Spring Menu Hot List: The Common Table intros duck fried rice, great value wines and a killer Reuben
The fresh look of a deep Spring cleaning has vacuumed the menus at many of our city’s best restaurants, including The Common Table, in Uptown.
The thing I love about The Common Table, besides their expertly curated collection of draft craft beers and balanced cocktails, is that Rodman Shields, the chef and manager of TCT, has a lot more tricks up his sleeve than he revealed while top toque at Cool River Café. It’s our good fortune that owner Mark Hearl, who owned the defunct Marquee Grill and Toko V, allows Shields to run free.
Shields has rewritten the rules a bit, too, offering pricey wines at fair prices (Caymus Napa Cab will set you back less than $100, for example) and interesting by-the-glass juice that’s more than an eye roll. Ever tasted wines from Jumilla, the jammy, full-bodied reds of Spain? They’re often a bargain, and even more thrilling to find Southern Belle Red Blend, which is aged in old Pappy Van Winkle casks. The Common Table sells it for $14 a glass. Or let a server walk you through the lengthy tap beer menu; I’d rank the staff here among the most knowledgeable and skilled in town.
But back to the food. If you haven’t been to TCT in a few months, then you really haven’t been to TCT. Shields has overhauled about half of the menu, including the wine list and beer selections. The crazy good bacon cheeseburger (the meat patty is half beef, half bacon) is still there, and so are the soft, chewy house made pretzels, but when Shields dangled duck fried rice, pristine dominos of ahi tuna rolled in sesame seeds and a griddled Reuben stacked with moist pastrami and beer-braised onions in front of me, I stopped reading. Oh hell, let’s just jump right to the pictures. Of the new dishes, let me just say this: if it’s on this page, it’s good. Except for the brownie, which needed to be twice as big and three times as fudgy.