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It's a clever way to run a tiny kitchen Eans isn't working in the better-equipped space used by former tenant Café Trocadero (which operated out of the west side of this building and is now a sports bar). Instead, he's in a cramped room with few cooking appliances. "I do everything with a convection oven and a panini grill," Eans explains.
Knowing that gave me a new respect for his menu, which is a little too creative at times. I applaud Eans for finding a way, in his primitive kitchen, to caramelize squash for the creamy butternut-squash soup he serves, but what sounds luscious on the menu is jarringly sweet on the spoon. After tasting it, Louise whispered that it was too heavy on the organic maple syrup: "It tastes like melted ice cream." She was right. I would have preferred the gingery concoction if Eans had served it as a frozen dessert.
Our salads arrived as Donna Summer was warbling "I Feel Love" on the TV monitors. Bob felt love for his Caesar salad, made with an uncut stalk of heart of romaine and almost enough focaccia croutons to leave a trail from The Drop to Loose Park. Jennifer, however, wasn't enamored of her field-greens salad with slices of tart green apple, dried cherries and two of the more ubiquitous ingredients in Eans' pantry: toasted pistachios and goat cheese. She thought it was very good until she ate all the accessories and was left with only a jumble of vinaigrette-splashed greens.
The real stars at The Drop are nine bruschetta choices: For $12, diners can select four from the list. The bread arrives attractively displayed on a wooden plank, each hunk of ciabatta sliced into four bite-sized pieces. Louise loved the salmon version, sprinkled with snippets of purple onion. Bob, the heartiest eater in our group, gave highest praise to the bruschetta topped with tiny slices of roast beef and bits of gorgonzola. The fig-and-goat-cheese combination was sticky-sweet but tasty. The apple-brie variation was excellent, too.
Also a bit endearing were panini sandwiches, made with Farm to Market bread and modestly filled, in seven combinations, including a sinfully rich grilled cheese and a "PLT" made with crispy pancetta, oven-dried tomatoes and basil aïoli. But I couldn't bring myself to order anything described as a "dessert panini," especially one filled with marshmallow and peanut butter.
Mercifully, there are other options prepared by Eans' wife, a pastry chef named Abby Jo. She doesn't put out a full-scale dessert tray, just a couple of memorable sweet options. That day's choices were a soft apple tart in an envelope of flaky pastry and a miniature honey cheesecake topped with a crispy, round tulle cookie and a confit of fresh pink grapefruit. Our little quartet made them disappear faster than Toni Basil's MTV career.
Josh Eans wants to serve real entrées at The Drop someday, perhaps when people stop thinking of it as a bar and start seeing it as a neighborhood bistro that serves stylish food until midnight. And Nancy Sinatra whenever you want her.