If there’s one thing my mother taught me to be picky about, it would most definitely be cornbread. My mom uses her grandmother’s recipe, makes it on top of the stove in a cast iron skillet, and it comes out perfectly each time: mealy with some corn kernels left in. It tastes nothing like a corn muffin, nor should it. I find the notion that cornbread should be sweet to be highly offensive.
So, when I took my first bite of cornbread at The Dutch, a restaurant in Soho that my roommate Susan had been raving about since the moment we met, I knew it would be a restaurant I would like. It wasn’t my mom’s cornbread, but it certainly came in second place. It wasn’t sweet, except maybe for a little hint, almost like an aftertaste. In fact, it was kind of spicy, with chopped jalapeños cooked in. It came in a little loaf and despite my best efforts at self-restraint I ended up eating almost the entire thing.
I’ve been to The Dutch four times, twice to celebrate the end of classes, once for my birthday, and most recently for restaurant week. They’re hailed as an American restaurant but I’d call it American with a twist; their ever-changing and eclectic menu features a wide variety of dishes. I’ve tried a steak with kimchi fried rice and had a bite of a chicken mole Susan ordered. But then I’ve also had more traditional dishes like fried chicken with honey glazed biscuits and a light and spicy coleslaw, a side of wonderfully salty French fries, and a perfectly cooked hamburger with lettuce, tomato, pickled onion, and a spicy sauce. And then, of course, there are the pies. I’ve never been the biggest pie person; I’ve always been more in favor of a brownie sundae or molten chocolate cake, but suffice it to say I’ve been converted. Each slice I’ve had, chocolate, cherry, shoofly, and key lime, has been unbelievably delicious, quite unexpected and unique, and bursting with a variety of flavors and textures.
Each trip to The Dutch has left me with a different set of delicious memories. Obviously, I’m completely gaga over the food and I’ll always remember that first bite of cornbread, but I’ll also remember getting lost on the way there, accidentally tripping Susan on the way back, a long and in depth conversation about what I would do and where I would go if I could spend one month in Europe. I’ll always remember how hard my friends laughed when one of them got fluff in her hair and I stared horrified, watching as it slowly started to fall into her lap. Tongue-tied and far too panicked given the situation all I could do was shout “Catherine!” with increasing urgency as she stared at me in utter confusion until the fluff finally fell onto her leg. As she wiped it off she chuckled and said, “A simple ‘hair’ would’ve done the trick.” And then there was the time Susan picked the toasted chickpeas out of a side of spinach so fast that when she turned to me on the subway and asked, “Weren’t the chickpeas in that spinach so good? Didn’t they just make the dish?” I stared at her rather alarmed and exclaimed, “What chickpeas?!” I guess I’ll just have to go back and find out.