America is a vast land with a multitude of regional culinary inflections.
Cajun and Creole cuisines give New Orleans its big flavors. Fat pastrami sandwiches are the order of the day at most delis in New York City. Italian fishermen in San Francisco came up with seafood cioppino more than a century ago.
Rounding up all these cuisines on one menu may seem like a tall order, but that’s exactly what Grit American Cuisine in Eagle (next to Albertsons at the corner of Eagle Road and State Street) does with its clever American fusion menu.
Porterhouse Market owner Dave Faulk and chef Paul Faucher, a Culinary Institute of America graduate who formerly ran the kitchen at 10 Barrel Brewing Co., have teamed up to create a fun and casual dining experience — one that’s a little bit country and a little bit rock ‘n’ roll.
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This dichotomy is helped along by a colorfully abstract wildlife mural — oversized bear, wolf and bighorn sheep heads painted by local artist Lukas Evergreen — that dominates one wall. An elk rack hangs over the kitchen entrance further reminding diners they are in Idaho.
Service is down-home and inviting to boot, and Faucher has trained the waitstaff well about the nuances of his seasonal cuisine.
Grit runs the same menu all day, one that uses too many locally sourced products to even begin to mention. But for food geeks who really need to know, there’s a footer at the bottom of the page that lists the producers.
Shared plates are given much attention, and the lineup plays well with the wine list and bevy of regional draught brews offered on a separate menu. There’s even a short list of inventive cocktails for those needing something stronger during the holidays.
The gas-fired pizza oven gets used for more than just cooking pies. It also lends smoky flavors to appetizers such as the alder-planked shrimp ($13), a charred shingle of aromatic wood lined with five adobo-spiced shrimp, tender and showing their tails, coated with olive oil and big chunks of roasted garlic. A nearby ramekin of remoulade (spicy mayo with capers and tarragon) points in the direction of the French Quarter.
The fire-roasted fingerling potatoes ($7) will make diners forget that french fries ever existed. Simple are these knobby spuds, which get cooked confit-style in garlic-infused oil before being placed in the flickering pizza oven for a few minutes until the skin starts to blister. The potatoes then get lightly sprinkled with granules of truffle sea salt and herbs, then plopped in a bowl next to a garlicky buttermilk dipping sauce.
An Indian-inspired cauliflower and pumpkin appetizer ($9) will remind people of pakoras. These deep-fried veggie morsels are crispy and light — thanks to a golden-brown chickpea flour batter — and come with a tight pesto-like sauce made with cashews, cilantro, jalapeno, yogurt and lime. A pleasant essence of scratch-made garam masala lingers on the palate.
Other starters include spicy fried chicken ($13/four pieces) that tastes straight out of Nashville. Faucher soaks chicken thighs and legs in a lemon brine, bolstering the flavors and making for extremely tender meat under a crunchy breading. What makes it Nashville-style is the piquant oil (infused with cayenne, smoked paprika and brown sugar) that coats the crispy chicken, and subsequently soaks the underlying toasted buttermilk bread. The sauce smacks of the seasoning on barbecue potato chips, only much spicier.
The soup selection changes daily with the whimsy of the kitchen. One afternoon, a crab and shrimp bisque ($4/cup) had a rich and briny shellfish stock flavor and plump little pieces of shrimp meat.
Vegheads will surely like the farro salad ($8), which speaks to the season with its long, plump grains of Italian farro tossed in tangy cranberry vinaigrette with toasted pumpkin seeds, crispy oven-roasted kale and garam masala-spiced pieces of pumpkin.
Grit dishes up a half dozen different kinds of hand-tossed specialty pizzas, from an expected Margherita to a pear pizza ($15) that boasts an interplay of sweet and savory, set off by slices of Bartlett pear, house-made crème fraiche, blue cheese and toothsome pieces of caramelized shallot.
A pastrami sandwich ($12) is a collaborative effort between Faulk and Faucher: the brisket gets brined at Porterhouse Market and then Faucher smokes it at the restaurant. The result is smoky and tender shavings of pastrami layered with Thousand Island dressing (probably too much), gooey Swiss and a bright Mediterranean garden relish (brunoise-cut carrot, bell pepper, onion and kalamata olives) on grilled light rye from Acme Bakeshop. The somewhat goopy sandwich came with hand-cut shoestring fries cooked in bubbling Kobe beef fat.
Beef stroganoff ($21) pays homage to Russian heritage with wide ribbons of fresh pappardelle pasta, seared pieces of flatiron and ribeye steak and sautéed button mushrooms coated in a dill-flecked sour cream sauce that screams comfort. The deep, earthy flavors paired nicely with a glass of fruit-forward Graffigna Centenario Malbec ($7) from Argentina’s Pedernal Valley.
It’s obvious that Faucher has hit his stride as a chef, with all those years of experience shining through on one menu. I didn’t see any grits anywhere, though. Maybe a shout-out to Charleston is in order.
Statesman reviewers pay for their meals and attempt to dine anonymously. Email James Patrick Kelly: firstname.lastname@example.org
Grit American Cuisine
Address: 360 S. Eagle Road, Eagle
Phone: (208) 576-6666
Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday-Thursday; 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday.
Menu price range: appetizers, soups and salads $4-$13; pizzas, sandwiches and entrées $9-$35.
Libation situation: Eight rotating tap handles of regional brews, canned beers, cocktails and a wine list that favors affordable labels from around the globe.
Kid friendly? Yes
Wheelchair accessible? Yes
Opened: November 2015