Home Of The Brave chef Nate Middleton
In the span of just two months, the people behind La Carnita have transformed the second floor of 589 King St. W. (at Portland) into Home Of The Brave, a restaurant that explores the regional delicacies of our southern neighbour. On the menu: classy Waldorf salads; sticky Kansas City beef and pork ribs; carnival mainstay funnel cake; and Midwestern specialty, fried bologna sandwich.
Open as of this past Saturday, the 78-seat restaurant has been in the works for over half a year. Owner Andrew Richmond first got the idea for the new place when he was travelling along the American east coast looking for inspiration to bring back to La Carnita. While finding no shortage of dishes he liked, Richmond realized that things like lobster rolls and Johnny cakes didn’t exactly fit into the Mexican eatery’s menu—even if it’s not authentically Mexican. And so he approached his executive chef John Hamilton and sous chef Nate Middleton with a new idea: a restaurant where they could put their own spin on American classics.
Consider Home of the Brave to be more of an homage to American cuisine than a by-the-book representation of Southern cooking. “There’s a lot more to the States than just barbecue,” says Richmond. “We haven’t even been to Portland yet, and despite what’s happening in Detroit right now, the city has a great food scene as well. There’s much more out there and we want to keep our menu open-ended.”
The Kentucky Fried Handshake
Buckets of pork and beef ribs come moist and tender. Johnny cakes (think cornmeal pancake) arrive with a thin layer of maple syrup, and are topped with a flaky smoked trout (the dish would be excellent at brunch but the place only does dinner for now while Richmond sees if there’s a lunch demand). Tater tots are crispy on the outside with creamy potato on the inside. The “Kentucky Fried Handshake Sandwich” is sure to be one of the most popular options on the menu: the chicken thigh sandwich comes with its foot still attached (it can be dislodged quite easily), and it’s a delicious, juicy sandwich. All the bread is also made in house thanks to the multi-purpose combi oven in the kitchen.
Red velvet funnel cake
Coincidentally timed to the CNE, desserts include a red velvet funnel cake with vanilla-bourbon ice cream, macerated berries, and a cream cheese drizzle; the whole thing taste like a Toaster Strudel. There’s also a banana split where the banana has a crispy corn flake crust and is topped with more house-made ice cream.
Behind the bar, former Origin bar manager Taylor Corrigan has split the cocktail menu into three sections: house cocktails, lesser-known American cococtions like the Blinker and the Bronx, and drinks made by bartenders the La Carnita team have come across in the States. Not listed on the menu but prominently glowing behind the bar are slushy machines filled with boozy flavours Jack and Coke and Zombie.
The space is reminiscent of La Carnita’s industrial design scheme, with lots of black, white, and red-orange colours. The bar takes a more industrial approach with an old railroad crossing sign hung in the back, and rusted pulleys and Edison bulbs hanging over the heads of patrons. In the back, the white tiles of the open kitchen give the place a diner feel. Kitschy light fixtures made from cymbals and fashioned into shapes like the Liberty Bell are also hidden throughout. And for those wondering, the sign out front with a snake and the slogan “Join, or Die,” is a political cartoon created by Benjamin Franklin as a symbol of solidarity against British rule.
For now, Home Of The Brave is open Monday through Wednesday from 5 p.m. to midnight, and Thursday through Saturday from 5 p.m. to 2 a.m. with plans for lunch service in the future.—Karon Liu
The kitchen staff
“Bones in a bucket”: Kansas City–rubbed beef and pork ribs
Crab cake and summer bean salad
Johnny cake with smoked trout, savoury cream, and maple syrup
Banana split with corn flake–crusted banana, chocolate-covered corn flake clusters, strawberry, chocolate, and vanilla bourbon ice cream, chocolate sauce, and a cherry