Walter Mencken 6:15 p.m., Feb. 28
First look at Soda and Swine
North Park's new "concept" restaurant is here, but it's a tough meatball to swallow.
I can’t pass binding judgment on Soda and Swine since it’s only been open for three days, but I did sneak in, grind a sandwich, and sip some pop out of sheer curiosity over the high-profile renovation and replacement of the late, great Kadan. The least I can do is get a cursory first glance.
First impression? It’s orange in there. I know orange lighting is “in” at lots of restaurants now, but Soda and Swine took it to the next level. All the light comes from the fireplace, the heaters, and those faux-old-timey lightbulbs that shed ochre light in low-wattage dosages.
It’s not bad or anything. Just orange.
Cool space though, for sure. It’s hard to notice at first, but you’re completely outside with naught but rafters between your table and the sky above. Since the heaters are set to “incinerate,” which I love because being cold is for chumps, I couldn’t care less if they ever stretch anything across the top.
When Soda and Swine was getting hyped, the buzz was all: “oh they’re just going to have meatballs and pie! Such novelty!” A few of my friends and I conjectured that such claims were teasers, half-serious tidbits meant to incite speculation amongst the hoi polloi.
Nope. It turns out they were serious. The menu’s composed of meatball subs and slices of apple pie a la mode. It’s short, not particularly intuitive, and leaves little recourse for those who disregard meatball sandwiches.
Small, expensive meatball sandwiches. I dropped ten bucks on a little torpedo stuffed with beef meatballs, a few tablespoons of marinara sauce, and a modest application of provolone cheese. I don’t feel like I can deliver a verdict based on Day 3 performance, but it was pretty good. Here’s the rub. Was it four times better than a banh mi (the closest analogue I can think of) from Paris Bakery?
Yeah, there were some tasty side dishes to pick from. I thought the braised cabbage with currant jelly was excellent. So too was the broccoli rabe that had been perfectly cooked and topped with a little shaved cheese. Still, it’s obvious that those dishes were servants, pawns in the game being played out with meatballs and exotic sodas.
That is a really tough concept to being pushing so hard with. Frankly, I’m still surprised it’s not a joke.