Driving down Johnson Street always involves a mixture of emotions for me: I really want to go to Forequarter, I really don’t like how close together the lanes are, is this what all of the construction was for over the summer, I wish I lived closer to this neighborhood to visit the Johnson Public House, etc. But I never noticed The Spot Restaurant on the south side of the road smooshed in between a couple other odds-n-ends stores. After getting to take a look around and try two entrees, I have to say: It’s small name and unimpressive curb appeal definitely hides a neighborhood treasure.
Walking into The Spot I didn’t expect much because the exterior of the building looked a little rough and the entryway wasn’t much better. But once inside the main door I was blown away. The entire front dining room consists of seven beautiful wood booths. The two front booths offer great corner seats with a full view of the dining room and an elevated view of Johnson Street — perfect for people watching. There’s a little bar in the back of the building, but the front seats are definitely the primo spots. The deep red walls, black and white photography on the walls, and the beautiful two-toned wood floors all made the tiny space feel upscale, but still warm and welcoming.
Now on to the food: Head Chef David Post Jr. describes the food as mediterranean and eclectic with some gluten free and vegan options sprinkled throughout the menu. We got to try two dishes, a vegetarian option from the menu and a great special he’s been trying out.
We started with a pulled pork sandwich with bacon braised cabbage and tomatoes on top. The sandwich was pretty close to perfect. The barbecue sauce was tangy and had a great spicy kick to it. The tomatoes added a freshness to the sandwich, and the bread was sturdy enough for the ingredients, but not overly crusty. The one thing that I noticed was the pork could have been shredded a bit more, but the big pieces were so tender it didn’t really matter that much. The braised cabbage was good on it’s own, but it was lost in the sandwich under the spicy barbecue sauce. The sandwich came with some sauteed kale, which was a bit too salty. I would actually have preferred the bacon braised cabbage as a side instead of the kale.
The butternut squash risotto, which is on the menu and can be made vegan, was a surprising dish. I usually don’t order butternut squash dishes from restaurants because they tend to be made with sweet flavors and spices, and I’m not a fan of sweet vegetables. But this dish was as hearty and savory as you can get without adding meat. The barley and brown rice were cooked perfectly (almost to a creamy consistency), the spinach was hidden well by other flavors (just the way I like spinach in savory dishes…there for the nutrients but you can’t really taste it!), and there were hearty chunks of butternut squash throughout the dish. I can’t really explain the flavor, other than to say that it was creamy (but not heavy), rustic, hearty, perfectly seasoned and probably one of my favorite new dishes I’ve tried in a while.
FOOD NOTES: I learned something today during my visit to the Spot Restaurant: The saying “don’t judge a book by it’s cover” also applies to restaurants. The Spot is an extremely well-kept secret in the Johnson Street neighborhood that I wish I knew about sooner. The butternut squash risotto is a fantastic dish, but next time I go I want to try the paella…unless I go for brunch in which case I want to try the Rumchata French Toast and the PB&E…who wants to go with me?!