Din-din at Cedars Social

Last night I wined and dined at Cedars Social the new restaurant and so-named “cocktail den” across from Southside on Lamar. It’s in the old Sala space, which gave me cause for concern — “this location is cursed!” I told my companion — but, thankfully, that fear was put to rest.

First of all, Cedars Social is a John Tesar venture, which instantly gives it some huge buzz and favor. Second, the space has been entirely redone from wall to wall. If I can recall correctly from my one visit to Amuse (the eatery that predates Sala), the restaurant was a fairly good size, but it seems maybe the kitchen was expanded, because the dining space is intimate and cozy. Centered by a fire pit (above), the room feels like … well, your neighbor’s cool den. I loved the mildly retro feel of the decor, featuring little touches like kitschy votive holders and light fixtures (below).


The bar area was cool and spacious, and at one end of it was a little library-like room, perfect for sharing drinks and nibbles with a small group of friends. Which is great, as that’s what Tesar tells me to expect — lots of small plates, and some regular entrees, too. I can’t forget to mention that the cocktails here — featuring the dangerously smooth Russian Standard Vodka — including the divine Moscow Mule (top) and the potent, fruity Red October, were created by mixologist Michael Martensen.


But what about the food?! It was fabulous and included two dishes I never thought I’d eat, let alone enjoy … read on. Major kudos to the chef of the evening, Matt McAllister!

Our first dish was cabbage glazed in a cashew sauce — unusual but delightful. I like how the sauce channeled peanut butter but was much lighter.

After a one-bite portion of hiramasa (yellowtail sashimi), a seared duck breast was served. I tend to like the skin on a duck rendered a little more crisply, but DAMN, this piece of meat was insanely good. Tender and fresh and so juicy. But the biggest feat was that the dish got me to like brussels sprouts! Granted, they were prolly braised in duck fat, and duck fat makes anything taste better, but … I won’t deny Chef Matt this accomplishment, ha!!

Next up was the dish I had figured I would immediately decline — hell, I didn’t even want the plate delivered to me! Sweetbreads!! These are the usually discarded portions of the animal and can range from genitalia to pancreas to … well other organs we don’t typically eat. But when this lovely piece of fried goodness was set in front of me, my walls came down. Still, I had to have someone else try it first. My guest, Hal2000, took a bite and proclaimed, “you’re gonna like this.” And I did!! It was super tender and texture-wise had less bite than, say, a piece of dark meat chicken, though it kind of looked like it. Come to find out from Chef Matt later that it was, in fact, pancreas thymus gland — thanks, The Steven! Kudos Part Deux for getting me to like it, Chef. Bravo (ooh, speaking of Bravo, Top Chef favorite Tiffany Derry was in the house, as a guest, just a few tables away! I totally recognized those dimples from across the room!).

Now it was time for the meat course. Well, the thymus was meat, technically, but you know what I mean. MEAT meat — BEEF!! That meant a sumptuous short rib in a root beer gel served atop vanilla lemon mashed potatoes. Call my tastes pedestrian for not seeing the potential in a typical dessert flavor being used in a savory dish, but the vanilla in the mashpots threw me WAY off. It overpowered the flavor of the meat, to me, which is too bad, cuz it was prepared expertly. I dunno, maybe it’s something I could get used to …?

Last but not least was dessert, which was blessedly light — a gratin of strawberries swimming in a creamy custard. Not too sweet and not too heavy. Perfect ending!

Overall, I had a superb time at Cedars Social — I’m going to return and become a cocktail den-izen, ha!





Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *