Best Of

Travail Kitchen and Amusements

Travail Kitchen and Amusements is the best thing to happen to the northern suburbs in quite some time. Chefs James Winberg and Mike Brown, two Porter & Frye alumni who drew notice for their innovative gastropub fare at Victory 44, finally have their own place. It's named in homage to their royal blue aprons, derived from the French verb travailler, which means "to work" and the workhorse crew seems hell-bent on serving a blend of down-home and haute cuisine at extremely reasonable prices. (The endless-seeming multi-course dessert tasting appears to be modeled on some sort of promotion where you pay for the ingredients and get the labor free.) At Travail, the chefs function as servers, and for diners, the experience feels a little like praying directly to God, without having to go through an intermediary. Travail's cuisine might be characterized as a mashup of fine dining and pub fare, with plenty of experimental dishes--mozzarella balloon, anyone? You can dine on deconstructed rabbit for roughly the price of a burger. And that burger, by the way, is bar food made better: a tender, steaky patty made from a house-ground blend of sirloin, butter, and rendered beef fat. The fish and chips are equally tasty, battered in a thin tempura that crackles like a dried leaf but keeps the beer-brined fish moist and salty. Travail's charcuterie plate is among the best in the metro, notable for its hearty generosity. The always-changing selection might feature duck liver mousse, an "adult" bologna with the tang of foie gras, or a slab of headcheese that's had its edges crisped on the griddle. And it's a reminder of Travail's ability to run an efficient kitchen, not letting anything go to waste, right down to the pig skull leftover from the headcheese, which doubles as window décor.