Thursday, September 15, 2011

Will Webster House rule downtown after the Performing Arts Center opens?

Webster House is about to have a very crowded dining room.

Posted By on Thu, Sep 15, 2011 at 7:38 PM

The fried green tomatoes at Webster House sort of resemble the Performing Arts Center next door.
  • The fried green tomatoes at Webster House sort of resemble the Performing Arts Center next door.

Tonight, noted architect Moshe Safdie — the architect who designed the beautiful new Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts (and the ill-fated West Edge development, but let's not talk about that) — hosted a cocktail reception at the Webster House for 100 guests, including architects and local bigwigs like philanthropist Shirley Bush Helzberg.

But the second-floor Library lounge, just off the Webster House Restaurant, was oddly quiet. This bar is often packed after happy hour officially kicks into gear, thanks to the new menu that new chef Matthew Arnold recently introduced shortly after he took over the kitchen last month. It's a great menu and easy to create a satisfying meal pretty inexpensively from a terrific $7 steak burger topped with Swiss, cheddar or blue cheese or the $10 bowl of shrimp and grits made with country ham and red eye vinaigrette.

My favorite dish on the menu is the plate of panko-and-cornmeal-dusted fried green tomatoes served with a dollop of tasty house-made tomato jam. (Vegetarians, be warned: This jam contains bacon fat as an ingredient.) Eat a burger and share the tomatoes and you'll be full for the rest of the night. But you need to act fast: The happy hour at Webster House runs Wednesday through Saturday from 4:30 to 6 p.m.

This weekend, Webster House is booked for reservations for both Saturday-night dinner and Sunday brunch. The off-the-menu brunch made its debut last Sunday to great acclaim, says restaurant assistant manager Eric Pearson (he moved over to Webster House after his previous gig, at Jack Gage American Tavern, fizzled out along with the restaurant).

Matthew Arnold's brunch menu features a $7 bread basket heaped with banana espresso chocolate chip muffins, an orange blueberry muffin, maple walnut scone and buttermilk biscuit served with honey butter and berry butter. The shrimp and grits and fried green tomatoes from the happy-hour menu are on this menu, too, along with brioche French toast (served with a peach bourbon syrup), a "Benedict" constructed from a potato pancake, a grilled steak and green Tabasco poblano hollandaise and waffles, done up "Bananas Foster" style with dark rum and sauteed bananas.

Webster House Restaurant may have started life as a ladies-who-lunch gathering spot, but it's in a fine position to take on a lot of business from patrons of the new Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts. For one thing, Webster House was created and financed by Shirley Bush Helzberg — a major supporter of the new entertainment venue. It also has its own private parking lots and — most importantly for the hungry after-concert audiences — a new late-night menu that was introduced this month, available from 9 p.m. to midnight Wednesdays through Saturdays.

I wonder if it will hurt the business at the Denny's on Broadway?

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