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Mike Smith, The Common Table's Newish Chef, Is Reshaping a Once-Doomed Menu

"Good Beer, Uncommonly Poor Food." The headline did not leave a lot to be desired when Hanna Raskin penned a scathing review of the gastro pub last summer. Browning lettuce in salads and greasy stringy pork crowned a menu described as ranging from unpleasant to horrific.

Owner Corey Pond undoubtedly read the review. This March he hired Mike Smith, and tasked him with bringing the menu up to the same level as the beer selection, which has been universally lauded.

Smith previously ran kitchens at Thomas Avenue Beverage Company and 2900 (since closed). A job cooking at McKesson Pharmaceutical called to him with the arrival of his first child, but while Smith loved the hours, serving breakfast and lunch Monday through Friday, he hated the environment.

"There was no room for creativity," he told me. He jumped on the opportunity to rehash the Common Table's food.

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"There were some good ideas but there was really bad execution," Smith said, pointing to a lack of kitchen management. "There was no cross utilization of ingredients." Smith completely reworked the menu while focusing on kitchen dynamics and getting his staff to work together like a team.

Smith says he's most impressed with his chicken and dumplings dish. I've tried the deviled eggs and a handful of sandwiches and found them all to be fairly well executed.

While I haven't had enough experience with Smith's cooking to issue a re-review, it's apparent that what's being offered now at the Common Table isn't at as lousy as it was when Hanna reviewed it. If you're a hop head who was previously turned off by terrible food, the new menu warrants a second look.

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