I’m not a food writer; bear with me.
Ladybird & Maureen have been going on and on about Justus Drugstore in Smithville for a couple of months now. So it was with much excitement that we packed provisions and saddled up the horses last night for our dinner club’s excursion to the Great White North.
While we had 8:30 reservations, we weren’t seated until nearly 10 as other diners lingered over dessert & coffee. This was to our benefit for two reasons. It gave us ample time to thoroughly sample the cocktail menu (the Sazerac d’Oise & the Silver Elder Fizz receive my highest recommendation). Also, it gave our Baldwin City stragglers, LAB & Joe ample time to put the pedal to the floor and show up just as we were being seated.
Here’s the thing about the food at Justus. It’s amazing. It’s some of the best food I’ve ever had in this city. As a first course, I ordered the Foie Gras Terrine. The terrine is chock full of pecans & figs and served with fresh pear slices, a ginger pear port syrup & cinnamon brioche french toast. While excellent, it was my least favorite dish of the night. I had a chance to sample Mo’s Crawdad Cakes with a delicious remoulade and they were a revelation. Even LAB, who can’t stand the thought of mudbugs, gave them a rave review.
For my salad course, I ordered the Curly Endive Salad. It’s a bed of curly endive with a mustard vinaigrette, bacon lardons, smoked trout roe, truffle oil and a terribly beautiful breaded soft-boiled egg. It is heaven on a plate. The helpful waiter explained that its meant to be eaten with a bit of everything in each bite. I don’t think I’ve ever had a better salad. The interplay between the salty bacon, the creamy egg, the crunchy breading, the sharpness of the endive, the sweet smokiness of the roe and the tart vinaigrette…beautiful. I could have ordered half a dozen more.
By the time the main course arrived, I was starting to get a bit full. I ordered the Berkshire Pork Ribeye served with a small piece of braised pork shoulder, fig sauce, green beans and a house-made pasta with Maytag blue cheese sauce. Formerly known as Pork Two Ways, this dish had been hailed by both Ladybird & Fi as the Best Thing on the Menu. It did not disappoint. The ribeye was cooked to perfection, perfectly seasoned and paired beautifully with the fig sauce. The sauce on the noodles was sublime, creamy and slightly sharp perfection. I love this dish. I want to marry this dish.
If you go, and have reservations, still be prepared to wait a bit. This is not a meal you want to rush through, nor should you expect others to rush.
Do not go with a large party. Stick to four or fewer. They aren’t set up anything more and the bookish hostess with the frizzy hair will not push the tables together. Well, they wouldn’t for us. They pushed two tables together for another large party, but I think the owner’s mom was in that group. So I guess it’s who you know. We finally managed to push ours together once they stopped seating folks at 11.
Go with your wallet full. Expect to come home with it empty. It’s rare that I spend $100 dollars on dinner, but it was easy to do at Justus. It’s even rarer that I feel like I actually got my money’s worth. Justus did that in spades. So put your affairs in order, hire an Indian guide and make the trek to Smithville. You’ll be glad you did.