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By Kate Abney | Photo: Heidi Geldhauser | February 7, 2017
Straddling the line between comfort food and fine dining—plus the border between Old Fourth Ward and Inman Park—our new favorite resto casts a wide net.
When Cast Iron opened inside the Highland Avenue location previously home to P’Cheen and Last Word, it had a few hurdles to climb. Evan Cordes (Cakes & Ale, Serpas True Food, H. Harper Station) jumped at the chance to secure the property, but he knew he’d have to give its small and ill-equipped kitchen a boost, which would allow his staff to serve patrons high-quality food—and quickly. His solution? Prepare the fare almost entirely in seasoned cast iron pans, adding depth and breadth to flavor profiles and imparting an old-fashioned je ne sais quoi.
And although Cast Iron is just a five-minute walk to Rathbun’s and Ladybird (if you’re driving, note street parking only), Cordes wanted to appeal just as much to members of the neighborhood—especially the young, upwardly mobile inhabitants of Highland Walk apartments—offering them an unpretentious mainstay for date night, late night or just any given Thursday.
Aesthetic updates to the cozy-industrial eatery are subtle, but include a dining room peppered with black-and-white photos and pretty—albeit irreverent—poppy prints. The bar backdrop is clad in white subway tiles, while a row of wood-topped stools is the perfect perch for imbibing your way through the impressive beverage menu.
First up: the substantial beer list. Comprising bottles, cans and drafts, it represents many rarities—from Green Bench Brewing Co.’s Saison de Banc Vert to 21st Amendment’s Marooned on Hog Island oyster stout—that pair exceptionally well with food. Wines are divided into five categories: red, white, bubbles, rosé and, curiously, the increasingly trendy orange. The cocktail menu is certainly clever, with libations taking their names from tracks on jazz legend Charles Mingus’ album Mingus Ah Um. Our faves: Bird Calls (featuring smoky mezcal and sweet vermouth) and Pussy Cat Dues (a mix of rye whiskey and sherry).
Ready to start noshing? A Bunch of Mushrooms is a rightly popular appetizer, combining crimini, abalone, king trumpet, maitake... and whatever other fungi the chef may have sourced that week. As for the winter root vegetables, can we just say, “wow?” Discs of red and watermelon beets, diced golden beets, roasted organic carrots, marinated beluga lentils, crispy golden lentils and crumbles of ricotta are collected into a rustic ceramic pot of pure awesome.
Save room for mains like monk fish with bean relish, smoked-and-roasted chicken wings with herb yogurt, and cider-brined pork ribs with cabbages. The 7-ounce stovetop burger is topped with Tillamook cheddar, bacon and chili-cornmeal bread, then paired with veggies slow roasted in the pan jus; but our favorite dish was the cold noodles and shrimp: a Thai-inspired bowl with cabbage, carrots, English cucumber, basil, cilantro, radishes, hot mustard, beef fat caramel (say what?!) and fish-sauce vinaigrette. Do not delay in grabbing two forks to toss everything together; the reward is like a trip to the tropics.
A duo of dessert options is satisfying, not cloying—by the way, the milk and cookies is the cleverest idea ever: a trio of chocolate-chip treats plus milk served in a stylish coupe. Valentine’s nightcap perfection? (Hint, hint.)