Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Belmont Food Shop: Retro Walk-In Wonderland

Let me state right up front that it would have been a lovely lunch even if I hadn't gotten to see the most magnificent walk-in ever. I'm talking about a walk-in for the ages.

Last week, I'd dropped by the new Belmont Food Shop for lunch, only to be told that yes, they served lunch Monday through Fridays but that day they weren't serving due to an enormous catering order. I was given a golf ball-sized truffle as a consolation prize and invited to return.

So I rounded up a lunch buddy (always tough on Wednesdays) and back to Belmont we went. The owner remembered me (and even what I wanted to order) and graciously offered to give us a tour of the place.

It's a repurposed delight with two fireplace mantles incorporated into the bar, a bar floorboard made from an old elevator shaft piece, marble from the backyard (a story in and of itself) and beautiful cabinets from the co-owner's old Chicago apartment.

But it was back in the kitchen that I lost my heart to that beautiful wooden walk-in, circa 1929. Much like the typical family-sized wooden ice boxes of days of yore except that this one went to the ceiling and was commercial sized, it had the recognizable doors and handles of an ice box.

Nearby two enormous black ovens sat, left over from the place's days as a Mediterranean bakery. Belmont's owners use it to proof and bake bread daily.

In the large back yard, it is a stone cutter's paradise. The yard's grass is covered with marble, limestone and granite pieces and stacked everywhere are more of the same. Some of the pieces were used in the making of the bar and others await repurposing. Local blue slate stands stacked against one of the enormous trees.

But I digress and it was food we were there for. As I'd told owner Mike last week, the crabcake had come highly recommended to me. His is served on freshly-made Sally Lunn bread and I got the fresh fruit mix with it. Pickled carrot sticks were part of the deal.

All the lunches are served with a choice of four sides (potato salad, deviled egg, fruit, salad), a Fruit 66 drink (I love the local connection, having seen their facility in the Bottom), and a housemade truffle.

My friend got the roast beef with caramelized onions and horseradish with potato salad. As a bonus, we were also each given one of the house-made jelly candies that they make for the non-chocolate lovers (aka vegans and the lactose-intolerant). I was happy to have both sweets.

The menu is small (our two, plus pork, house-roasted turkey and a vegetarian option), but the attention to detail was clear. The beef is local, the deviled eggs come from Polyface farms, the drinks from the Bottom, and the flour for the bread from Byrd Mill in Ashland. Even the kiwis in the fruit were local (who knew? Good marketing work, Aussies!).

As someone raised in Maryland, I had warned Mike that I was a discriminating crabcake eater and his generously-sized version measured up in every way. Southerners will get a kick out of the Sally Lunn roll it came on, cakey and very traditional, but a nice touch with the crabcake.

Friend was impressed with the flavor of his thickly-stacked rare roast beef (butt cheeks we were told) and delighted to learn that the the horseradish sauce (and even the mustard used in the deviled eggs) was made in house. I gave points to the pickled carrots for their tang and crunch.

Sweet lovers will want to know that the jellies were outstanding, missing the preservative-filled taste that most sugar-coated jellies have.

And the truffles, besides being huge, are the perfect-sized piece of post-lunch chocolate heaven; today I had the coffee chocolate and last week I had the chili-dusted chocolate. These guys are smart to offer these by the pound, but I'd consider it unwise for a chocoholic like myself to risk bringing a box home.

Pre-2006, I lived literally right around the corner from Belmont Food Shop (for thirteen years even) and had never known that up until the late '60s, that space had been a grocery store, so I can appreciate having it once again provide food for the neighborhood.

I just want to know that I can go admire that walk-in every time I stop by for lunch...'cause I will be back.


  1. I just love reading this stuff. makes me happy.

  2. Like 1929 big wooden walk-ins make me happy?