First Look: The Dutch
Johncarl Lachman and Lee Styer are going Dutch on Pennsport’s hottest new daytime destination. The pair’s sunny new collaboration, located in the space that briefly housed Andrew Michaels’ Fourth & Cross, is cozy yet contemporary, as natural a fit as though it had been custom built for them. While their collective endeavors of Fond, Noord, and Neuf are much beloved destinations for candlelit dinners, breakfast and lunch are the offerings at The Dutch.
Between the lace-curtained windows flooding the small restaurant with natural light, the window boxes full of flowers, and the seating along periwinkle-painted church pews, it feels like some Bambi-esque version of a diner, one where cartoon songbirds aren’t out of the realm of possibility. If they do exist, they must start the day by knotting Lachman’s apron strings with their beaks because The Dutch is pitch-perfect to his style of making guests feel as though they’re right at home. Strolling through the small dining room with a pot of Reanimator Coffee in hand, ready to top up mug after mug, he’s as cheerful as a Disney princess. His only rival? Anastasia–Styer and Jessie Prawlucki’s (formerly of Belle Cakery) young daughter, who strides into the restaurant as powerfully as any investor. Ana settles herself on a counter seat, one of the ones where you can watch the cooks flip fluffy omelettes and see dutch baby pancakes puff under the broiler, and she would like a muffin right now, thankyouverymuch.
It’s no wonder that she thinks she owns the joint. That cake dome of muffins and scones are made with her mom’s recipes, her dad is working the line next to chef Kevin Waters, and there’s even a menu item—Ana Banana Pancakes—named after her.
The rest of the one-page menu is refreshingly brief, playing a line somewhere between Pennsylvania Dutch and the Netherlands. Get through the pronunciation of the Uitsmijter and you’ll be rewarded with a colorful plate of pickles, salad, and a handsome stack atop slices of toasted rye: melty gouda, sizzled guanciale from 1732 Meats, and two sunny-side-up eggs. On the PA-Dutch side of things opt for an omelette that contains warm chunks of Lebanon bologna (say it with me: leb-nin blo-nee) and hunks of cream cheese. It is absolutely as rich as it sounds, the tangy cheese melting into the sizzled chunks of the smoky, fermenty, cured beef sausage. A smart twist on the classic eggs Benedict is The Dutch’s version where slices of ring bologna take the place of the Canadian bacon and, standing in for the hollandaise, an S.O.S nap of creamed chipped beef. The dish is smart and it would be worth it for the foundation alone, a tender rye english muffin by Jonathan Yacashin, longtime sous chef at Noord.
Waffles are on offer in both sweet (seasonal fruit compote, whipped cream) or savory (creamed chipped beef, scallion) versions, as are Dutch baby pancakes. These, made from eggy batter more like French crepes than American flapjacks, start in a frying pan and are finished in the oven where they puff like big, flat soufflés. Naturally they fall by the time they hit the table, either studded with chunks of kielbasa or graced with lemon zest. Either way, they get a finishing sprinkle of powdered sugar that hits all of the sweet-savory notes you’re looking for at brunchtime.
Daily soup and sandwich specials round out the lunch offerings along with big salads of the nicoise and cobb varieties. One standout will recall the mayonnaise-heavy offerings available at many a Reading Terminal Market deli counter. The House Salad Trio is three domed scoops of potato, tuna, and chicken salads, punctuated by bright pink pickled beet eggs. The dish could be leaden, but Styer’s distinctive flavorings of each with celery, tarragon, mustard, or scallion, keep it restrained and restaurant-worthy. Portions are substantial, but reasonable, and they won’t leave you with a stack of half-eaten pancakes rapidly growing soggier.
The neighborhood, understandably, has already embraced this new addition, and the first weeks at The Dutch have been steadily busy. Be prepared to grab an almond milk latte at Grindcore Coffee down the street to bide your time if there’s a wait. You’ll be rewarded with BYOB Bloody Marys or mimosas in the end, and happy ever after you shall be.
The Dutch [f8b8z]