Lawrenceville has a new workingmen's pub cum hipster bar and grill, Remedy, located closer to the top of Butler Street than to Doughboy Square. Actually, Remedy is second-wave gentrification, replacing Ray's Blue Marlin, where nostalgia for Miami Beach, circa 1960, reigned supreme. New owner Anthony Tumolo and chef Brian Marsico have retained the authentic old bones of the place, including a trough where the bar rail might be and a terrazzo compass-rose in the back dining-room floor. However, they painted over the Floridian colors in favor of a tasteful, mildly retro décor in subdued shades of cerulean and chartreuse.
The menu promises "simple, yet classic, with a twist." What this means in practice is a thoughtful elaboration upon the traditional bar-and-grill offerings of burgers, fries and wings. Each menu section features "Over the Counter" and "Prescription Only" items, roughly corresponding to standard-issue dishes and chef's specialties.
Which isn't to say that the former are pedestrian. The ground beef and sausages are proudly sourced from the meat market just up the block; burgers are available in black bean and Portobello mushroom versions for the herbivore; and liberal use of ingredients such as sesame and ciabatta signal that this is not your father's neighborhood dive. Meanwhile, the Prescription Only dishes range from the slightly offbeat, like Drunk Shrimp Cocktail served in a Bloody Mary-inspired sauce, to fairly original, such as The Daffy, a pulled-duck barbecue sandwich.
There are also a couple holdovers from Ray's, and we were eager to see whether the conch fritters were up to the old standard; but alas, they were out. So we satisfied our craving for shellfish with the aforementioned shrimp. If we found the cocktail sauce a bit sharp, the shrimp themselves were excellent. Their number were few -- just four -- but they were enormous and firm, and the beer-steaming was evident in the flavor.
We also ordered pan-fried pierogies, which were pleasantly plump with a pillowy filling that tasted as buttery as the best mashed potatoes. Unfortunately, the sauce -- described as a caramelized shallot crème fraiche -- bore closer resemblance to light broth with onions. It was not bad, but neither did it live up to sweet, rich expectations.
Angelique's pasta primavera struck a similar note. "Seasonal veggies" turned out to be tomato and well-sautéed green pepper and onion (no zucchini? no red peppers? no summer squash?). Similarly, "Genovese pesto and sun-dried pesto drizzle" was more like a light herbal vinaigrette than the densely flavored paste we associate with pesto. Its slight vinegary tang was refreshing on a sultry summer night, but Angelique thought she had ordered a dish that would showcase the lush flavors of the late-summer garden, and this was not it.
Most of the sandwich options were intriguing, but The Daffy seemed to promise the most, and it delivered. The rich, smoky duck meat held its own against a sauce with just a hint of sharpness, and the cheese added a dreamy, creamy meltiness. The fact that the ciabatta roll could have used a minute on the grill was the only flaw. For a side, Jason swallowed an upcharge for the privilege of bacon and cheddar fries. In contrast to the gooey mess that diner kitchens make of this indulgent combination, Remedy serves top-notch steak-cut fries, aged cheddar and plenteous pieces of meaty, salty, smoky bacon. These fries alone would be reason enough to return to Remedy.
No matter what ails you, be it hunger, thirst or the despair of having been born in the wrong generation without the cool retro accoutrements, you could do a whole lot worse than to stop in at Remedy. Though there ain't no cure for the summertime blues, you should at least be able to order up some comfort.