Gather your herd — there’s a new sheep in town.
Bellwether is the latest casual endeavor from Jon Insetta, owner and chef of Avondale’s Restaurant Orsay, Riverside’s Black Sheep and downtown’s BLK SHP at Intuition Ale Works.
Bellwether’s menu, decidedly American with a modern flair, will feature new items throughout the year that utilize fresh, in-season ingredients. Though dinner service hasn’t officially begun, lunch and happy hour are underway with walk-up counter service and table service.
As a girl raised in the South, I’m a sucker for boiled peanuts and Bellwether’s ($4) are no exception. Boiled with chili peppers, and then tossed with cilantro and scallions, they are a sharable albeit messy bar snack.
A less messy, but equally flavor-fueled option is the Korean fried broccoli ($6). This fun twist on traditional broccoli (also gluten-free and vegan) features slivers of green scallion and benne seeds for texture, and a gochujang red pepper paste vinaigrette that adds sweet, savory and spicy depth to the appetizer.
Bellwether’s club sandwich ($10) is a lunchtime staple: Slices of turkey, honey ham, tomato and house pickles meet a telltale slather of Duke’s mayonnaise and my favorite component — semi-soft dill Havarti cheese.
The unique harissa chicken burger ($9), served on a pillowy Martin’s potato roll, features a creamy, yogurt-based raita to cut the subtle heat from the harissa, plus frisée lettuce and cucumber. Burgers and sandwiches come with a pearl couscous salad or daily side, but we upgraded to fries for $1.
On a recent visit I opted for the catch of the day ($18) — tender snapper over coconut jasmine rice served with baby bok choy, king oyster mushrooms and cloaked in a light Thai broth. This is a solid choice if you’re craving something heartier.
In the mood for a lighter yet satisfying option? Try the oversized leafy kale superfoods salad ($11): Plump antioxidant-rich blueberries, fluffy quinoa, slivered tiger nuts, steamed broccoli florets, fiber-packed chia seeds, edamame and juicy diced red apple pieces are dressed in a refreshing apple cider turmeric vinaigrette. I added chicken breast ($4), but tempeh ($4), shrimp ($5) and fish ($8) are also options.
From sparkling Americanos to cortados, Bellwether has partnered with local favorite Bold Bean Coffee Roasters to house a small, barista-run outpost inside the restaurant. My iced salted caramel latte ($3.50 plus 50 cents for homemade syrup) hit the spot on a sweltering summer afternoon.
At happy hour, a fully stocked bar awaits. There are $5 well drinks, $1-off draft beers and select wines, plus cocktail specials. I’ve been partial to the Old-Fashioned ($6) with rye, turbinado sugar, Angostura bitters, orange bitters and boozy cherry.
Creative house-crafted soft serve flavors ($3) like earthy matcha, earl grey and buttermilk with Lucky Charms cereal grace the menu. Stay tuned as more desserts are on their way — think comforting warm apple hand pies and ice cream sandwiches.
Caron Streibich is an avid food lover who will review restaurants every other week in the Dining section. Follow her dining adventures at facebook.com/caroneats and #caroneats on Instagram.