For Valentine’s Day this year, she took me to Justus Drugstore in Smithville.
In almost 5 years of our quarterly (birthday/Valentine’s/anniversary/birthday) special dinners, this is the first time we’ve repeated a restaurant (previous entry here).
This was done intentionally, as Justus Drugstore has become our favorite.
If you haven’t been there, just go. It’s delicious. Most of the food comes from within a 100-mile radius of Smithville, and the back page of the menu is simply a list of all the local suppliers they use. And their backstory is fascinating.
We started with cocktails; theirs are unique and contain house-infused spirits. It’s fun to watch them be made. She had “Maresy Doatz” (with oatmeal-infused vodka) and I had a Chocolate Malt, which was as rich as Christopher Elbow drinking chocolate but with alcohol. I saved most of it for after dinner.
We had a walleye appetizer, which had a delicious batter and came with a housemade shallot tartar sauce.
We followed with a blue cheese salad and a goat cheese salad, and our entrees were pork two ways (braised pork shoulder and a grilled ribeye chop) and American Kobe beef brisket.
We finished with a winter pie (pastry and compote with black cherry-walnut ice cream) and several other ice creams: a champagne basil sorbet, raspberry ginger, scotchy butter with fig cookies, and chocolate with rose hip.
Every dish was a hit.
This isn’t as descriptive as most of my recaps, mostly because I wrote at length about the place before.
I just think everyone should eat there at least once. It’s wonderful, and surprisingly affordable if you don’t do every single course and/or skip the alcohol. Appetizers and salads run about $10 each, and entrees are in the $20-$28 range (American kobe steaks excepted). You can even do a cheap dessert ($2 for mini-scoops of homemade ice cream, or $3 for full size).
It’s totally worth the trip, and if you order something interesting you might just hear an great story to go with it.
One of the couples on the other side of the partition from us ordered their rabbit special. The chef brought the food out himself and said there was a story behind the dish. As it turns out, the breed of rabbit used in the dish was a gravely endangered species.
The diners no doubt dropped their jaws, and he quickly recovered and reassured them that it was okay. Because rabbit had fallen out of favor from a culinary standpoint, it was becoming unprofitable to breed them. This particular breed, however, had become domesticated to the point that it had no chance of surviving in the wild, so it was in danger of becoming extinct. As it turns out, his restaurant and several others have filled enough orders for breeding to resume, and the "endangered" moniker is about to be lifted.
He said most of the entrees he serves have a story behind them. Maybe your order will come with a tale too.