First Bite: Ironside Docks In South Beach
If Ironside was a girlfriend, she'd be the kind that you really like a lot, that you enjoy spending time with, but who you aren't sure you are going to marry. Ironside is a good-time girl, and sometimes a good-time girl is exactly what you need. The month-old restaurant, opened by the owners of District around the corner, have created a place that speaks to these times. It's casual, it's affordable, it doesn't take itself too seriously, and the eclectic menu has a more refined version of the something-for-everything ethos. The second restaurant from the owners of District around the corner, Ironside shares District's aesthetic (a warehouse-y space with exposed brick and beams) but has the distinction of serving lunch—a big deal for the employees of our parent company, Chronicle Books, with whom Ironside shares a building.
I dined on the behest of the publicist, so in addition to the few dishes I ordered, the kitchen also sent out a handful of items. That meant that I got to try the tempura-fried avocado slices with jalapeño aïoli that I otherwise wouldn't have sampled on principal (fat plus fat plus fat)—they were surprisingly greaseless and crispy, vaguely reminiscent of a new-fangled sushi roll. The menu wanders all over the place—Mexican-inspired grilled corn-on-the-cob, served with instructions to cut it off the cob and mix it with the accompanying greens and carnitas "croutons" (my description); a giant slice of bronzed porchetta, set atop cannelini beans (unfortunately a bit oversalted); and, of course, pizza. "Pizza," noted chef Bob Cina resignedly, "accounts for 40% of our orders." Cina's version showcases a cracker-thin crust with a judicious application of toppings—the flammekuchen, his version of the famous Alsatian bacon-and-onion tart, is respectable, though a bit dry; other pizzas feature heftier toppings, like the one with house-made wild boar sausage and broccoli rabe that the server pronounced his favorite.
Cina, who was most recently the chef at District (and before that, Le Club) moved here from Boston a few years ago. As coincidence would have it, Cina and I are acquaintances from back in our East coast days, when he was the chef at Cambridge restaurant Chez Henri. Of all the things he served back in the day, the one that I remember—and the one that had a cult following—was his Cuban sandwich, an irresistible amalgam of roast pork, ham and cheese. I am happy to report that Cina has brought the recipe westward—it's now available on the lunch menu. Let the cult begin anew. 680 Second St., 415-896-1127, ironsidesf.com