Small plates, farm-to-table, and New American are the trending restaurant buzzwords these days. So how do restaurateurs set themselves apart?
Since day one, Emmer & Rye has defined its identity as grain-driven; milling ancient, small-crop grains onsite is fundamental to the concept. Executive Chef and Owner Kevin Fink showcases the namesake grains by grinding and transforming them into breads, pastas, desserts, and more. Before opening, Emmer & Rye teased Instagram followers with other slow-food techniques like foraging, fermenting, and curing.
The veil was lifted on November 7, revealing an airy and light-filled dining space on Rainey Street. Design features include a laid-back patio next to raised garden beds, a 14-seat private dining room, and a shiny open kitchen that displays all the action. A floor-to-ceiling shelf that divides the room is styled with copperware, vintage glasses, and bushels of wheat.
Without surprise, the hyper-seasonal menu made up of snacks, small plates, pastas, and larger entrees changes weekly. Chef Fink draws some of his inspiration from his stint cooking in Copenhagen. His whimsical dishes, garnished by edible blossoms and dainty herbs, have similar qualities to those seen at the famed Noma of the same city. While Fink incorporates local ingredients and flavors, his cuisine is not easy to define. The polenta, for example, has the comforting properties of grits, but is elevated with roasted and fermented mushrooms.
In addition to the menu, Emmer & Rye also offers “dim sum service,” where servers circulate the dining room with wooden carts filled with small plates. Diners can pick and choose on the spot and share them among their table. Partner and Pastry Chef Tavel Bristol-Joseph highlights freshly milled grains in his desserts, too, overcoming the challenge of working with unpredictable moisture contents. Bar Manager Adam Stellmon concocts refined cocktails that nod to the classics.
As upbeat '90s R&B streams through the speakers, it reinforces that playfulness is the secondary theme here, after the grains.
Emmer & Rye is now open for dinner service and Sunday brunch.