Fine & Dandy wants to make sure that’s just the way you feel, walking in the door.
The affirmation is underfoot, in black-and-white mosaic tile on the threshold: “You’re so fine.”
I feel better already, parking the keister on a cushy caramel bar stool. Glancing up, I lock eyes with a literary legend: William Faulkner. Clear at the other end of the bar, artist William Goodman’s pop-py take on ‘Pappy’ hangs on the wall where it fits right in — cool, familiar, with a fun and fresh edge.
Fine & Dandy opened at The District at Eastover in December 2017.
Its setting is a witty mix of back-in-day nostalgia and up-to-the-minute industrial swank. That feel skips through the menu, too. Some titles have a cheeky twist and some dishes might poke a rib or two, too. (Worst Ribs in Town, anyone? And yet, so popular.) A closer perusal reveals intriguing combos to thrill the taste buds.
The emphasis is on snacks, including the burger, says executive chef and culinary director Jesse Houston. Houston’s capital city culinary history includes Parlor Market and Saltine, as well as an assist at La Finestra and a series of pop-ups.
At Fine & Dandy, the thrust is food that’s nostalgic and approachable.
“We’ve been having fun with the idea of ‘Grandma chic,’ which is why Betty White is, like, our spirit animal,” Houston says.
“We take a look into dishes that you might remember having growing up — may be that your mom or grandmother made for you — and finding a way to put a little bit of modern, fun spin on it.”
Fine & Dandy owner Ray-Scott Miller brought Houston on board to help with the classy burger concept, Houston says. “It’s been a really awesome partnership with Ray-Scott, Mary Sanders Ferris on design and Marisa Marino, the hospitality director.”
Craft cocktails are a huge part of Fine & Dandy’s identity, too. He says, “and Jonathan Webb, who’s our bar director, is really, really killing it … with these forward-thinking, smart, well-balanced cocktails.” The cocktail menu makes me want to try The Toile Debacle, just for the name alone (though Bristow Gin, lime, mint and basil ought to be a danged delicious follow-through).
A bank of windows offers a picture-window view of the kitchen — “We call it our jewel box,” Houston says — with glass keeping the work noise and aromas contained. An L-shaped patio space has a breezy vibe. Vintage plates, some toile wallpaper, a sun porch salute with potted plants and strawberry candies are some of those updated nostalgic touches.
In the food, it shows up in the Split Pea Soup with a modern spring twist and Party Balls with mint jelly and Pecorino (lamb meatballs with a nod to Crock-Pot heritage) as well as the signature Fine Deviled Eggs, fancied up with caviar on top. Houston’s still tinkering with a work in progress involving Vienna sausages.
On the sandwich side, the burger lineup touts intriguingly flavorful touches such as dried tomato pesto or chipotle Pub Ale “dijonaise.” The Cap’n Catfish sandwich ships out with a Cap’n Crunch crust on the Simmons Catfish Delacata filet. Shakes have an adult category, as well as all-ages options.
“We like not to take ourselves too seriously,” Houston says. The first tweak for spring is on the scene, and, “We’re excited, already, thinking about summer and all the fun things we can do with all this great Southern local produce.”
In the “Salads Not Salads” category, color and crunch come to play. Most folks’ salad notions involve a pile of leafy greens tossed with a dressing, maybe chicken on top. “That’s just boring and not fun,” Houston says, “so we challenged ourselves.” A few traditional options may have that base of greens, but others are light, thoughtfully composed vegetable dishes that may not co-star lettuce.
Such is the case with the Spring Burrata Panzanella, which pulls together burger bun croutons, creamy burrata cheese, peas, burnt honey, preserved Meyer lemons, charred asparagus, almond, opal basil and green strawberry pickles. It’s a playground of rounds and spears, creamy and crispy, soft and snappy — freshly fulfilling that “so fine” promise.
Fine & Dandy is open daily for lunch and dinner at The District at Eastover.