Last Friday was my birthday, which of course meant LOTS of celebratory eating. There was a free burger from the Vortex, some late-night drunk food at Taco Cabana (after the worst games of bowling I’ve ever had), and a delicious meal at my parents’ house that included fried shrimp, twice-baked potatoes, and pickled cucumbers. But before any of that, my fiance took me to a lovely dinner at 4th & Swift in the Old Fourth Ward.
The space is very similar to others in the area–in other words, it is a lofty/industrial look with lots of exposed brick and piping and high ceilings. There’s a fair amount of patio seating, which was definitely appealing, but we stuck with our usual M.O. and sat at the bar. The signature cocktails are really interesting, but the one I wanted involved house-infused pineapple vodka, and it wasn’t finished infusing quite yet. So, I had a nice glass of cava instead. Jason had a fruity cocktail that involved raspberry vodka and blackberry liqueur (he liked it, but I found it a little too sweet for an opening drink).
While we sipped, we muched on the fried pickles with red chile mayo. What a tasty treat! The pickles were piping hot and nicely fried, and the sauce provided a good kick. We were also presented with a bread basket, which contained delicious cheddar biscuits and a house-made lavash. They would have kept the bread coming all night long, but we finally had to ask them to stop–the carby goodies were excellent, but we wanted to save room.
There were two soups available, so rather than choose between them, we decided to try both. One, from the “Market” menu, was a Vidalia onion soup with pancetta and watercress oil. The other was a roasted garlic and cauliflower soup, with crawfish and braised celery. The former had a great texture, but unless you got a big chunk of the pancetta, the overall flavor was way too sweet. Don’t get me wrong, I know that Vidalias are naturally sugary, but the soup needed a little spice or kick or something in order to counteract that aggressive sweetness. The cauliflower soup was absolutely fantastic, and held up surprisingly well to the strong flavor of the celery (which still added a nice crunch, even though it was braised and mellowed).
Next, Jason opted for the chicken livers, and I ordered “The Schnitzel” from the bar menu. I am not really a huge fan of livers, so I anticipated that I wouldn’t really enjoy the dish–and I didn’t. Brains and glands are great for me, but the liver/kidney/heart family just reminds me of sucking on a penny, and I have a high sensitivity level for that metallic, organy taste. Jason liked their flavor, but he wished they would have turned out crispier (though they were served with little toasts, so there was an element of crunch to the dish). The schnitzel, on the other hand, had lots of yummy elements. The veal was nice and thin, and the breading was tasty, but I did feel like that part of the dish needed more salt. The over-easy egg on top of the meat did add a bit of a saline punch, so when the bites overlapped, things tasted more balanced. The herb spaetzle was tender and well-seasoned, and the two different kinds of apples (one was a sweeter sauce, and the other was more of a spicy relish) added some really interesting layers of flavor.
I was pretty full, but I wanted to take a look at the dessert menu, just to see what was available. When I saw “doughnut holes,” it was all over–I had to have them. There were three light, fluffy, steaming hot puffs of dough that arrived in front of me, each sitting atop a different sauce. The Boston Cream was my definite favorite, causing me to abandon all class and use my finger to sop up what the pastry missed. The chocolate and raspberry sauces were also very good. I told the bartender that if they were open for breakfast, I’d eat a dozen of those doughnuts every morning and not think twice about it. Instead of eating dessert, Jason indulged in a port flight (three 2 oz. pours), which he had never seen at a restaurant before and which he very much enjoyed.
Service was very friendly and knowledgeable–we were helped by a number of people, including the bartender, the manager, and a couple of food runners, and they were all wonderful. We had a LOT of food (as you can clearly tell), and Jason had a beer in addition to the cocktail and port, and the total tab was right at $100. I really feel like 4th & Swift is an incredible value for that price, and we’ll definitely be back to see what else Chef Swift and his staff have up their sleeves.