Helming the void left from chef Shawn McClain at this Printer's Row mod bistro in the Hotel Blake
comes 26-year-old South Carolina upstart Aaron Deal. The place also adds the "tavern" appendage, with a $5 pork fat thickened burger at lunch and a slew of other sustainable/artisan-sourced ingredient list all the culinary kids are into these days, from biodynamic wineries to regional farmers.
A 2009 James Beard Rising Star semi-finalist, Deal's talents come in dry and spicy combo punches with lingering notes of sherry in a crab bisque, or blitzkrieg sweet, sour and savory attacks with a Swiss chard and white fish croquette number, a crime-if-missed entree luring you back to the plate with shallot and wildflower honey-drizzled baby carrots.
Of course, the real achievement is how that tavern tag has allowed Deal and Custom House to trim some of its over-$30 price points down to a reasonable level, allowing an easy splurge on the young man's desserts, from sassafras "fry bread" to dark chocolate cremuex that tout his Southern charm for sweets.
Average cost: $21-$30
Centerstage Reviewer: Gavin Paul