Poached figs ($11)
Candy-sweet figs in a Benton's ham broth are gorgeous, as are the grilled radicchio leaves that join them. But how do you eat it all? With a spoon for the broth? A knife for the unwieldy lettuce? And where did that hunk of blue cheese come from? "How does this work?" one dining companion asked. I'm still figuring that out.
Blistered shishito and fushimi peppers ($15)
We loved dipping the fried cubes of Monterey jack in the pungent tomatillo relish, and the olive oily crackers dusted with chili were hoarded throughout the meal. But these are not all items that structurally go together, and the inclusion of cherry tomatoes, limp fried peppers, and stringy okra don't help matters. Again, we thought—how do we eat this?
Potlikker's 40-seat dining room is airy but cozy, like American diner meets bistro.
Diver scallops in shellfish brodo ($24)
The little mollusk jewels are glassy soft beneath their deep, satisfying sear. The shellfish brodo, more like a reduced bisque, is gorgeous: buttery and intense with the essence of lobster and shrimp. But what do the fried tortilla strips on top add? And how should we eat the chewy, much less flavorful corn on the cobb, swimming in the sauce?
Brick chicken ($22)
A golden chicken breast with shatter-crisp skin and juicy, tender flesh. But does it need a mop of lettuce on top slowly softening that perfect skin? Does the summer squash risotto (with some disturbingly crunchy grains) really need such a strong truffle butter when the meat tastes so good on its own?
Sirloin cube steak with corncakes ($22)
We devoured the cakes: fluffy and plenty corny and not too sweet. But the steak falters here, more salty than beefy, cooked to a just-too-dry medium well.
Chocolate tart ($8)
If you order from the full range of the menu, you'll have had three courses by the time you get to dessert. So the sweets are straightforward and comforting, like this crowd-pleasing tart with a clean, punchy ganache and a salty-sweet pretzel streusel.
Donuts & Peaches ($7)
The caramel crème anglaise is slurpable, but heavy, dense dough fritters don't quite measure up.
The specials board
Nighty specials are listed on the sandwich board outside.
chilled plums, lemon cucumbers, and radishes ($7)
The salad is cool and crisp, the clean lemon ginger dressing straightforward but not dull. There's a Japanese palate-cleansing feeling to it, unexpected but not unwelcome.
Dutch pancake with fried oysters ($12)
A sweetish, eggy, crisp-edged Dutch baby filled with smoky pepper jelly, bright Capri goat cheese, lardons of Benton's bacon, and two plump fried oysters, a touch of brine and added crunch to all the smoke and sweet.
End of Summer fresh pasta ($16)
Uneven house-made spaghetti in a thick puttanesca-ish sauce heavy on the tomato and olive. The pasta may be cooked a little past al dente, and the sauce (a hair too salty for some) is thick and heavy handed, but in between bites of crisp chilled plum and fried oyster pancake, it's a warm burst of pleasure.
Peaches roasted in duck fat ($14)
The peaches, as good as we've had all summer, come with a cloud-like chicken liver mousse, a sharp, caramelly shallot agrodolce, and thin-sliced crostini.