I would have thought a place called The District would be bigger.
The District, a restaurant in Sanford, is small, has a limited and fairly mundane menu, and is enjoying the kind of popularity that apparently allows the staff to be slightly arrogant with newcomers.
There is a small dining room and a bar area next to it. If the dining room is booked, as it was when I visited recently, the hostess may wave toward the bar and tell you it’s open seating “in there.” I selected a seat at the end of a bar-height communal table “in there” and a bartender came around to hand me a menu.
Because he was also the bartender and didn’t want to make a lot of trips, he rushed through his spiel for first-timers. Something something scratch. Something something local. Nothing new. Then he wondered if I was ready to order. From the menu I’d just received.
Following my receipt of a glass of wine, poured to a level beneath a line on the glass that one would have assumed indicated a full pour, and after the time I’d requested to look things over, he returned and took my order. I requested the soup of the day — cream of cauliflower, he told me — and the Braised Short Rib, which seemed only slightly more interesting than the “chef recommended” Bourbon Bone-in Pork Chop and a lot more interesting than the Shrimp & Grits that apparently is now considered a menu requirement in order for a restaurant to obtain an operating permit and the Mahi Mahi with maitre d’ butter.
The cream of cauliflower soup tasted a great deal like cream of mushroom. It had a very nice and velvety texture with no chunks that could have settled the issue.
The short rib was served sliced, off the bone and next to long slender green beans and thick long carrots. Just as a rule, the vegetable sides shouldn’t dwarf the main dish. The carrots could have braised a bit more and the meat a bit less, Under the carrots was a serving of risotto that had been truffled in some way. The rice was the best part.
Although I had to flag down the bartender/server when I was ready to go, he turned out to be more accommodating than I had originally thought.
Much is going on in Sanford these days. The District’s newness will keep people coming in for a while, its size will keep it full. Its ability to keep it that way will depend on how well it can delight those guests and offer something more interesting than pot roast.
The District is at 112 W. 2nd St., Sanford. It is open for lunch Tuesday through Friday and dinner Tuesday through Saturday. The phone number is 407-330-2730.