Strike up the band

The Capitol's American melting-pot menu makes it cool to be a patriot

James Beard, one of the pillars of American cookery, nevertheless acknowledged its "grotesqueries"; these result not only from youth but from the outrageously diverse minglings and adaptations. So for a long time, we were more likely to love Trader Vic's Polynesian pineapple-based dishes than true Oriental cuisine. The menu that chef Todd Hogan (from Johnson & Wales) has devised for The Capitol combines dishes and ingredients from all over: Wisconsin cheddar flavors Southern grits, Tennessee bourbon-cured pork comes with Pennsylvania mushroom-flavored potatoes, a salad comes with both Maytag blue cheese and Colorado honey, Maryland crab cakes come with California pepper relish. Sometimes it's hard to remember how young we are, culinarily speaking. Frontiers produce food that is functional, not aesthetic, and it's only recently that American civilization has aged enough to produce refined cuisine.

The thing that allowed it to happen relatively fast was the melting pot, which mixed together many ancient polished cuisines, such as French and Chinese (we won't mention the English). The Capitol's menu features the melting-pot culture filtered through geography, or is it regional traditions blended by modern mobility?

Anyway, another Capitol is due to open on McKinney Avenue in a few months. This, like the country, is a concept with a manifest destiny.

The Capitol, 15175 Quorum Drive, 980-7400. Open Monday-Thursday 11:30 a.m.-10 p.m.; Friday 11:30 a.m.-midnight; Saturday 5 p.m.-midnight.

The Capitol:
Low Country BBQ shrimp $7.95
Grilled vegetable & wild mushroom pie $5.95
Cajun chicken and corn fritters $5.95
Honey cured pork chop $14.95
Texas tenderloin $18.95

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