The Magarian – aviation gin, thyme & honey syrup, fresh lemon, mr. q cumber soda
BBQ Burnt Ends – house pickles, highbrow ranch, white bread
Bacon Jam – baked brie, toasted baguette
BLTA – romaine hearts, tomato vinaigrette, bacon fat crouton
Captain Sully – whistling andy pink peppercorn & pear gin, fresh lemon, luxardo maraschino, giffard crème de violet
Couscous Confetti – peppers, carrots, apricot vinaigrette
Veal Meatballs – sherry foie gras cream
Wild Mushroom Flatbread – truffled béchamel, smoked mozzarella, pickled onion
Hobo Stew – shrimp, andouille sausage, pickled okra
Cashme Ousside – high west double rye, ancho reyes, contratto bitters, fresh lemon, egg white
Butter Burger – boursin, cheddar, lettuce, tomato
Secret Sunday Chicken – spicy pickle aioli
Filet-Ohhh-Fish – green goddess cole slaw
Purple Haze (Reprise) – nevada h&c sliver dollar vodka, st. elder liqueur, fresh lemon, mint, crème de cassis, blueberry preserve
Lamb Saddle – sherry date vinaigrette
Baked Mac & Cheese – shhhh, it’s a secret
Rainbow Cauliflower – garlic, lemon juice
Pink Smoking Jacket – del maguey vida mezcal, fresh lime, strawberry purée, orgeat syrup, ginger beer
Bourbon Fudge Brownie – brown butter bacon ice cream
Glazed Donut Bread Pudding – three rum caramel, vanilla creme anglaise
Honey Cheesecake – shortbread crust, strawberry liqueur coulis
Return on Investment, Creating Community or whatever line Tony Hsieh wants to spin about DTLV, the fact of the matter is that every restaurant to open since the beginning of Downtown Project has struggled save for one, the late Kerry Simon and Cory Harwell’s Carson Kitchen marching on at frequently full capacity in almost its third year thanks to a loyal fan base and a reputation built on a lot of blood, sweat and tears.
Called Carson Kitchen thanks to the building in which it is housed, the low ceilings, limited seating and small kitchen creating a warm, neighborhood vibe ever since the restaurant at 124 South 6th Street opened the front door, it was on a Friday night with a large festival just down the way that four adults and one child made way into the restaurant where Chef John Courtney as well as Cory and cousin Matthew were found overseeing a room that was already buzzing with the upstairs and backyard patio quite packed, a look at the Spring 2017 menu showing a good mix of Carson Kitchen classics plus eight new plates and some pretty creative mixed drinks.
Dividing the meal into five separate courses, each one accompanied by a beverage that not only paired well but often featured a funny story in terms of its naming or concept, round one saw Matthew’s new-classic Magarian as brisk and refreshing as ever alongside Chef Courtney’s must-order BBQ Burnt Ends and Simon’s Bacon Jam that has been wowing locals as well as tourists since day one, the “BTLA” a clever take on well-loved Sandwich with a base of chopped Romaine Lettuce beneath a warm Tomato Vinaigrette, plenty of diced Pork and Croutons made crisp and rich by way of Bacon Fat.
Never a restaurant lacking for flavor, the ingredient quality to cost ratio still heavily tilted to the left even as other places have continued to inflate prices in order to keep pace with rising food costs, course two saw the Aviation-inspired “Captain Sully” spun savory by way of Pink Peppercorn Gin that helped the drink pair well to an invigorating Couscous Salad while also standing up to the umami-rich Veal Meatballs in Foie Gras Cream and a crisp Flatbread topped with the flavors of Truffle and smoked Mozzarella, a Mason Jar poured tableside later taking diners to Low-Country by way of Tail-on U-12 Shrimp, Potatoes, Okra and big chunks of Andouille Sausage in a hearty “Hobo Stew” most certainly made for sharing.
Sub-titling round three “between bread,” a trio of Sandwiches including two old friends and the new “Filet-Ohhh-Fish” made of finely ground Cod plus Shrimp lightly topped in fresh Green Goddess Slaw all outpacing their internationally known inspirations by miles, the “Cashme Ousside” proved a bit polarizing as fans of Whisky enjoyed it while others found the drink a bit too bitter, the “Reprise” version of Matthew’s Purple Haze featuring locally sourced H&C Silver Dollar Vodka a far more accessible Cocktail with fresh fruit and mint that paired well with Spring’s tender Lamb Saddle and Rainbow Cauliflower tinged in Citrus and Garlic, plus Chef Harwell’s best-in-Sin City Mac n’ Cheese.
Moving on to Dessert, frequently a source of discussion during meals at Carson Kitchen due to the limited number of options combined with the fact that 2/3 of the selections never change, it was with a cup of Coffee plus the complex layers of a “Pink Smoking Jacket” that two old favorites plus the new Honey Cheesecake were all stacked on full stomachs, the boldness of Mezcal blending nicely with both the Bacon and Chocolate present in the Bourbon Fudge Brownie while the Strawberry and Ginger Beer were well suited for the Cheesecake that ate almost like a stick of Butter with a great Shortbread Crust and a light hint of sweetness bolstered by the Strawberry Liqueur.
FIVE STARS: Not slowing down to take a breath even as Cory and John each got married, traveled and retooled Standard & Pour while simultaneously working on at least one new concept soon to come, Carson Kitchen continues to thrive in an area where many have failed thanks to a dedicated team and food far better than even longtime fans may realize, each season seeing the team try something a little different with a whole lot of hits and very scarce misses.
RECOMMENDED: Hobo Stew, Filet Ohh-Fish, Couscous Confetti, Pink Smoking Jacket, Purple Haze Reprise, All the classics
AVOID: Those not fond of Whiskey may want to steer clear of the Cashme Ousside.
TIP: With Chef Courtney and team breaking down the Lamb in house fans should be excited by what is coming up next, a quick preview pictured above showing a glimpse of the Summer Menu with a traditionally hard-to-find cut.
WHAT THE STARS MEAN: 5 World Class, 4 Excellent, 3 Good, 2 Fair, 1 Poor.