Are you familiar with the story, "The Emperor's New Clothes?"
When I first went to The Cottage on Dixie, that's what I experienced. The waitstaff was great, the ambiance was ideal, the company was joyous and energized and talk of all the great things to come permeated the air. It wasn't until later reflection that I realized how little the food was showcased. The former head chef's descriptions of what he was working on or planning to work on were a great sell, but the real thing didn't quite deliver.
I remember thinking to myself, "Maybe it's just me. Maybe my taste buds are having an off-night. Everyone else seems to be enjoying themselves. Maybe it's just opening night issues."
I remained optimistic.
When I went back months later to try The Cottage burger, complete with duck prosciutto and a fried duck egg on a duck fat homemade bun, I was expecting the best thing I ever tasted.
I regretted springing the $12.
Many things now remain the same at The Cottage on Dixie—the waitstaff is still unparalleled for the area, the ambiance is still flawless and the bar is the nicest in town—that is, except for one thing: the food.
Since I had my last meal there, something wonderful happened. The former chef is out, and in his place is not a single person, but rather a well-orchestrated team of talented culinary artists with a genuine passion for what they're doing. And it shows in the food.
The burger lost a few fancy adjectives, but it gained a world of taste. The freshly ground shoulder and short rib combination is enough to make you scoff the next time you look at a pre-formed patty of 80/20 ground chuck. The fat slab of perfectly cooked bacon on top seamlessly complimented the burger and the homemade bun perfectly cradled the good stuff in between. It came together like the pieces of a puzzle. Nothing seemed out of place. The depth of flavor in the accompanying fries along with the house-made ketchup really rounded out the meal.
I had never even heard of chicken thigh rillette before, but the new menu item proved to be a surprisingly comforting experience. It was like putting meat butter on bread, and the onion and current jam cut through the heavy, fatty flavors with a nice touch of subtle sweetness.
And for those who aren't into hedonistic meat gluttony, the tomato salad I was presented was not only one of the best looking salads I'd ever seen, but also one of the best tasting. The way each uniquely flavored tomato countered the bitterness of the greens was a delight. The light seasoning helped put a spotlight on the fresh ingredients, rather than hide them. You don't need to slather this salad with ranch to drown out the tasteless crunch of a browning piece of iceberg. Best of all, many of the ingredients came fresh from the outdoor greenhouse.
The desserts have always been phenomenal. Top notch, in fact. Nothing's changed there (check out the photo above).
I'm well aware of the way most people (many of which haven't yet dined there) in town have come to feel about The Cottage . Overpriced, pretentious, out-of-touch—all are description I've come across. At one point in time I may have agreed with some of them to an extent, but I I found those old sentiments quickly melting away during my most recent visit.
The Cottage is still a very new restaurant, and they're still working out some kinks, but with the new focus on familiar, comfort foods done in the best way possible and a willingness to let the talented cook staff experiment—I'm starting to get excited about it again.
And, yes, it may be a bit pricy compared to your run-of-the-mill eatery, but I've spent the same on lunch over at Panera before—and I didn't even get an aioli.