It has been almost 20 years since the Modern Cafe opened in Nordeast. Does that make you feel old? Did you ever think that a restaurant with old-school linoleum from 1994 (before there were even hipsters around to appreciate it) would still be kicking? Well, kick it does.
Co-owner Jim Grell is still the main man in the kitchen, but he's brought on a new chef who has debuted a new menu. Taelyn Lang has seemingly appropriate chops, having cooked at both Muffuletta and Corner Table. "He's our new Kitchen Czar," Grell told me, adding that Lang's cooking has brought a new subtlety to the food, bringing out some elemental flavors that has refreshed things. Too true.
I checked in and found some really great plates. The smoked chicken leg was perched on a sturdy square of chorizo stuffing, on top of a delicate sauce soubise. The full effect of a co-mingled bite was both earthy and elegant, delivering that lightness of fork with the nostalgic taste-memory of homey chicken stew. An open-faced grilled cheese employed cornbread as a base with Tallegio and onion jam that made a play between sweet and tangy, then nutty and buttery until it was suddenly gone. Carbonara with house-made fettuccine, which usually fails in swampy cream sauce in this town, had a great eggy-cheese stickiness that was further amped by salty pork belly. Want it again. Even the chicken wings were not overly breaded or gooey, they were simply dry-rubbed with a great balance of salt and spice.
I didn't try the burger, not a fan of pineapple/teriyaki on my beef, but you could and let me know. Have no fear, the pot roast and meatloaf are still on menu, and this is still simple and easy eating food. I'm just excited to see what comes next out of the new Modern kitchen. If you haven't been for a while, it's worth a new look.