What’s cool about Boxcar is that you can go in for burgers or you can sit down for several courses of fine-dining quality food, in a setting that somehow manages to walk that perfect line between casual gastropub and upscale bistro.
The menu walks that line perfectly, too, with chef owners Hunter Chamness and Cara Luff finding their ideal concept in an elegant gastropub theme that allows them to showcase their impressive creativity.
The tone is set with a crafty cocktail at the beginning of the meal from bartenders who are imagining things like orange-
infused cognac with coriander syrup and prosecco — a take on the French 75 — called Shark Juice. The Far East features gin, lemongrass syrup, pomegranate liquor, pink peppercorns and mint — the perfect refreshing summer cocktail.
If you think that’s creative, wait until you try what Chamness and Luff are cooking up in the kitchen. They’re turning backyard barbecue classics like deviled eggs into extraordinarily interesting bites — the deviled eggs trio includes a Caesar egg, a roasted garlic and pork belly egg and an incredible truffle and chive egg. Regular deviled eggs at the neighborhood block party will never be the same after you’ve tried these.
With their French fine dining backgrounds — they met while cooking in the same kitchen in Seattle — and an imagination for things that aren’t found in other restaurants around the valley, it’s obvious these chefs are the real deal.
Their attention to detail is notable in everything from the rosemary Gougeres, an airy cheese puff filled with a surprisingly light pear and goat cheese mousse, to the distinctive smoked duck and sweetbread sausage that exhibits their technique (it’s made in-house, accented by pickled fennel and a foie gras-huckleberry sauce). There’s smokiness, fattiness, acidity and texture, all deliciously balanced into a dish that’s not only tasty, but it also looks like a piece of artwork.
Two chef-owners working together creates balance, Chamness says, adding that their philosophies are the same so they’re able to check each other as they play with new recipes.
“We just complement each other’s food,” he says.
It’s obvious they’re not skimping on quality ingredients, but perhaps what’s more appreciated is the fact that they’re not skimping on quality preparation, either — even if it means a several-day process is required to create one element on a dish.
Take the cured albacore tuna served atop toasted bread with preserved lemon and hearts of palm salad. It’s complex in its simplicity, with flavors that are light and delicate.
Creamy, house-made burrata shows off even more skill, as does an interesting take on chicken noodle soup. The “noodle” is a parsnip agnolotti — the silky pasta dough bursts with a sweet parsnip pop — finished off with a lemongrass consommé.
A chicken and chorizo roulade showcases some of that rustic French knowledge, while the Boxcar bacon cheddar burger illustrates the gastropub theme done right. Ask for beer pairings from the 10 rotating craft beers on tap, too.
As I looked around on a recent summer evening while in for an early dinner, I saw a table of two nicely dressed couples enjoying a fine bottle of wine, another table with two 20-something guys in jeans and hoodies chowing down on burgers, among a variety of other customers.
The diverse combinations of customers proved that Boxcar is a place for everyone — and, more importantly, it’s a place that not only belongs in the valley, but is also to be welcomed with open arms.