Best Side Dish - 2008
Cool'a Fish Bar
Come the revolution, our first official act will be to decree a moratorium on ridiculously expensive side dishes. Enough with the ten-dollar truffled cheese fries, the potato skins scattered with a king's ransom in caviar, the double-digit flash-fried escarole, the chanterelles hand-dug from some bois in Bordeaux and flown over to the States. One longs for the day when a side dish was a bit of mashed to go with your chop — it came free with a meal, most often right on the plate with your meat and veg, and if you were lucky it was chock-full of fat and salt. Evidently somebody at Cool'a Fish Bar was suffering a like nostalgia when they came up with the idea of the complimentary cheese potato gratin as a side order with any entrée (the excellent entrées average around $20; other side choices are coconut rice or French fries). A sort of cross between mac 'n' cheese and potatoes Anna, this hot gratin, served in its own tiny casserole, combines shredded potatoes, Colby and Monterey Jack cheese, and a dash of pepper; it makes a lovely, golden crust over its creamy innards. You'll want to ask your waitress for extraction tools — spoons, toothpicks, butter knives, tweezers — to scrape up every crunchy, buttery bit of it.