Welcome to the city's newest four-star restaurant.
At Hubbard Grille, clockwise from front: the B.B.L.T., made with braised pork belly, smoked bacon, greens and roasted tomato and served with fries; buttermilk fried chicken, and the short ribs and shrimp appetizer. Photo by Michael A. Foley/Rycus Assoc.
The bad news is that I didn’t manage to get one of the two tables at Hubbard Grille that feature beer spigots (a pour-your-own deal). But the good news is the food was pretty great.
Hubbard Grille has taken over the location of the late and much lamented Rosendales. The room is dim, with mostly indirect lighting except for tastefully glowing orange lamps. There’s a bar as you enter, and another on a balcony, both with TVs, but no televisions in the main dining area. Bless them. And valet parking is available, no small thing in this busy neighborhood.
On my visits, there were five appetizers, four of them outstanding. The housemade corn bread was to swoon over: exceptionally tender, with a fine flavor and a delicious lavender butter. I ordered the short ribs and shrimp dish several times to make sure it really was as good as I thought. It came on a bed of creamy and perfectly textured cheddar grits—the best I have been served, ever. (Fortunately, they also are available as a side dish.) On top was a mound of superbly tasty and tender pulled beef short ribs and three nice sautéed shrimp, with a splash of vivid tomato jus.
Another tasty appetizer featured lots of meaty crab cakes and tender ribbons of summer squashes. And the three-cheese spinach dip had good flavor, lots of spinach and flaky triangles for dipping. Plus, one night they offered a special scallop appetizer—among the best scallops in town, served with a lovely sweet potato hash. Awesome!
The only appetizer that missed the mark was the graham cracker-crusted calamari; the sweet cinnamon aïoli was not to my taste.
The five-tomato soup was thick and vivid—a shocking discovery in the heart of the cold season. Salads were all highly competent, with fresh and nicely chosen ingredients and not too much dressing. I particularly liked the winter salad, with spinach, two colors of roasted beets, Maytag blue cheese and a splashy shaved carrot topping.
The Hub burger in a brioche bun was excellent: beefy flavor, juicy and tasty (even when cooked to medium), with a topping of wild mushrooms, Manchego and roasted red peppers. And the fries were outstanding. Even better was the B.B.L.T. That extra B stands for braised pork belly, which transported an old favorite to a new dimension. It arrived on what looked disappointingly like white bread toast, but turned out to be brioche. Yum!
The entrees also shone. The Cajun red snapper was fresh and tasty, accompanied by those great grits, green beans with pancetta and a lovely lobster butter sauce. The crisp and tasty buttermilk fried chicken already was boned and served with a delicious potato cake, rich braised greens and a pepper cream sauce with a touch of truffle oil. One of the many things Hubbard Grille does a superior job with is deciding which side dishes go with which entrees. And luckily, many of them also were available as individual portions. (One caveat: The slaw was only good, not great.)
Often I avoid filet mignon, which I find lacking in flavor, but this center cut filet was pretty darn good, with a fine scallion potato cake and haricots verts with pancetta and Maytag blue cheese.
Desserts were only good; after so much great food, it was a shock that the apple offering was tasty, but not remarkable; it came with a scoop of Jeni’s, however, so it’s hard to complain.
If you want to climb into luxury’s lap, have a drink with your appetizers. You can get a can (yes, a can!) of champagne by the filmmaker Sofia Coppola, complete with a straw taped to the side. Use the straw; you lose bubbles if it’s poured. The bartenders made a mighty fine martini: appropriately balanced toward gin, with two crisp-tender olives. There also was a Hot and Dirty version, which is not for the fainthearted. I also sampled the “New” old fashioned, made with Old Forester bourbon and Chambord (raspberry liqueur) instead of sweet vermouth—an inspired choice.
I sampled a variety of wines and liked everything, with special mention to the chardonnay by Sonoma-Cutrer, a fine flavorful sip with a long finish. The Temptation zinfandel was notable. Wine glasses were big and the pours generous. I also admired the fact that the by-the-glass price was less than 25 percent of the by-the-bottle cost. Oh, and the beers were great, too: North Coast Scrimshaw Pilsner was smooth and tasty, and the Stone Ruination IPA may have been the best of its kind I’ve had.
Service was truly a cut above. It was unobtrusive, but always there when needed, as well as thoughtful and smart. We were even steered away from an expensive dish to one less costly—and the waitperson’s judgment was dead on. That never fails to impress.
793 N. High St.
Atmosphere: Dim, carefree and cheerful.
Recommended dishes: Housemade corn bread, short ribs and shrimp, five-tomato soup, winter salad, Hub burger, B.B.L.T., Cajun spiced red snapper, center cut filet.
Price range: Appetizers $4.50-$12; soups and salads $4.50-$14; sandwiches $9-$10; entrees $15-$28; desserts $6-$12.
Hours: Tuesday through Sunday 4 pm to close; closed Monday.
Service: Excellent and smart.
Reservations: Accepted for six or more.