Fork & Fig
A new eatery on Menaul goes for the hip & casual
The menu is compact, and Kennon leaves no doubt as to his food philosophy. “Sauce is everything!” he says, when I mention the way each dish includes a specific, often unexpected sauce. The gentle black garlic aioli is unquestionably the magic touch elevating my beefalo burger on a brioche bun ($14) from routine menu item to olfactory opus. The beefalo burger is a mix of beef and buffalo meats, grilled to Maillard perfection and nestled into a rich, tender brioche with cheddar, bacon, green onion, tomato and kale, along with just the right amount of sauce to join the different flavor directions. Black garlic, created in a weeks-long heating process which caramelizes zingy aggressive cloves into mellow fruity-sweet gems, powers the simple egg/olive oil/lemon emulsion of the aioli. Please trust the chef; he knows his business—kale really does work on this burger.
The menu is compact, and Kennon leaves no doubt as to his food philosophy. “Sauce is everything!” he says, when I mention the way each dish includes a specific, often unexpected sauce.
On the ribeye sammy ($14), the creamy chimichurri sauce draws the broad flavors of the smoked gouda and caramelized onion together with the contrasting bitterness of mixed greens and the mellow backdrop of a toothsome ciabatta bun. Yes, this sandwich is worth the price, and you’re not going to want to share it with anyone. The “grown-up” grilled cheese ($10), with four cheeses, tomato, tomato-fig relish and bacon on Hawaiian bread, is way beyond the quick and dirty comfort food of your youth. The sweetness and acidity of fruits balance the richness of the cheese and bacon.
Another surprising combo that hits pay dirt is the NM reuben ($12). It’s a complicated sandwich: pastrami, shredded pork, green chile slaw, sauerkraut, Swiss cheese and Russian dressing on marbled rye. Deli purists may be dubious, but trust me; try this sandwich. It’s got the most satisfying mouthfeel, each bite offering a slightly different first-among-equals of the flavor components.
Sandwiches and burgers include a side, and if you bully your dining companions (as I did) into ordering different sides so everyone can try the options, you’ll be glad you did. The cotija corn, a roasted half-cob drizzled with blended cotija cheese, then sprinkled with cotija crumbles and smoked paprika, was a particular crowd-pleaser. Grilled zucchini is redolent of herbs, marked almost-black from the grill and cooked to that ideal tenderness, just shy of crunch. Potato gnocchi is likely to be a love-or-hate item; the hand-formed dumpling-type noodles are cut to bite size and sautéed and served with a flavorful oil dressing, but are perhaps slightly doughier than some care for. They are, however, the ideal morsel to dip in the various sauces and dressings on your table for taste-testing purposes. Green chile slaw has such a fresh, crunchy brightness about it that you may find yourself wishing to duplicate it in your own cooking (the highest compliment).
The daily soup offerings are appealing and unexpected combos, such as prime rib and grilled zucchini soup, or four peppers soup. Desserts are not listed on the menu, but the panna cotta is about as rich and creamy as you’ll find, not overly sweet and big enough to share, especially if you’re as satiated as we were. The drinks menu offers a selection of high-quality soft options, including craft sodas, coffee and teas, with the iced tea a notable standout. I believe I may find myself at Fork & Fig over the summer just for the teas. Kennon brings in custom-blended Magnolia Street Tea from Mainstreet Mixes in Scottsdale, Arizona. The Celebration black tea is especially memorable, heady with spices, softened by fruits, and so good you might ponder nabbing the whole pitcher.
6904 Menaul NE
Hours: 11am to 9pm Tuesday through Thursday
11am to 10pm Friday and Saturday
11am to 6pm Sunday
Mood: Foodie casual
Range: Under $20
Eye candy: Open kitchen and dining counter looking in
The Alibi recommends: NM reuben, cotija corn, iced tea and enough companions to order all the sides