We all remember the Berkshire pork carnitas head, the Instagram shot heard ’round the world. New spots signal a downtown that’s heating up. But visit CBD Provisions’ downtown kingdom, and you will still find the long, well-lit kitchen pass where the Berkshire pork head makes its appearance, an icon in a place that needs no eye candy.
After a handful of years and several chef changes (Nick Walker is the newest at the helm, though all have come up internally through the ranks), CBD still has the forager aesthetic that drew me when I would sit at the bar for their little cabrito hand pies—when the place was new and rustic and chic.
The grass-fed steak tartare has always been a triumph, the supple rare beef’s umami depth accented with grated cured egg yolk and the brilliantly earthy sweetness of a black garlic Dijonnaise. A gorgeous 44 Farms rib steak served on a rustic wooden board vied one evening with the Gulf catch—pan-seared redfish over a soft swish of corn “pudding” and a salad of creamer peas and green and yellow wax beans, like last impressions of summer. The steak’s mammoth ribs and deep carnal beat left you in awe of the animal. While a flavorful smoked carrot salad that had drunk deeply of its smoke was mollified by a turmeric crème fraiche.
I like to sneak away for lunch, when house-cured meats might be on display in a pastrami sandwich, and the menu features some of dinner’s popular small plates, like the avocado salad and celery-root hummus. I went recently on a day when scraps of the gorgeous, long-braised Berkshire pork head had been thrown in with green chiles and hominy for the daily soup, and the meal ended with an ice box pie with a cheesecakey lemon mousse, fat sploodges of lemon curd, blueberry jam, and poppy-seed ice cream.
They’ve always had a thoughtful beverage list interspersed with regional bests. And a boldly savory brunch menu. Braised tripe? Yes. Also corned duck, sauerkraut, and red rye hollandaise. And ever the sweeter brunch items lean savory: French toast made with tangy sourdough, or oatmeal crepes.
The staff sometimes drifts, but other things are firmly in place. Like the artisanship behind an ice cream sandwich: a triumph of candied pecans, house-made ice cream, a righteous caramel, rich as sin, and shortbread cookies. The technical skill isn’t something you have to think about; it’s simply there, undergirding everything. It’s nice to have a place downtown where even a side of king trumpet mushrooms with hazelnuts, bitter radicchio, pecorino, and mushroom purée will be a subtle feat.