On the wall of the newly opened 3rd & Court, near Court Square Downtown, is a cluster of throwback recipes serving as wallpaper. The recipes call back a yesteryear replete with Jell-O salads and dishes involving Dr. Pepper as a key ingredient. One head-scratcher calls for condensed milk, peas, corn, and salmon.
On another wall hangs various antique kitchen tools, such as spatulas and hand beaters and others of unknown purpose.
There is a long white counter at the back, lined with stools topped in orange vinyl that, of course, spin. Booths in avocado green line a window. Toward the left is a dedicated lounge area with a bar and with seating, in the same green, surrounding coffee tables.
Indeed, the whole look, created by Ann Parker of Parker Design Studio, brings to mind the good (and some could reasonably argue, bad) old days, when folks dressed up for airplane flights and mom and dad and Susie and Biff took long road trips across the newly created interstate highway system.
When Ryan Trimm and his associates of Across the Board Hospitality Group were approached by Hotel Indigo, he says his first thought was "diner." He thought about the hotel and about traveling and his own trips when he was a kid. He says he wanted a place where the food was recognizable and comforting — a burger, a steak. He pictured a Betty Draper type sitting in the lounge, shaking off a long day of being stuck in the car with squabbling kids, and slowly sipping on a martini and snacking on finger foods.
To bring his vision to light, he enlisted Shelby Kight as the head chef. "I talked to her," recalls Trimm. "What do we want to do? How do we want to do it? I gave her some ideas of the theme, the period. And then she just ran with it."
On that menu are the burger (two patties, American cheese) — one of the diner's big sellers — and a steak (it's hanger steak with a coffee rub and mole butter). There's a pork belly Reuben sandwich and Beast Loaf, made with cow, lamb, and bison.
- Photographs by Justin Fox Burks
3rd & Court also offers a meat-and-two special of the day, which includes the Beast Loaf (Mondays); a smothered pork chop (Tuesdays); and Fried Chicken (Wednesdays). Sides include collard greens, mac and cheese, mashed potatoes, roasted tomato slaw, and farm peas.
Breakfast is served, starting at 6:30 a.m., seven days a week. The menu features treats like a pound cake French toast (!), house donuts, and the Sophisticated Grain Bowl made with quinoa. In addition, they're slinging such classics as an omelette plate, Egg-in-a-Hole, and Chicken Hash, which comes with two eggs (sunny side up) and potatoes.
Kight says she worked hard to keep to the diner aesthetic, but she also wanted more elevated dishes than your typical diner fare.
"I said, let's put a twist on it and see what we can do," she says.
For the Osso Bucco, which comes with polenta and collard greens, she braised the polenta and fried the collard greens. With the Beast Loaf, she coats the meat with a Korean chili paste and a chili sauce for an added bit of flavor.
The lounge menu — made up of things that don't require a proper table setting — was designed to be eaten from the coffee table. There are meatball sliders and lobster rolls. The deviled eggs come with roasted poblano, cilantro, cotija, and radish. There are Gochujang-glazed lamb ribs made grilled-to-order with peanuts and pickled red onions. But the absolute genius move here may be the pimento cheese ball, which is pimento cheese rolled into a ball and served with pepper jam and fire crackers — a true throwback if there ever was one.
Of course, any diner has got to serve up pie. 3rd & Court has a trio of offerings, including coconut cream pie, bourbon chocolate pie, and strawberry mile-high pie. Trimm insisted on the latter. It's fresh strawberries covered in a strawberry glaze and drizzled in balsamic vinegar, nestled in a house-made pie crust.
3rd & Court, 24 S. B.B. King Blvd., 290-8484