There have been a lot of great additions to the Heights in the past year. But I'm currently in love with Down House. It's been a few months since owner Chris Cusack first told me he and his partner planned to blow our minds, and so far they have succeeded in spades.
Walking into the open, one-room space on Yale it's almost impossible not to let out a perceptible "aww!" When it comes to the pantheon of adorable, Down House is just above a butterfly landing on your finger and slightly below a panda falling down.
Down House does this not by filling the space with over-the-top, trying-too-hard tchotchkes but by adding character with details: Big, stately couches in the middle of the room, little flowers on every table, a bill delivered in a vintage hardback book (Darwin, of course). The cinderblock walls are a relaxing shade of cerulean blue, with a vintage bicycle mounted on one as the largest visual focal point aside from the spacious bar at the front. It's homey yet refined.
Down House will eventually expand to dinner service and late night cocktails and coffee, but for now there is breakfast, lunch, brunch, coffee, and a limited selection of wine and beer.
I haven't tried the weekday breakfast yet (I'm really useless until 9 a.m.), but brunch crowds arrive early and last all day. There are flavorful breakfast tacos, rich omelets, an overstuffed pulled pork torta, and more — not a reinvention of the brunch menu but full of thoughtful takes and local ingredients that really shine.
For lunch I started with the tomato bisque, which was tasty but somewhat comical when being served with a table spoon instead of a soup spoon. I joked that if you included my bowl-to-mouth spoon lifting it was essentially a calorie-neutral food. I did not give in and drink from the bowl like another member of my party. (Yes, I'm a consummate professional.)
Next I ordered the gouda, chevre and tomato sandwich with Guinness beer butter on rye, which was spectacular. The goat cheese flavor was front and center, but the firm, crusty rye and the mild sweetness of the beefsteak tomato made a great foil. I also approve of the thin-sliced fries. And did I mention that the menu items are listed with a suggested beer or wine pairing?
The lemon chicken sandwich was notable first just because of its size: What looks like a full chicken breast is slathered with olive tapenade, feta and spinach on challah bread. The result is thick and juicy, not dry as so many chicken sandwiches are. Aside from the chicken, the tapenade gave the sandwich a hearty, earthy flavor, and the pecans and peach vinaigrette really took the standard house salad it came with to the next level.
The one sandwich I didn't really care for was the five-spice pork belly, which is actually a Vietnamese-style banh mi. Adding a sriracha-soaked dill pickle rather than crispy cucumber upped the heat too high for me, and the fatty pork belly combined with a soft roll combined to make the whole sandwich feel soggy.
The cappuncino comes with the foam heart that's become standard, but although the coffee program is operating at a very high level, I would still rank it under the coffee at neighbor Revival Market or Catalina. But the red blueberry iced tea is in a class of it's own.
One last suggestion: Whether you find yourself at Down House for a meal or a beverage, if they have any of the fresh-baked chocolate chip pecan cookies, get one. Oversized, thin and just crispy enough, they are like the perfect cookies you remember from childhood.
Frankly, the only issue with Down House is the possibility of too many people liking it and wanting to be there. (The quaint arrangement of furniture doesn't lend itself to high volume.) But when you find a place this worthy, that's just life, I guess.