Packards didnt quit. If youre smart enough to seek them out, get ready for a plate full of win.
While some restaurants focus on hyper-local fare, Packards philosophy is more about the handmade nature of the food. They use local if they can get it, said general manager John Ross, but the most important goal is consistently tasty dishes and drinks.
Start off with a cocktail. Specifically, one of the oak barrel-aged cocktails theyve just started. The Salary Man (a mix of strong tonic, Plymouth gin and Campari) is smooth as can be after 45 days melding together.
To eat, get smoked salmon ($15). A big, beautiful, pink hunk of flaky fish, the appetizer comes with toast (from their house-made basil bread, natch), fried capers and dill cream cheese.
Theres more food to eat. While I liked the flavor of the kale salad ($8), it seemed small for the price. That said, what it lacked in lettuce, it seemed to make up for with accoutrements like figs and tomatoes. Still, maybe add a protein (shrimp $6, steak $7, chicken $4, salmon $8) if youre trying to make it a meal.
I was a fan of the fried lasagna ($15), which is an entree big enough for two people. The key here is that Packards makes its own pasta and then fries sheets of noodle before stacking them in a roughly lasagna-type equivalent. With a mix of beef trimmings and pork, the meat sauce is rich and hearty. Onions and peppers are sauteed with just a bit of crunch and lots of flavor. Its not an overly cheesy dish. One caveat: This one doesnt age well as leftovers.
The duck mac ($15) called out to me with promises of house-made noodles and pulled duck confit and fulfilled them. The whole wheat pasta is a bit more stout than Im used to, and it muted the flavors of the cheese (a local raw milk cheddar) slightly. Still, it was a filling and hearty dish Id gladly have again.
Packards rib-eye burger ($10) is not long for this world, but its soon to be replaced with another crowd-pleaser combining pork and beef trimmings for an altogether luscious sandwich. The spicy tomato jam is a revelation it should be dispensed in parks and elementary schools alongside water fountains and I highly recommend you try it with an egg on top.
Speaking of eggs, if youre lucky enough to escape the house in time for brunch, you are hereby ordered to get the croque madame ($12). Ham, bechamel and swiss on top of a thick piece of toast is a good start. Two farm-fresh eggs on top is a finishing move more impressive than any in Mortal Kombat.
Packards has survived their rough patch. Service clicks. The food sings. And as the menu changes for the season, it should be a clear sign to those who waited (or experienced an early snag) that its time to go back.