Casa Put Out to Pasture, Blue Cow Mooving In

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A blue bovine Photo: Ballet Lausanne via Flickr

Downtown's flashy Mexican lounge Casa Cocina y Cantina is shedding its Latin heritage to become Blue Cow Kitchen and Bar. Opening in January, Blue Cow comes from Mendocino Farms and Casa owners Ellen Chen and Mario del Pero, and will include a menu of sustainably-designed sandwiches that counts chef Jason Travi as a consultant. A press release tells us Casa will shutter in mid-December and that the new restaurant will stick to the same seasonal, local aesthetic of Mendocino Farms, "in a more refined setting that highlights the breadth and adaptability of the humble sandwich." Well, la-di-da! What does this mean exactly?

The whole idea is to make a sandwich "think tank," owners say, with guest-chefs and collaborators coming in to endow sandwiches with a new-found respect as "modern, sustainable meals." Hmmm...To this end, Blue Cow will have an experimental edge and serve as a test-kitchen for Mendo chef Judy Han to calculate new "progressive" sandwich creations for the chain.

Travi and his pastry chef wife Miho are the first guest chefs to lend a hand here, and the chef has apparently tested more than 30 local burgers to inspire the restaurant's own grass-fed burger entry called "the new school burger," which comes with caramelized onion marmalade, tarragon aioli, bacon confit, and Rocker Brothers grass-fed beef on a buttermilk bun from Dolce Forno bakery. There will also be a brined pastrami Reuben burger from Travi, as well as sausages along the lines of his "bourbon bratwurst," made with help from Huntington Meats.

Mrs. Travi will put work in on desserts like a vegan chai tea cookie and a Fluffernutter peanut butter cookie with coconut marshmallow. And for a little more star power, La Descarga and Harvard & Stone lord Steve Livigni will be on cocktail duty, while also working on a line of house sodas that will adhere to Mendocino's fresh, local satndards.

The kitchen will be run by Joshua Smith, the Anisette vet who was briefly at Church & State before joining Milos at The Cosmopolitan in Vegas. Smith is going down-home himself for the menu, planning dishes like a wild fennel-seasoned porchetta and a combination called "Country Breakfast for Dinner" with confit of Nueske's bacon, a fried chicken brined with Boylan's cherry cola, charred winter greens, and a slow-poached egg on a handmade biscuit from Beecher's.

All in all, it sounds like a full-on country jamboree is headed to this prime Downtown space in a truck full of notable names, local produce spilling from its sides. Stay tuned to a website for announcements and track it on Facebook.

Blue Cow Kitchen and Bar, 350 S. Grand Ave. Downtown. 213-621-2249.