What happens in Nordeast stays in Nordeast

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June 21, 2010
By: Carla Waldemar
Carla Waldemar
Call yourself the Northeast Social Club and you’d better follow through. You can’t just sail out a name like that without bearing the responsibility that goes with it. In other words, this better not be a hangout Tweeted about by scenesters. Manolo footwear will not be an entrance requirement, nor will sushi find a place on the menu.

Thankfully, the club lives up to expectations and then some. Adding to the critical dining mass on 13th Avenue NE, it’s as old-timey and neighborhoody as its name dictates, occupying a storefront with a vast bar to belly up to under a lofty, embossed-tin ceiling and an epic, bellicose mural that looks like a warehouse special from the MIA. Paintings from neighboring Rogue Buddha adorn the other bricks, and in case you’ve missed the connection, your waiter escorts you down the sidewalk to the gallery with a casual “C’mere a minute.”

This was at the point when we’d done our best to finish off a lovely dinner, abiding by his stringent guidelines in navigating the menu (“Nah, skip that; you can find that anywhere” or “Yeh, I know I recommended the lamb sausage, but that’s a little heavy with what you’re ordering. Have the mozzarella salad instead.” And “Pork chop? Why’s he cooking that in this weather? Try the ribs.”) Never mind choosing our own wines from the enigmatic list (“Spanish Red, French Red,” etc.) He knows best. And we haven’t even mentioned the lovely beer offerings yet.

But we’re here to eat. The food, created by young chef Eddie, who previously worked the line at Forepaugh’s and The Craftsman, is good — very good — but overly ambitious. What Coco Chanel said about accessorizing your outfit applies here: Take one thing off before setting out.

Thus, the salad of warm grilled asparagus paired with slices of fresh-pulled mozz and a tumble of sweet strawberries, washed with oil and balsamic, was fine, but fussy. Leave the berries for another day.

That housemade lamb sausage we couldn’t order (warning: We’ll be back!) came with a watercress pesto, cornichons and crostini. Instead, we shared a generous salad of peppery arugula spangled with sweet peas, salty snips of bacon, slivers of red onion (86 it) and a hint of mint in a lemon/oil dressing.

Next, the St. Louis-style ribs, rich and meaty and tender as a kiss from Grandma, bathed in a smoked-tomato barbecue sauce that, correctly, proved neither sticky-sweet nor overwhelming on the tasty meat. A couple of grilled spring onions and a potato gratin (“Sliced on our meat slicer,” Mr. TMI declared) was more than enough for two.

But hey — we ordered the fish du jour anyway — this evening, a succulent, uber-juicy steelhead salmon in lavender and mint, treated to a confit of new potatoes and the textural and palate-freshening contrast of a crisp cucumber-chili salad (Entrees $15–20; apps $5–10, wine BTG $4–10, desserts $6, for which we had no room). Keep the faith, Northeast!

Northeast Social Club
359 13th Ave. NE