Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Russell

The HFG has been pretty inactive lately because of Mrs. HFG's surgery (she is recovering quite nicely) but the other night she felt up to taking a walk over to The Russell for dinner. Located at the corner of Pratt and Trumbull in what was once Zu-Zu's coffee bar (which became Xando's then Cosi's or the other way around) The Russell is operated by my neighbor and friend Hugh Russell (if you know Hugh, you know he is charming, on-point, and always impeccably dressed).

Hugh is from Jamacia and The Russsell's cuisine does reflect somewhat his Carrebian heritage, with offerings like jerk or curried chicken sandwiches, wraps, and flatbreads, but the cuisine is actually very eclectic. I've been there for lunch quite a few times, but I was excited to try the dinner menu.

Mrs. HFG and I decided to start with a couple of appetizers, so we ordered the coconut shrimp ($8), which came with an orange marmalade dip, and the yuca fries ($5) which came with a sweet onion aoili dip. They were both excellant.

Yuca is a potato-like tuber. It has a rather mild taste and as fries they are somewhat lighter than french fries. Our order was lightly fried and the dip was fantastic, adding a nice amount of punch.The cocconut shrimp were marvolous. The portion was generous and the shrimp were large and tasty. The light cocconut batter contrasted well with the flavor and texture of the shrimp and the oranage marmalade dip added a welcome sweetness.

For dinner I had the curry chicken wrap ($10) which came with spinach, onion, mango and red slaw. It was very good, with a nice combination of flavors and textures, but I wish the curry had had a bit more punch to it. Mrs. HFG agreed.

My wife had the jerk snapper filet ($18), which came with rice, peas, fried plantains, red and yellow peppers, carrots and okra. It was absolutely outstanding. The flavor of the fish came through and was complimented, but not overwhelemd, by the jerk seasoning. It was one of the best non-waterfront fish dishes I've had in many, many, many years.

On the whole, it was an outstanding meal at a very reasonable price.

It's sad to say, but I know some people shy away from The Russell because there is a perception that it is a "black" place, because Hugh is from Jamacia, the place attracts a large number of African-American, West Indian, and Jamacian patrons, and because it is somewhat known for it's nighttime dance crowd (Mrs. HFG says it rocks). That said, I have never felt less than 100% welcome and well-treated by staff and patrons when I have been there and it is no more a "black" restaurant than Max Downtown is a "white" restaurant. But, if people are going to be timid or just closed-minded there is nothing you can do, except enjoy the food, the ambiance, and the company they won't.

The bottom line is that The Russell is a great little place (litterally) and you should check it out, whether you are white, black, purple, or green.

Here's a link to The Russell's website -

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Roadside Dogger

Mrs. HFG had surgery on Monday morning. She's fine now (sleeping in the other room as I type) but she's going to be on the disabled list for a few weeks. Not only does that mean no delicious Saturday AM pancakes for a while (:< x 1,000), but it also means that we won't be going out to eat either (:< x 5,000).

Still, the HFG has to do his thing. I’ve been home this week keeping an eye on my wife, so after picking up a prescription, I decided to stop by the Roadside Dogger, which parks every AM at the corner of Main and Athenaeum (Athenaeum is the little street that separates the art museum from the Travelers).

Strictly speaking, of course, the Dogger isn’t a restaurant, but it does serve breakfast and lunch every day to people who work Downtown. In fact, it’s one of a good number of trucks that camp out along Main Street and around Bushnell Park, serving a bewildering variety of dogs, burgers, Chinese (or at least Chinese-American) dishes, and more or less anything and everything else you can eat with your hands, a skewer, or a plastic fork.

I am tempted to get philosophical and say the food truck, like Sam Colt’s .45 caliber revolver, is a great equalizer. Around a food truck you’re likely to find stockbrokers, lawyers, government bureaucrats, blue, pink, and white collar workers, as well people from the service industry, students, and more or less anybody else who has $5 to spend and wants a quick bite to eat. There, I guess I just said it. :>

The Dogger is pretty typical of the “American” (as opposed to say “Chinese” or “Middle Eastern”) food truck, which offers up hot dogs, hamburgers, steak and cheese sandwiches, grilled sausages, etc. The Dogger has all these offerings, plus grilled cheese, and ham, pastrami, and tuna sandwiches, as well as a very simple breakfast consisting of a bagel with (plain) cream cheese, a muffin, or an egg and cheese sandwich with bacon, sausage, or ham, and coffee. Not fancy, but then again you are about as far from fine dining as you can be.

For lunch I had a steak and cheese sandwich on a sub roll, with mustard, onions, and peppers. Not fancy, but yummy nonetheless. The steak was OK, but it was hot and the onions and peppers added some good flavor. The sandwich was slathered in yellow mustard, and certainly not brown mustard, which though delicious, would be totally out of place on a food truck. I like yellow mustard, but I could have done with a bit less. Still, my only real complaint (and remember I am judging by the standards of a food truck, not Max Downtown) was the cheese, which was that gooey orange stuff (:<). Still, for $4, it is hard to complain.

One really good thing about the Dogger is that everything is cooked to order. This takes a bit longer, but it means your food is going to be hot and will not have been sitting on a warmer (or worse) before it's served to you.

The Roadside Dogger is not the greatest place to grab lunch Downtown, but it is a solid food truck that serves up basic, delicious, and incredibly unhealthy food quickly, and at a fair price. The next time you are Downtown at lunchtime, swing by, or at least check out one of the many other food trucks in the neighborhood. Although they are only there a few hours a day, they are part of what makes Downtown go.