Mario del Pero and Ellen Chen, the respective creative and financial forces behind the popular, sustainable sandwich chain Mendocino Farms, amassed a small army of local talent for their new full-service restaurant, Blue Cow, which made its grand debut in Downtown's Bunker Hill on Monday, taking over the duo's former Casa. Joshua Smith, briefly the chef at Church & State before heading to Vegas to help open Estiatorio Milos is heading up the kitchen here along with Mendo's corporate exec chef Judy Han.
Snacks, sausages, salads, small plates of veggies and meaty morsels, soups, and of course more sandwiches cover a lunch and dinner menu thick with the names of farms and artisan suppliers. The strictly fresh fare is also refreshingly playful, while seemingly serious enough to tempt sophisticated palates, with snacks like confit duck wings splashing in aji amarillo, flash-fried "Cheetoh" chicharonnes, and chips made from root veggies and shrimp, alongside diminutive and regular sized versions of Mendo-style sandwiches (the intermarriage of a Cuban and a Croque sounds tempting) and big plates of Southern-style chicken, steak frites, and "nude" fish and chips using albacore, pea tendrils, and shrimp chips. What else?
Meanwhile former Fraiche chef Jason Travi and wife Miho Travi are the first guest-stars to take over the project's test kitchen, which will experiment with new creations to possibly grace the menu at Mendocino Farms. , Steve Livigni, half of Harvard and Stone, Black Market, and Descarga has designed a compelling menu of drinks for Blue Cow, with beer cocktails combining Allagash Curiex and scotch, big beers on draft, barrel-aged cocktails, and other slightly skewed libations like Fortified Lemonade, gin with house-made tonic water, a cherry rickey, and a margarita in memoriam to Casa.
Take a look at the space and a few of Blue Cow's sandwiches from opening day in our slideshow.
Blue Cow, 350 S. Grand Ave. Downtown. 213-621-2249.