My first time at Down House was on a blind date. He lived in the Heights and I had never been so it seemed perfect. Sometimes there's just a connection, an instant attraction, a chemistry you can't deny. And that's how I felt...about Down House. Unfortunately, I can't say the same for the date but Down House where have you been all my life?
I've more than made up for the lost time. I've had brunch there three weekends in a row since that fateful date and each time I found I enjoyed it even more than the last.They open early and close late so you could stay all day. Linger over a cup of coffee, stick around for lunch and finish the night with cocktails. It's all in the little details, the periodic table of elements on the wall, your receipt stuck inside a book -- usually something along the lines of Charles Darwin's Origin of Species. The service is friendly, I've had a different server each time and each one of them made me feel as if I were just a welcome guest in their home. But what would any of that matter if the food weren't solid. And Down House delivers there as well.
The taco plate is perfect for brunch ($10). Two tacos of your choice served with home fries or black beans. The applewood smoked bacon and egg taco with Cabot cheddar is my favorite, a straightforward classic made excellent by the thick cuts of bacon and sharp, slightly pungent cheddar.
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The kim chi burger ($15 at dinner) available all day is worth a trip on its own. A perfectly-cooked-to-your-preference, in my case medium rare, patty is served on a Slow Dough Challah bun and comes with house kim chi, that same Cabot cheddar, a sunny-side up egg, house mayo and bulgogi sauce. If you think it sounds messy, you'd be right but as you bite into it and the juice from the patty mixes with the yolk and sauce and the mayo and it oozes onto your hands, you won't even reach for a napkin, opting instead to lick up whatever you can.
For another Asian-inspired dish try the shrimp and grits ($15), wild caught Gulf shrimp, applewood smoked bacon, Anson Mills grits, cilantro and scallions all come served in a shallow bowl topped with the pho broth. It's rich and flavorful but not so much as to weigh down any one ingredient.
The true sign of a good restaurant to me is if I recommend it to friends. If I think they should try a particular place when there are so many great joints in our city, then you know I think it's something special. On one occasion I took some friends that had never been. They immediately liked the decor, they enjoyed the fresh squeezed orange juice ($3) and the spicy bloody mary ($5); things seems to be going well. When our food took far too long and my friends were starting to wonder what I saw in the place, I thought maybe my love affair with Down House was going to be a quick one, but the manager came by, apologized genuinely and offered a complementary dessert. Now even my friends approve. This could be love.