When Kevin Sheehy launched Cafe Maude five years ago, he tapped into something that the sleepy Armatage neighborhood lacked: a restaurant that worked as well for a late-night jazz date as pizza with the kids (flatbread, actually). The concept felt polished without trying too hard, Weekday Glamorous. This fall, Sheehy opened Cafe Maude at Loring in the former Nick & Eddie space, and adapted the concept to a more urban dining scene.
Loring’s bar equals the well-respected original, stocked with plenty of obscure spirts to excite cocktail geeks. Chef Matt Kempf created a menu for the new location that supplements many Maude favorites with dishes influenced by the cuisines of Turkey and North Africa (duck with walnut yogurt and date chutney) and modern techniques (the fish ’n chips comes deconstructed as panko-crusted cod on gnocchi with malt vinegar powder and a spinach/pea purée). The croquettes and crab cakes of Maude 2007 have been supplanted by raw tuna and quail eggs paired with pastry shards and harissa.
During my meals at Loring, I encountered few specific disappointments—a Sahara Desert–dry chocolate cake was the worst offender—but left with the nagging sense that several of the new dishes seemed more fussy than loveable. My favorites reminded me of the original café’s simple sophistication, such as the excellent bánh mì salad, made with confit duck leg, cured-and-smoked breast, and rich pâté spread on crostini. Comparing Armatage’s $16 hangar steak to Loring’s $25 rib eye, I felt a twinge of nostalgia for the original Maude’s approach.
Is there pent-up demand for fried quail in Loring Park, or will diners prefer the more conventional burgers and mussels? Go place your vote in one of the city’s prettiest dining rooms, under the soft glow of red lanterns and gold scrims, overlooking the park or the movie-set alley.