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Breadwinners 

Dinner at Boulevard dazzles.

click to enlarge STICK-TO-YOUR-RIBS DISH: The Smoked Bone-In Pork Chop, slathered in a bourbon-honey reduction.
  • STICK-TO-YOUR-RIBS DISH: The Smoked Bone-In Pork Chop, slathered in a bourbon-honey reduction.

Younger diners, we have observed, eschew the stodgy for the comfortable but refined, going for restaurants with modern decor and capable chefs. One destination for them: Boulevard Bistro & Bar.

On a recent Saturday night, Boulevard — the restaurant attached to Boulevard Bread Co. — had an upbeat but laid-back holiday buzz. There was good energy in the place: It was crowded enough to let you know you might be onto something yet quiet enough to talk without shouting. We were seated without a wait.

One might start off, as we did, with an Old Fashioned ($10.50) from the cocktail menu. This version had muddled cherries and a slice of orange at the bottom that provided a fruity base for the whiskey, bitters and sugar.

The House Sausage Board ($12) made a hearty appetizer. Three types of sausage — French herb, sweet Italian and a sausage of the day (ours happened to be boudin) — come halved and served with cornichons and two mustards, sweet stone-ground and a tangy Dijon. The boudin was loose, a spicy mix of fluffy rice and sausage. The sweet mustard worked well in tandem, knocking out some of the heat. We were too late for the sweet Italian, so we got a double-dose of the French herb. Fine by us. It was an explosion of earthy flavor with strong notes of thyme. This more dense sausage went well with the Dijon.

The menu offers a range of things to eat at varying levels of sophistication and price. There are dinner salads, sandwiches and a few entrees. Everything fits on the front of a 11-by-17 sheet, signaling a couple of things: The menu changes often enough that fancy, bound ones might be a pain, and better to have a few solid offerings than a sprawling selection of "meh."

We also ordered the Smoked Bone-In Pork Chop ($19), a tender, slightly smoky chop that came with white wine risotto and butter-basted mushrooms. The star of the dish was the honey-bourbon reduction, a thick amber sauce that made the dish sing. Perfectly suited for a fall/winter menu, this was a wonderful, stick-to-your-ribs dish.

The Steak Frites ($28) was another winner. The 12-ounce ribeye was simply seasoned, probably not much more than salt and pepper. The cut of meat did most of the work. It was fatty in all the right ways, tender, and the white wine-shallot butter on top gave an extra burst of flavor. The fries were outstanding, perfectly crisp with just the right amount of salt. The seasoned arugula that came with it could just as well have been an afterthought but it wasn't: just-wilted, peppery and a welcomed break from the meat and potatoes.

click to enlarge STEAK FRITES: The 12-ounce ribeye needed only salt and pepper.
  • STEAK FRITES: The 12-ounce ribeye needed only salt and pepper.

All of our food was stellar: well thought out and executed. Also worth mentioning: The service here was outstanding. Our waitress very patiently answered our myriad questions and always appeared at the appropriate time. The wine list was brief, but well curated: We saw very good wines not offered by a lot of restaurants in town. Our Louis Haller Edelzwicker ($9) paired well with everything (think of a great Riesling). The Elouan Pinot Noir ($10) was a solid match for the steak.

With Boulevard's reputation, we knew we'd be getting something good, but were still pleasantly surprised. This is a great place for a date night, a celebration or just a night out with the family. One visit will put Boulevard near the top of your go-to list.

Boulevard Bistro & Bar
1920 N. Grant St.
501-663-5951
boulevardbread.com

Quick bite

Boulevard has great coffee and pastries for the morning crowd. Its breakfast sandwich rivals any in town. The real star of the Sunday brunch menu is the Fried Chicken and Grits ($13). You get a sunny-side-up egg, a fried chicken breast and stone-ground grits. There's a dollop of pickled giardiniera on top. It's a real winner.

Hours

7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Wednesday, 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Thursday to Saturday, 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday.

Other info

Full bar, credit cards accepted.
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