As avid frequenters of Dugan's Pub and Stratton's Market, we've kept a close watch on the evolving prepared food/restaurant presence at Stratton's. After a couple of incarnations it more recently was rebranded Skye's Little Bistro, named for the daughter of the two namesakes of the aforementioned, conjoined businesses.
But what made us do more than notice was the announcement that Stephen Burrow had joined the team as chef and Stratton's manager. We enjoyed Burrow's work for years at 42, the Clinton Presidential Center restaurant, and knew he'd later spent time in the kitchen at Chenal Country Club. And now he's back downtown at a place where his influence can be huge.
Burrow's first big move was going to a blackboard menu that changes periodically. He professes a dedication to locally sourced produce and meats, and Stratton's has a decent selection of both, as well as local cheese from Kent Walker, which also finds its way onto Skye's menu.
We opted for two entrees on our first lunch visit — the duck confit ($17) and chicken with gnocchi ($11). The chef says duck confit is a permanent menu item, and that's good news. The dish is classically done at Skye's — a thigh/leg combo pan sauteed in duck fat. It was luscious, rich, salty and properly greasy. The accompanying zephyr squash casserole was creamy, somewhat salty and generally amazing. We could have eaten three portions. Lyonnaise potatoes were advertised as the other side item, but instead we got soft, almost fluffy gnocchi. We will be back for this dish, but we don't expect a lot of downtown workers are in the market for a $17 lunch entree. The chicken and gnocchi was as bland as the duck was flavorful. Salt helped, but the chicken, though plentiful, was a bit dry.
Interestingly, since Stratton's Market is also a liquor store, Skye's can't serve alcoholic beverages to its diners or let you purchase a bottle of wine to consume there. However, the market has a tasting permit that allows it to serve a small pour, and Christoph, our Parisian waiter, was kind enough to offer some very tasty Chateau St. Michelle chardonnay, an offer we graciously accepted. We also indulged in a couple of bottles of high-end soda pop — Boylan Bottling's ginger ale and creme soda, each a reasonable $1.49.
We were concerned that we were the only diners on our first lunch, but when we returned three days later, there were several others also enjoying Skye's, which has only a few small bistro tables inside and even fewer on the sidewalk outside.
This lunch started with a bowl of gazpacho ($6), which Christoph was kind enough to split for us — and we think we got more soup than we deserved. It wasn't typical tomato-onion-bell pepper based gazpacho. This had an orange tint that we are confident came from carrots and a sweetness that came from watermelon (we found a seed). It was cool and delightful on a hot day.
For our main courses we opted for sandwiches — the Croque Monsieur ($10) and Rotisserie Lamb ($11). Each came with a French classic: cubed potatoes cooked crispy in duck fat, with creamy centers. Croque Monsieur is ubiquitous in France, and for good reason. It's essentially a grilled ham-and-cheese sandwich slathered with bechamel and topped with another slice of Swiss for good measure. The ham was high quality, which ensured the sandwich would be a hit. We enjoyed the lamb even more — very thinly sliced, fairly rare meat piled high and topped with just a bit of grated Asiago, Dijon mustard and some sweet homemade pickle slices on toasted marble rye. It was yummy in every way.
Skye's is definitely worth a visit. It offers some items that are unique to this area, and the whole in-store bistro experience is a good one, helped along by the friendly Christoph.
Stratton's Market itself is worth a visit as well. It offers a nice selection of Boar's Head meats and cheeses as well as Tillamook and four Kent Walker cheeses. The only liquor store in the heart of downtown, Stratton's has a great selection of wines, beers and three racks of liquors.
Amy Bradley-Hole's garlicky Bonta Toscana pasta sauce and Arkansas herbs and spices from Fennel and Fire are available, as are other gourmet goods, from West Rock Coffee to almond butter to caviar. But it's not all frou-frou — as the Campbell's tomato soup and Miracle Whip attest.
Skye's Little Bistro
405 E. Third St.
Skye's offers several prepared-food items for $9.99 a pound, most of them appetizers or side items perfect for pairing at home with your own main course. Stuffed grilled zucchini, tabouleh, grilled asparagus with wild rice pilaf, watermelon salad, pasta salad and a caprese salad were featured recently.
11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday.
Credit cards accepted, no alcohol.