Delores, the new, deeply personal restaurant from Top Chef alum BJ Smith, opens tomorrow, and those who remember Smith’s previous restaurant in the same space will be shocked. Gone are the goofy taxidermy animals holding cans and scattered trinkets; now, Smith has created a place with the fun and playfulness of Smokehouse Tavern, with a few nods to his late mother, the restaurant’s namesake.
Earlier this fall, Smith announced plans to transform Smokehouse Tavern, his Buckman barbecue spot, into a restaurant with looser boundaries and many nods to his background. A major inspiration for Delores is Smith’s late mother, the restaurant’s namesake; he chose to cover the walls of Delores with flamingos and quail, which she loved. At the entrance, a wall of pink flamingos and ferns greets diners, with touches of gold throughout the room. A few elements of Smokehouse remain, like the rustic wood furniture and the few small, mounted quail near the bar. Still, they’re almost overshadowed by breathtaking mounted art — from Smith’s personal collection — and the cheerful assemblage of living plants.
Smith returns to his family as a theme throughout the restaurant’s menu, as well. “My mom really loved luxury ingredients, so a smear of caviar or truffles — it was always a treat to have that kind of stuff in the house,” Smith remembers. Those touches come through in dishes like his smoked beets with beet ash and truffle demi-glace, his sort of upgrade to a classic side, as well as dishes like foie gras and pheasant pierogi and bone-marrow French onion soup. Those dishes would likely pair well with a Lucille-Bluth-pleasing vodka martini, finished with a foie-gras-stuffed kalamata olive.
Like his beets, Smith leans heavily on family staples as the foundations of many dishes on the Delores menu. Smith’s grandmother is Polish, and he spent summers with her making pierogi for family parties. The restaurant’s potato-cheese pierogi are almost identical to those he made with her as a kid, but he added extra oomph with caramelized onions and bacon; specifically, he added the tarte flambée onions from his years in New York kitchens (Smith spent time at illustrious restaurants like Le Bernardin and Gotham Bar & Grill). Mom’s love of decadence plays a little more clearly in his other pierogis, like his potato-truffle pierogi with braised leeks and caviar beurre blanc. Like mother, like son.
Delores will be open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Wednesdays through Sundays.
• Delores [Official]
• A ‘Top Chef’ Alum Is Opening a Playful Polish Restaurant in Buckman [EPDX]