With our amazing skill to rationalize eating out or otherwise spending more money than is prudent, we decided a downtown dinner was in order. After much discussion about where to eat, we landed on Cucina24 as their current summer menu is more vegetarian friendly than previous menus.
Although we are regularly on Wall Street, I haven’t been inside the Cucina24 space since it was Akumi (i.e., a few years ago). The interior is classy wood and romantically lit; we were sat along a row of windows with a view of Patton Avenue, which was bustling and entertaining (without the distraction of too much street noise). Katherine took care of us, and she executed service wonderfully; she was knowledgeable and helpful in navigating the menu.
We began with the a fava bean puree and toast points, the squash blossom appetizer special and a caprese like dish; I love fava beans, and I have been craving them all summer long. The puree was nothing spectacular, but it was certainly serviceable. The squash blossom appetizer was one blossom shy of a trio, but otherwise it was delicious with plenty of cheese and crab goodness (even after half of mine erupted into my lap). My salad featured burrata, which is like a poached egg of fresh mozzarella cheese, and some exemplary tomatoes; being summer, my palate has been craving this dish incessantly. My honey enjoyed lamb for dinner, and I believe it was the lure of figs that drew him in. The figs and port reduction were beyond fantasy, and the plate was gorgeous (plus he enjoyed the lamb). I ordered the gnudi (like with the burrata I had to ask what exactly it was), and I was surprised at how tasty and interesting the dish was, with plenty of hearty mushrooms. After years of searching, I think I may have found a tirmisu to compete with my memory of La Caterina’s; it was perfectly mocha flavored without being too sweet, and the portion was nice, too (although Rezaz’s is a close second).
With our dining out dollars being few, I have avoided Tupelo Honey South after a couple of people mentioned how pricey their meals were. I thought maybe Southern Living had gone to their head, and I haven’t really eaten at the downtown location since they stopped catering to the late night crowd and closing at 3 am on the weekends. I was also put off with their decision to fund healthcare by selling t-shirts and mugs; it seemed a bit false when one cannot eat at their flagship location without a wait (I can’t remember the last time I haven’t seen a line regardless of time of day). However, something compelled me to drop in, and I was hooked with their bar specials. Although I cannot recall all five specials, my two favorite are ridiculously awesome deals; on Sundays, all scotch is $4 a glass, and Tuesdays feature $2 local draft beer.
We have enjoyed both specials a few times, and we’ve also been back for dinner. To all those who bemoan the cost of Tupelo Honey, I say fie! Sure, you can spend $16 on shrimp and grits, but you could also get the country breakfast (eggs, grits, home fries or asparagus, choice of meat or faux meat) with a biscuit for $8 or two biscuits gravy with meat or faux meat for $6.25. For our dinner, I opted for the house salad, which was heaping and enough to share followed by two massive sweet potato pancakes showered with pecans. My honey had the grilled cheese with sweet potato fries, and he added soysage and gravy to the complimentary biscuits to round out his meal. We both left feeling fat and happy for less than forty-five dollars (including tip, my $4 scotch and his margarita). Our server, Alex, was awesome, and we’ve never encountered anything less than professional service. The decor is old time kitschy, with old window frames sectioning the dining area off.