For Sunday's Friends of Beard dinner, Chefs Andy Ticer and Michael Hudman welcomed five up-and-coming guest chefs from across the country to Andrew Michael Italian Kitchen: David Posey of Blackbird in Chicago, Jason Fox of Commonwealth in San Francisco, Jason Stanhope of Fig in Charleston, Jeff McInnis of Yardbird in Miami Beach, and Stephanie Prida of Manresa in Los Gatos, CA.
The theme of the evening was "Know Your Food, Know Your Roots," an exploration of hometown, ancestry, or childhood inspirations. And while the prep work was a fascinating display of some of the country's best chefs buzzing around the Andrew-Michael kitchen, the actual dinner cost $300 a person, effectively pricing out this writer. (Proceeds went to support the James Beard Foundation, whose mission is to "celebrate, nurture, and preserve America’s diverse culinary heritage and future.")
What was formerly a fairly lackluster patio is already being transformed into a side concept for the restaurant: A no-frills dive bar with a seriously pared down menu. There, surrounded by distressed wood and corrugated steel, patrons will suck down oysters on the half-shell, boiled peanuts, cheap beer, and the J.T. Burger — Ticer and Hudman's homage to Oxford's ambassador of Southern cuisine, John T. Edge.
(Hudman says he and Ticer have been working on perfecting this burger for a long time, settling on a classic cheeseburger with American cheese, onions caramelized into the patty, chopped lettuce dressed in pickle juice, tomato, mustard, and ketchup. The result is close-your-eyes-and-sigh good.)
And that's it: Three menu items, cans of Schlitz and Pabst, white and brown well liquors, and old records spinning in the background. Ticer and Hudman plan to close in the currently open-air space, adding large barn doors that will open in nice weather and stay shuttered for winter use.