Next door was the big winner, though: Pleasant House Bakery. I saw one of the chef/owners Art Jackson in Maria's as we entered, bringing some hot pies over, which leads me to believe there is some sort of symbiosis between the two places, and how wonderful is that? For those of you in San Francisco, it reminds me of the relationship between Rosamunde Sausages and Toronado--two places scratching each others backs rather than a big fish eating a little fish. Pleasant House itself has a really cozy looking kitchen, and is quite bustling as well: co-owner and pastry chef Chelsea Jackson was back there rolling dough as Art was back and forth from the kitchen to Maria's to back in the dining room talking to guests, doing it all with the same kind of genuine warmth I described when writing about Chris Nugent at Goosefoot. The counter-service menu is simple, and more importantly, everything is absolutely delicious and it seemed to me all details are completely attended to on every order. Lovely, flaky crust, gorgeously presented around delicious fillings, and chips that make you see why the British call them chips--crisp little chunks of potatoes fried up and awaiting a good dousing of vinegar. You get a really good feeling in this place--and I suppose that's why they chose the name.
All in all, this brief Bridgeport experience was really quite outstanding. And I'm certain there's much more to the neighborhood, but what a nice little corner, down there at 31st and Morgan, with the Bridgeport Coffeehouse across from Maria's and Pleasant House. Beer, meat pie, coffee. The order's up to you.
Back up closer to home in West Town, we stopped and drank wine and ate those tasty little fried chickpeas and deviled eggs they do at Lush, then made our way over to the usual end-of-night-well, The Chipp Inn, where we met friends who had just experienced the El Bulli menu at Next. We shared our respective stories of the day of such different types of dining, and remarked at how great it was to be in a city full of people that provide these experiences, all over cheap drinks in the neighborhood bar. Strolling home, plans were made for the big Sunday dinner, which is becoming a tradition of sorts at the FotD headquarters. We'd roast a large chunk of pork belly (previewed below) nice and crisp on the outside, tender on the inside along with roasted potatoes and charred onions after a long intermezzo induced by antipasti of braised broccoli rabe, pickled eggplant and buffalo mozzarella with green garlic. That Sunday has come and gone, and boy was it good. I'll write more about it next time.