While most music venues serve food, they are rarely known for their ability to satisfy a picky palate. After all, patrons are inclined to be, shall we say, open-minded when it comes to filling the stomach with food after filling it with alcohol. But it's not the same old song and dance at the Hi-Tone Café.
The club's current menu was established by Jonathan Kiersky almost immediately after he purchased the venue in December 2007. Kiersky expanded the hours to include happy hour and launched a simple, unpretentious menu, which at first glance could be that of any music venue or bar and grill. There's a decent selection of appetizers, sandwiches/burgers, and several pasta dishes. The show-stealer is the pizza.
"I always wanted New York-style pizza, so we decided on that early," Kiersky says. "Plus, it's 'standing food.' You don't have to sit to eat it."
Kiersky replaced the Hi-Tone's old kitchen with a pizza kitchen, where the doughs and sauces are made in batches so that the pizzas can be made-to-order.
Kiersky says he also makes it a point to shop with locally or regionally owned purveyors. "I don't use any of the big houses," he says. "Our barbecue is from Hog Wild. All our meats and cheeses are bought at Gordon's. We use Adams Brothers and EasyWay for our produce."
Then there's brunch. Forever the eating-out/public equivalent to soaking up some NPR or attending an art opening, brunch is affluent America's excuse to be seen in the middle of a Sunday morning, acting as though a jazz trio covering the Grateful Dead isn't imposing on the enjoyment of conversation and food.
"The people who come to brunch here want fresh food and to be able to sit down where it's quiet and not be bothered by others or a band," Kiersky says. "A lot of the people coming to brunch were drinking here the night before — sometimes we have 80 percent of the people who left here at 3 in the morning. They want dark."
Certainly for people who dislike the standard brunch experience, the Hi-Tone's 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. time slot on Sundays makes up for the lack of outdoor seating or live music with the only thing that should really matter: food.
There's no quasi-rural, forced-Southern goofiness to the menu. It's what you really want to eat for breakfast. (This writer recommends the French toast with bacon, biscuits and gravy, and if adventurous — translated: two hours blocked out for a nap later — the pork chops with scrambled eggs.) This food is worth the extra minute or two wait.
"We get people who eat for real. People who appreciate the fact that our hollandaise is made-to-order. It may take an extra two minutes to get a pizza out of the kitchen, but at least they know that pizza is 100 percent fresh," Kiersky says. "The way we cook here is the way you would cook in your kitchen if you had the time and ingredients. It's just that it takes us 12 minutes. We're not a bang-'em-out operation. We put a lot of care into our product."