Sunday, August 10, 2014

Cart-Driver - Italian Market-Driven Restaurant

I love it when a restaurant's existence surprises me. I was walking past Work & Class to my car when I noticed the Cart-Driver sign. Lights went off, name recognition went on, and I burst up the stairs to check out this restaurant where I was greeted by Andrew Birkholz, the co-owner.
He explained the inspiration: Italian truck stops, the practiced concept: standard wood-fired pizzas and market menu items that change with recent market finds and why they have Chartreuse VEP: distributor confusion. It was an excellent first meeting, but I couldn't stay because we had already eaten.

Two weeks later I returned with my girlfriend. This time we were greeted by Ross. He explained the menu and highlighted the market items.
We asked a few questions like - what's rapini? Related to broccoli and mustard greens. What's grandma's pizza? Essentially their gluten-free pizza with chickpea flour. Is the cart-driver pizza too spicy with the chili flakes? Not at all.
You order at the counter and then have several seating options - outdoor facing 25th, indoor (high top(s) for 2-6 people and low), and outdoor in the shipping container shared space area (still separated slightly). It was quiet here in complete contrast with the packed and boisterous Work & Class. It was a good dinner date choice.
We sat down and were quickly served our market menu items starting with the prosciutto mousse. We flattened the mousse with our knives and bit into it. The basil hit our nose first, then we tasted the saltiness from the prosciutto and we finished going through the greens and bread.
Next was the egglant and burrata. The egglant was a charcoal gray, a dark relation to the white burrata drizzled with oil and dotted with fennel pollen. I recommend sampling both separately and then proceed from there. The fennel's licorice flavor did not come through for me, though I did not realize it was there and therefore wasn't attuned to it. When we inquired about the yellow substance, we got to sample some fennel seeds off the stalk.

Finally, the pizza came. Between order and sit down, it took nearly 5 minutes for everything to arrive. It looked delicious and came pre-sliced. The rapini's strong bitter flavor immediately hit us. The mild sausage and mozzarella did balance it out. The crust was gently doughy and elastic and lightly touched with charcoal. It was a delightful pizza. Everything was quite filling and we left with half a pizza.
Overall, it was a quite satisfying, memorable experience. I look forward to their ever-changing menu.

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