Andrew Blair's wraps itself around you like a mohair throw: warm, soft, beautiful – but not so elegant you're afraid to relax in it.
That warmth comes from its multigenerational proprietors, the Henson family (it's named for a father/grandfather), and the staff they've hired. From bartender to server, clearly, they're encouraged to be so warm they're darn near folksy.
“Welcome! We're glad you're here!” is the standard greeting.
And when the fourth warm staffer passing your table recommends the Madison Park Chicken – even if you don't like chicken or hardly ever order chicken in a restaurant (I never do on my own dime) – go ahead and try it. It's surprisingly vibrant and colorful, too, a breast stuffed with feta and served over risotto with lots of capers and some tomato, artichoke and onion.
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It's Andrew Blair's in a nutshell.
Bread arrives hot in the form of oblong rolls still attached to each other, sort of like sausages. They're plopped down on the butcher-papered table, and diners get to pull them apart. Of the first plates, I favored the steak roulade, marinated skirt steak sliced into pinwheels with blue cheese, spinach, roasted red peppers and balsamic glaze. A little salad comes on the side, so two could split this handily.
Portobello caps stuffed with spicy sausage, feta and goat cheese are vivid, too. A scallop trio veers into the precious in this context (one's glazed with orange and vanilla honey), while the cheese tray goes the other way: When I asked about it, a server listed a few dull deli sorts.
But move onto salads, sandwiches and entrees and the place gets its footing back.
Salads come in two sizes, and even the small is large. The Montford Wedge adds caramelized pecans and yellow tomatoes to the usual blue cheese, bacon and red tomato over crisp iceberg, and they're nice additions. The Quercy pairs apples and walnuts over baby greens, with goat cheese and a honey-peppercorn-Dijon that's more cohesive than you'd think.
A meatloaf sandwich was solid, if not particularly flavorful, while housemade chips were crisp. The lobster roll is on a disappointingly cottony “gourmet soft roll,” and there wasn't a ton of it, but what was there was simple (mostly lobster) and good.
Halibut was a day's special, with grits, roasted red pepper and garlicky spinach, a delicious combination. Pork tenderloin stuffed with caramelized Granny Smiths and onions, with a cider sauce, is another winner, particularly for $17, the same price as the chicken. Sandwiches run $9 to $13, entrees $14 to $25 (with a 12-ounce ribeye on the high end).
Desserts repeat chef Bill Davis's homey theme, from a cupcake with chocolate mousse to bread pudding. Apple crisp is light on crisp but served truly hot with plenty of ice cream, while one day's dessert special – a Rocky Road brownie with ice cream – was huge, and marvelous.
A curved curtain hides a dance area that gets going closer to midnight, I'm told. On our visits, music ran an interesting gamut from old rock to blues.
Teals and browns and beiges set a calm tone for the décor, brightened by a Paul Rousso mural that touches on the history of the place and the family. It's a sort of patchwork effect – so maybe the place is more a quilt than a throw. Either way, there's no missing the warmth, and now's a good time for it.