Lunch At The Hearth

Written by Mary Ann Fitzmorris January 18, 2024 22:05 in Dining Diary

On weekends we like to hit the road for a little adventure. By little, I mean a 90 minute radius of the city. I’d love to go to Grand Isle but Tom has to train for that.

The last adventure we had took us to a place I have wanted to visit ever since I had the chef on the show. The Hearth is a part of the restaurant 1796 at the Myrtles in St. Francisville. I seem to remember in the early days of my time with Tom that the restaurant at The Myrtles was of some renown, but it was in the haunted house.

I got excited talking to the chef, picturing sitting around the hearth watching him cook like it was the mid-nineteenth century. I was shocked to see a brand new building when I arrived, and very disappointed to see The Hearth and their dining hours on the door.

This new place is arrestingly beautiful in a rustic way. I immediately preferred sitting here to some old joint. Give me Ralph Lauren-style glamour any time!

It’s quite a large place that I imagine is always packed. There is a nice bar and three dining spaces, including “the hearth” where you can watch your food being grilled over open fire. By the time we got there, it was more like embers, but we could still feel the warmth. It must be daunting to have to be that close as the chef, particularly in warmer months.

The new hearth is a smallish grill, and it is so close to the patrons you can see everything the chef is doing. There is a window into the kitchen to the right of the chef, so a diner can see their entire food preparation.

The menu is underwhelming. It was hard to find something I wanted. It was better than what I saw online. It was all over the place in terms of choices. There was cornbread with collards as an app, Spinach dip with crabmeat, a mushroom brie and honey dip with pita, fried rabbit livers, and steak tartare. The last one was a surprise. So gourmet in a casual place like this. Tom noticed.

The entrees were equally incongruous. A frittata, a French Dip sandwich, a Smashburger, and grilled redfish.

We ordered the mushroom dip, the Spinach dip, and cornbread and I thought about the tartare for Tom. but the first three came before I could get the waitress, who was not very attentive.

The spinach dip was a lovely presentation in a copper ramekin with handles. It came with the most ordinary thin tortilla chips that seemed right out of a bag. There was a nice amount of crabmeat on top of the dip, which was good enough.

The mushroom dip was rich and delicious, with large pieces of mushroom buried in the Brie and Fontina cheeses. There was honey in there somewhere. It all came together very nicely. This rich and delectable spread was served with toasted pita triangles with char marks from the grill.

The cornbread came with char marks from the grill. Some whipped buttermilk was puddled alongside it. A small bit of mustard greens was sitting in the puddle and topped with pickled onion slices. Even though the cornbread had a lot of butter on it, I didn’t like this at all.

The entrees were better. Tom loved his redfish, which was served over cream cheese grits and asparagus, the whole thing napped with blackened crab sauce. It was a nice portion of fish and the textures and flavors offset each other nicely.

My French Dip was made with short ribs and was very tender, as short ribs should always be. It was served on a nice French roll with Provolone, horseradish mayo, and pepperoncini peppers. The au jus was very salty but I like salty. It was a dense color and just a very nice au jus. The truffle Parmesan fries that came with it were the ordinary frozen kind, but a good version of that. They were crispy and nicely seasoned.

Overall this was an ordinary meal, made much more interesting by the place we were sitting. We watched all the orders go out and that was entertaining.

I would go back there because St.Francisville is a cute town and it was a nice drive on back roads. The restaurant is a feast for the eyes and a very pleasant place to have a meal. I wouldn’t go back for the food, but the food wouldn’t deter me. There are a lot worse ways to spend a Sunday afternoon.