It’s more expensive, but you also get more food and more control over the sauce. It’s worth it.
By the way, those chicken strips are some of the best around, regardless of sauce. My friend Tracie got them and told me she is pretty much stuck in an endless loop when she visits The Press. Sweet potato fritters, chicken strips, repeat. (Not a bad loop to be caught in, so far as I’m concerned.)
The Indian taco ($10) is legit and can also be ordered vegan (see above). Much as I love the ground taco meat in an Indian taco, I think we all agree that with the right seasonings and a pile of fixings, a meatless Indian taco and a delicious Indian taco don’t have to be mutually exclusive.
If you’re in at dinner, I highly recommend the short rib pot roast ($13). Pot roast is unfairly maligned and, as usual, I blame your mom. That woman didn’t season her beef, she cooked it until it was shoe leather and she cut it with the grain, so it was stringy and tough.
The boys at The Press are not your mother. I mean that in every sense. But most especially I mean it in the sense that they make pot roast that is tender, juicy and deeply wonderful. There are a ton of roasted veggies on the side, a big pile of mashed potatoes and — most importantly — a rosemary-infused brown gravy that could probably be used as Holy Water if you know a very lenient priest.
I mean, God bless it, this is some great roast beef. Amen.
Oh, what a difference a year makes. The Press is miles ahead of where it began and I don’t see them doing anything but continue that improvement trend going forward. And I’ll be there regularly to check up on it.