I have News-Sentinel photographer Ellie Bogue to thank for tipping me off to Old Crown's Friday night dinners.
The coffee shop and gastropub on North Anthony Boulevard morphs into a full-fledged restaurant on Friday nights, serving dishes prepared by Chef Johnny Bojinoff.
Friday nights have become very popular at Old Crown; the crowd starts pouring in at 6 p.m., when the eatery starts serving dinner. The features change weekly, but it looks as if four entrees are usually offered.
The restaurant was full, boisterous and busy when we were there Friday. We were lucky to get a table right at 6 p.m., but reservations are a good idea, especially for larger parties.
With concrete floors and unfussy decor, the atmosphere is casual; it's an ideal place to go and relax at the end of the work week.
My dining companion chose a cup of spiced fennel sausage and tomato white bean soup as his starter. It had a depth of flavor I attributed to both fresh ingredients and the spices used to season it.
I loved the texture of the butter lettuce in the salad offered on Friday night's menu. It was a refreshing change from iceberg or romaine. The grilled peaches weren't as flavorful as I had expected; in my opinion, the salad would have been fine without them. Feta cheese gave it a burst of intense flavor, and the dijon vinaigrette dressing was served on the side without asking. It was nice to be able to add just as much as I wanted.
As our server explained, the mac and cheese I ordered was definitely a grown-up variety. Orecchiette pasta are often described as looking like "small ears"; that is how the word is translated from Italian. They are thicker on the edges than in the center, giving them a somewhat chewy texture. The green cauliflower didn't taste any different to me than white cauliflower, but it did lend some color to the dish. The texture of the cauliflower was uneven; some pieces were tender; one huge piece was rather tough. The white sauce was creamy and thick.
My companion's butter-herbed chicken was my favorite dish of the night. It was crispy on the outside, tender and juicy inside, and infused with flavor. In fact, pieces of that chicken were delicious mixed into my mac and cheese. The vegetables that accompanied the chicken were equally delicious and the perfect accompaniment.
We capped off the evening with a yogurt brown sugar panna cotta with black seedless grape gelee. It was sweet, creamy and light. A good ending to an impressive dinner.
And though we didn't try the rum-glazed meatloaf, we ran into a relative whose friend did. Best she'd ever eaten, she confided to us – even better than her mother's.
Every other Tuesday, Cindy Larson describes a one-time dining experience at an area restaurant. The News-Sentinel pays for meals. This column is the personal opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinion of The News-Sentinel. You can reach her at 461-8284 or firstname.lastname@example.org. To read other columns, go to www.news-sentinel.com/section/LARSON.