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Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Range is twee as fuck, but the nachos are good

Posted By on 12.10.13 at 10:55 AM

So it was really cold and we were really hungry, and a plate of nachos sounded really good. So we explained our desperation and placed an order as soon as our server appeared, and then dashed off to the bathroom, and only then did we bother to look around and read the rest of the menu, and only then did we realize that Range is a restaurant with a mission.

That mission is written on the bottom of the menu. That mission is to "apply our passions toward the connections, laughter, and delight kindled when joining family and friends at the table." The aforementioned menu is seasonal, comprised of local ingredients, the purveyors of which are mentioned by name. Range's idea of a joke is the sign outside, which is made of Astroturf. It's artificial, geddit, while everything inside is totally natural. Our server's sweater had a bird on it. So did the painting hanging on the back wall, and not in a John James Audubon sort of way.

But we did not care, because they were going to bring us nachos. When the nachos appeared, though, they looked a bit odd. For some reason, the chips were standing up in a bowl of pinto beans and cheese and peppers and salsa. The whole presentation looked like a flower. It was lovely. It was almost disarming. You don't really expect loveliness from nachos, except in the sense that when you are hungry and craving salt and carbs, salty, carb-y food looks lovely.

The nachos tasted fantastic. But the problem with the lovely, lovely presentation soon became apparent.

There were not nearly enough chips (freshly made, it tasted like, and crisp but not greasy; truly, they tasted as lovely as they looked) to go with all the beans and cheese and peppers and salsa. Our server very kindly brought us another little bowl. Perhaps we were not as efficient chip scoopers as we could have been. And also the topping was really good. So we ended up eating it with a fork.

The presentation of the nachos, though, was nothing compared to what they did to the steak. This is what arrived:

The items at the top of the plate were clearly identifiable as steak and potatoes. The stuff on the bottom, however, was a mystery. It surely couldn't be mashed potatoes because there were already fingerlings. I tasted it. It was soft and salty. It tasted a lot like butter. Only then did I remember that the menu had promised that the dish also included almond-rosemary butter.

I guess it could be argued that condiments have long been underappreciated and should be be given the recognition that they deserve, particularly if they're fancy condiments, like compound butter. Maybe Range is just ahead of its time. Someday, when compound butter and house-made ketchup and rare salts and imported pepper have been afforded the same status as steak and potatoes and are allowed on plates, too, instead of remaining confined to the place-setting ghetto of ramekins and shakers, people will look back on these early days of innovation and laugh. (Or maybe it's already underway and I just don't get out enough?)

Anyway, the food was all really good, so I forgive everybody at Range for succumbing to experimentation for experimentation's sake. (Although, to be fair, almost all the experimentation is limited to the presentations. The menu itself is pretty conventional and won't astonish or bewilder anyone, though the long lists of ingredients and purveyors make it look more complicated than it is. It's merely farm-to-table instead of nose-to-tail.) But if any of you are reading this, please, please, if you're going to smear a whole bunch of butter on a plate, warn people about what it is. Maybe with a little sign on a toothpick? That's cute, right? And send along some extra chips with the nacho flower.

Range, 1119 W. Webster, 773-549-5747

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