This Prospect Heights blow-in from Greg Baxtrom (Per Se, Blue Hill at Stone Barns). On paper, Olmsted’s partiality for hyperfresh produce isn’t exactly a distinctive quality, but its sheer dedication to freshness sets it apart. An urban minifarm behind the modestly dressed restaurant provide Baxtrom’s kitchen with radishes and lovage; a bird coop coos with quails laying eggs; and a repurposed claw-foot bathtub sloshes with crayfish. Servers ask if you want to wait for a table on a cushioned bench in the backyard garden, with a cocktail and crayfish crackers, say, beneath strung lights—answer yes when they do.
Only snacks are available outside; the real good stuff is within the 50-seat den, such as a gorgeous bowl of charred-fennel chawanmushi. Baxtrom levels the dreamy, delicate egg custard with a crush of crispy artichokes and the umami punch of Burgundy truffle. Torn scallops—often discounted, usually discarded—are dry-rubbed, skewered and grilled until tender, the charcoal singe and pop of pasilla chile in the rub acting as a smoky foil to the summery pool of creamed corn and stewed blueberry that accompanies the mollusks, the pool itself a balancing act between savory and sweet. These are fine-dining ambitions wrapped in neighborhood-spot environs, where the most expensive entrée doesn’t exceed $25, impromptu happy birthday sing-alongs occur between strangers, and you can openly curse over just how fucking good a dish is. And it is.