[Pigging by Wilfrid: March 20, 2017]
I do understand that not everyone is looking for a replacement for the sadly closed Fritzl's Lunch Box. Not everyone finds themselves on a regular basis between bars or galleries or events, and near Maria Hernandez Park, and hungry.
Of course, you have high end and low end covered, what with Michelin-starred Faro, and everything from dogs caliente at Guacoco to the excellent pork shoulder at the Sazon Nunez buffet. But what about a mid-range sit-down restaurant?
Have a Babycham while we discuss the back story. Does anyone remember Babycham? Okay, that's an inexpensive sparkler in a celebratory glass. (There are cocktails too, with amusing names like Coco Chanel: gin, lavender-infused St Germain, lemon , sparkling wine.)
It's a French operation, at least in the sense that co-owner Catherine Allswang is from Normandy, and has operated restaurants in Paris. She oversees the kitchen (chef Sina Sucuka runs it); her daughter, Rachel, a designer, made the interior look less like a garage (it's cozy, despite the large windows), and is an attentive front-of-house presence.
What I wanted to say is that Le Garage is French--not in the New York style of themed French bistros and brasseries, but in the style of a thoughtful neighborhood restaurant with a brief, honest menu, and well-cooked honest food. No Le Hamburger.
Honoring that impression, I started with a simple plate of saucisson sec, seasoned and drizzled with oil. My server begged me to try the house specialty, fried panisse; I thought that would go with the sausage so agreed, but it's cooked to order and showed up later.
For some reason, I talked myself into a salad (why not the soup?). It was neatly composed: butternut squash and feta cheese were the main features.
The panisse arrived scorching hot: little logs of chickpea fries with a strong herbal component; quite distinctive.
Les plats principaux list is simple. Duck, steak, or chicken. Or a fish stew. And yes, there's a vegetable risotto. Tempted by duck, I hadn't eat hanger steak in a while. This was what you would want it to be, with potatoes cooked in duck fat (they can be ordered as a side), béarnaise, and a pile of green leaves.
There are some sweet "puddings," but cheese seemed obvious. One market choice, announced as a blue from Vermont (Bayley Hazen, I suspect), with some fig jam and hearty bread.
So I am recommending Le Garage--but as what? Fritzl's had exceptional creative imagination, and real chef chops, in the kitchen; but a very short menu. It was worth traveling to Fritzl's, if you hit it on the right day and got some great specials. There was a risk you'd have to settle for the burger. Le Garage is pleasant, comfortable and comforting--and the kitchen did nothing wrong, which is not as unusual as it should be. But it's for someone who has other reasons to be in the neighborhood. No shame in that.