The Brunch Dish: Dusek's Does its Own Style of Americana
There's a very distinct thread of Americana woven through the brand new brunch menu at Dusek's Board and Beer. This isn't the type of Americana that capitalizes on cereal-crusted French toast and deep-fried childhood memories, but rather a mix of regional American specialties and a sophisticated take on nostalgic vagary. The menu bounces around the country from Wisconsin-centric Juicy Lucy's to Southern-style barbecue shrimp and grits. It's American brunch folklore at its finest.
Things start off with a wink and a nod to the kitchen pantry with chestnut pop tarts ($4). I've seen a lot of "gourmet" pop tarts bandied about on brunch menus around town, but most are feeble attempts lazily cashing in on the nostalgic buzz word by slapping two pieces of puff pastry around some fruit filling. Screw that. Dusek's makes a pop tart that looks like a pop tart, albeit infinitely more flavorful and satisfying in that it doesn't remind me of mornings in elementary school wherein I would scarf cold blueberry Pop Tarts before going to spend the day being a teacher's pet and getting mildly taunted for it. None of that. This one features a luscious, slightly amaretto-flavored nut paste filling ensconced in a perfectly flaky, delicate pie crust with edges crimped ever so gingerly. The pastries are buttery with none of the density than can often encumber breakfast pastries. A delicate dusting of sugar overtop rounds it all out nicely, with just a wisp of sweetness.
Hash is about as traditional as brunch comes, but add in some oysters and you've got a brunch fit for a pilgrim celebrating their arrival to Plymouth Rock. Or something like that. Dusek's oyster hash ($15) is a rustic, beautiful rendition of a brunch keystone, a kind of potent surf & turf laden with plump, saline oysters and a substantial slab of pork belly pave. A gently cooked soft-boiled hen egg erupts with silky yolk, which makes a nice dressing for the savory amalgam along with a rich and heady porter béarnaise. Some glazed pearl onions add a pop of caramelized sweetness to the melee.
Much of Dusek's brunch entrees skew savory, but what few sweets they offer manage to catch attention via items such as the poached seckle pear Dutch baby ($9). According to brunch lore, Dutch babies were introduced in the early 1900's at a Seattle restaurant called Manca's Cafe. Dutch babies and Space Needles? Overachievers. Otherwise dubbed German pancakes, Dutch babies toe the line between popover and pancake, baked in a cast-iron pan until risen and often served with lemon and powdered sugar. Sounds dreamy, right? Then you can imagine my fanaticism upon seeing this on the menu. While not as grandiose and indulgent as I was hoping, this was a solid effort. The poached pear in the center of the pancake leant a pleasant, treacly sweetness to the mostly unsweetened dough. It had more of a biscuit-y texture than anything, which I'm more than fine with, despite it being a mild bastardization of my Dutch baby template. It gets an ample dosage of pie spice powdered sugar, which, I'll be damned, tastes like pie! There's also a drizzle of tea-smoked caramel, which just tastes like caramel.
From the childhood pantry to my sugar-flecked Dutch baby dreams, Dusek's pays dutiful homage to the regional American brunch ritual in a very distinct fashion. The menu reads like an atlas oriented by food, and I'm 100% cool with that.