|Roots and berries salad|
Where: 350 S. Grand, Downtown (California Plaza, across from Starry Kitchen)
What to get: Lamb Lavash, Spanish Chicken Tartine, Smoked Brassica, Root Salad, Smoked Pecan Bourbon Old-Fashioned.
When: Opening Monday Feb. 13 or thereabouts
Who: Mario Del Pero and Ellen Chen, owners; Josh Smith, Judy Han, chefs
Why: Mendocino Farms is known for its meaty sandwiches and burgers -- decadent choices like French Onion Short Rib dip or Kurobata pork banh mi. The newly-opened Blue Cow, in California Plaza Downtown, replaces the smaller Mendocino Farms in the plaza with a full service restaurant complete with attractive indoor-outdoor cocktail bar, all the familiar sandwiches with new appetizers, salads and main dishes like steak frites. We were invited to try out the restaurant before its opening next week, and for me the stars were the vegetables.
Blue Cow has master mixologist Steve Livigni consulting on cocktails, and we got a taste of his pecan-infused whiskey that makes a smooth and smoky Old Fashioned with custom Miracle Mile pecan bitters. He also concocts unusual ideas like a Cherry Rickey Soda with lambic beer, lime vodka and genever liqueur or a Belgian Tripel Beer Cocktail with Scotch, apple and lemon, that somehow end up tasting just right.
Blue Cow's mission is to marry seasonal produce and carefully-sourced meats with reasonable prices and big but accessible flavors, and so far the restaurant looks like a big improvement on Casa, which never quite caught on in the space.
The outdoor patio is large and pleasant, considering its location in the rather sterile California Plaza, with a big tree anchoring the corner and some good beer selections on tap (Lil Yella Pilsner, Boont Amber, Sublimely Self-Righteous Black, Racer 5, Straffe Hendrik Quadruple).
|much more room for lunchtime crowds|
|lamb lavosh meatball sandwich|
California Plaza can be a little dead at night, but Blue Cow is definitely ready to change the dynamic, since it will be open until 10 pm and the patio is sure to be hopping, especially in summer.