Best Neighborhood Eatery (Suburbs) - 2011
Travail Kitchen and Amusements
The suburbs are full of retail spaces with affordable rents and diners hungry for something beyond the bland blue-plate specials offered by their myriad chain restaurants. Such conditions made an ideal laboratory for the launch of the culinary workshop known as Travail Kitchen and Amusements, where chef-owners Mike Brown and James Winberg took the fine-dining chops they'd honed at Porter & Frye and applied them to gastropub fare. The culinary team's creativity means the menu features plenty of deconstruction and DIY: Both rabbit and house-made tofu are served four ways. Travail also offers several science-kit delights, including gas-inflated mozzarella balloons and desserts chilled with liquid nitrogen. The chefs do double duty, both cooking and serving, and are such workaholics (travail means "work" in French) that they might consider "down time" to be something as labor intensive as turning porcine leftovers into charcuterie. But despite all the far-flung foodies flocking to check out the gourmet fare and theatrics, Travail's attitude is utterly kicked back. For the neighbors, it's still just a place to watch the game with a beer and a burger—made with house-ground sirloin, natch.