The venerable People's Foods was a towering colossus among greasy spoons, a favourite of starving students and the Annex area's well-heeled alike. For 30 years it scrambled, fried and grilled its way into our hearts (and arteries). So when co-owners Anthony Rose and Robert Wilder revamped the former fast food hole-in-the-wall by injecting it with a new hit of cool, they were careful to respect its history by maintaining some trace of the places's past, like taking your own order on classic yellow Guest Check pads. (Uhmm, so who's tipping whom here?)
A fries with gravy ($7) looks like pretty much any other plate of frites, but you just know there was much thought, perhaps too much, put into the gravy that gives it its peculiar, slightly sweet and sour taste. A grilled romaine ($10), however, elicits squeals of delight. And though it's very much typical of the 100-ways-to-do-lettuce trend, this take on a Caesar salad with a Toscano, anchovy and garlic dressing packs a real punch, even if only one side is grilled.
For many of us of a certain age, just uttering the words liver and onions ($11) conjures up traumatic childhood memories. But for us offal aficionados who can't resist a perfectly sautÃ©ed provimi veal calf's liver, what you get here is not what you'd expect -- and that's a good thing. Though misleading, a thin schmear of liver mousse coating slabs of cornbread, served with cherry jam, delivers on all flavour fronts. Continuing with chef's much appreciated subtle nod to Southern cuisine is a curious blending of flavours: maple hushpuppies ($14) are perfectly soft and pillowy like cornmeal gnocchi, but their pairing with the best smoked salmon in town, horseradish and beetroot yogurt instead of, say, fried catfish is a real head scratcher. Sometimes a dish can be too over thought, and here's a definitive example of one such misfire. Thankfully, a straightforward roast pork tostada ($19) is a work of art, even at such a hefty price.
Crispy ginger and maple chilli beef ($26) is really just General Tao chicken...with crispy beef instead. But it's OMG awesome! Served with mashed potatoes, scallions and walnuts, it's a Chinese version of shepherd's pie that will have you licking the plate clean (what are you looking at lady?) for every last morsel. But the real standout of this repast is a duck confit ($24) as God intended it to be. A gorgeous skin is so crispy it shatters to reveal an expertly cooked piece of poultry. Okay call me the plate police but dumbing down this prized bird with a wiener and beans is sheer sacrilege. The generosity of the dish, which also comes with brussels sprouts and a very sweet poached pear is impressive, but the cacophony of tastes is enough to send a tongue into therapy.
Rose and Sons, in its effort to deliver a food experience a bit out of the ordinary makes no exceptions with the dessert menu. The nostalgically named vanilla "custard", really a homemade soft-serve, served with an oatmeal crisp and chocolate sauce is a flawless ode to the iconic sundae with a fresh modern twist. And the bread pudding ($8) is also a lip-smacking keeper, even if it is served up for brunch as French toast topped with wild blueberries.
It is an indisputable fact that Rose can turn the world on with his smile. So whatever he does with Rose and Sons will most probably be met with satisfaction by customers eager to experience what this art of the greasy spoon is all about. And hey, anybody that finds rooms to be bring in tap beer in a place the size of shoebox, poured out of a buddha no less, is okay in my books. And judging by all the media hype thus far Rose and Sons is sure to enjoy a big wave of success. The only problem is it's nearly impossible to get a reservation; and they don't call back despite leaving multiple messages. So drop by and expect to line up. You won't be disappointed and really, it's not like you have anything better to do.