Weird and wonderful sorta-southern (yet Hipster) along Melrose.
Going to The Hart and the Hunter is just a strange experience, top to bottom.
No, that’s not a slam. It was good, a damn good…but strange…experience.
First off, there is no sign blaring “The Hart and the Hunter”. You only see the sign for the Palihotel on Melrose, which is an actual, functioning Hotel. You drop off your car for Valet service at the corner of Melrose and Whatever (more difficult than it sounds), then wander back to a sign that says “Supérette”. It’s slight a maze to get back there, but you can do it. Okay fine.
There’s a pop-up feel to the place. You walk through a pair of doors, into…what looks like a Coffee Shop from the early 1950s: blue tile, old, old chairs and tables. There is a…well, I guess it’s a kitchen visible from the dining area, where it looks like the Prep Cooks are working to prepare some stuff in front of a wall of strawberries, fruits and other fresh ingredients. There isn’t really a bar. The Hotel has a bar, in a very small white room in a different part of the hotel. And when I mean small, I mean it fits two people comfortably, you put in three and you start to knock elbows.
And then, on top of all that…it serves what is basically chef prepared southern faire. Admittedly with a twist, but it’s still biscuits, cornbread, black eyed peas, collard greens, etc.
And…on top of all that…what is the strangest, most surprising part of the place, the Southern food…is actually really good.
Can anyone explain this to me? I ate the stuff (and loved the stuff), and I can’t.
But that’s just Dinner. Lunch is somewhat a different experience. It’s even more low key than what you’d get at Dinner. The Valet Parking Service is gone, so expect to be on your own in that regard. You order right from the counter, proceed to your seat, and wait for your goodness to arrive.
Your experience at The Hart and the Hunter will be a good one. You will love the food. You will love your time there. There only drawback is that you might get a pretty strong whiff of Hipster about the place. It is loud in here most hours. For some reason, Hipsters like to eat their food amidst a lot of sound, be it music or talk or…whatever.
WHAT SHOULD I GET?: When it comes to Dinner, start off with the Chicken Skins, which are high-calorie salty goodness. The look like the stuff you peel off (and let’s admit it, eat) when you grab hold of some Kentucky Fried Chicken. But the good news is that they’re baked, not fried…though they taste awfully, awfully fried…in that oh-so-magical-but-no-I-should-really-stop kind of a way.
Next was the Southern Biscuits. Now, I took no end of crap from my Father over the fact that I, an otherwise righteous black man got Biscuits (seen somewhat as being white folks Southern food) instead of Cornbread (seen somewhat as being black folks Southern Food). But after back to back visits to Gus’s and Boneyard Bistro, there was only so much Cornbread I could take. Still, those biscuits were good…reeaaalll good, damn good. My party and I got a second helping they were so good. They come piping hot, fresh out of the oven. They’re served with a selection of three spreads, one cheesy, one blackberry jam (made with real whole blackberries), and cinnamon butter. Both the blackberry jam and cheesy spread are near impossible to resist, but it’s the cinnamon butter that will come calling again and again. They’re so good, they might as well be dessert.
Next came the entrees, one was a Hanger Steak, served sliced atop a bed of cheesy grits, mixed with mushrooms and snails. (Yes, Snails). I’m not the biggest snail fan in the world, but the steak was awesome.
Following that was the Venison Carpaccio, which was the exact same dish I had at Osteria Mamma, only that time it was with beef.
The Menu is slightly different for Lunch. There I got myself their Grilled Steak Bowl, his was on a bed of greens (Arugula), roasted Artichoke Hearts and Brown Rice? There is, of course, a nicely done Steak (Medium Rare), sliced across it, and covered in a Salsa Verde. It’s a nicely sized lunch, an pretty good to boot. I also had their Black Eyed Pea and Collard Green Soup. Now, I’ve had Black Eyed Peas, and I’ve had Collard Greens, but I’ve never had them together in soup form. And it was spicy too, really spicy. Each mouthful delivering more and more welcome heat. This soup has definitely made my must-do, must-eat list.
IMPORTANT SAFETY TIP, PEOPLE: Okay, this place is a little hard to get to, and get into. Not in a hipster-hot hard to get into way, but in a can-I-find-it, where-the-hell-is-it way.
So…there is no sign out there saying “Hart and the Hunter”. The only way I found it was the Valets volunteering the information pretty damn quickly. There is only a sign saying “Supérette”, which…really doesn’t help.
Also, no Cocktails. They serve Alcohol, but in a place (and a meal) that feels like it needs a Cocktail…there are no Cocktails.
Also, they don’t take reservations, so don’t go combing through OpenTable, hoping for a miracle.
And that thing I wrote about the Bar. Wasn’t kidding.
It’s very important to note that while the Lunch menu looks different and is different, some things remain the same. The ever-prized, ever-loved, and ever-piping hot Biscuits are still available at Lunch though they don’t appear to be. Make sure…you take advantage.
But the really hard part about this place is the…
PARKING: Oh yeah. If you’re going to Dinner, the easiest thing to do is go Valet, which isn’t cheap. And you’re dreaming if you can find street parking on this part Melrose, who knows…you might get lucky. But seriously, just take the Valet and be done with it.
At Lunchtime, there is no Valet. The trick is to circle around, and look for one of the side streets with a meter, away from the residences. I say trick like…you have a choice in the matter. Without Valet, you are left to your own devices to find parking. Expect to pay about two bucks for the meters, and get two hours worth of time out of it.
Tel: (323) 424-3055
Hours: (They’re complicated, so bear with me.)
Monday: Breakfast 7am-12pm (that seems to be it)
Tuesday: Breakfast 7am-3pm / Lunch 11:30am (that’s all they said) / Dinner 5:30pm-10pm
Wednesday-Thursday: Breakfast 7am-3pm / Lunch 11:30am / Dinner 5:30pm-10pm
Friday-Saturday: Breakfast 7am-3pm / Lunch 11:30am / Dinner 5:30pm-11:00pm
Sunday: Breakfast 7am-10am / Brunch 11am-2pm / Dinner 5:30pm-9:00pm