The Strand, the small cafe in the Mills 50 district, is approaching its seventh anniversary, long enough for most people to forget that it is in the space that for many years was Chuck’s Diner. So I thought it might be time to stop by and see how it’s doing.
I found it looking warm and inviting on a midweek evening, shaded lights giving a soft glow to the tables with formica tops and metal banding, the sort of table that was in my family’s kitchen when I was growing up. More eclectic work lights hang over an L-shaped bar that leads to the in-full-view kitchen.
A lone father and his two young children were the only customers dining in. My takeout order, placed through the restaurant’s online system, was bagged and ready to go, though I was tempted to sit at one of the tables separated with an array of plants from the others.
My dinner companion and I started with the snapper cakes, sort of like crab cakes (or salmon cakes) that were pan fried so that the breaded exterior had a nice crust. The flavor was mild and pleasant, and the comeback sauce – when was the last time you saw this Southern reference on a menu? – was a nice accompaniment. (Comeback sauce is mayonnaise and ketchup based.)
My friend ordered the Strand burger, which surprisingly retained its medium-rare temperature. The grilled patty was topped with a couple of rashers of bacon and was dressed with blue cheese sauce and crisscrossed jalapeno peppers. The bun top had leafy green lettuce, red onion, a tomato slice and a generous portion of dill pickle slices. It was a good burger. Unfortunately, the fries that accompanied it tasted as though they had been cooked in oil that had also been used to fry fish.
I had the fried pork cutlets, two medallions in a light breading served with pureed sweet potatoes and a slaw fashioned out of collards and fennel. The meat was about as tender as pounded pork will get, and I liked the seasoning in the breading.
When I first reviewed the Strand, in February of 2014, I noted that it was “the sort of place where you’d want to meet friends for a quick bite or to just sit with a glass of beer or wine and visit.” It still is.