Two of the area’s best chefs team up to give Sussex a taste of haute country cuisine.
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The team has made Abbott’s into a place that’s about comfortable, local flavor, or, as the voice on the answering machine chirps, “A place for family and friends to gather.” There’s something on the menu for everyone: fried green tomatoes and mac ’n’ cheese next to baked brie and apricots, as well as beautiful braised lamb shank next to something called fry-chos.
Before opening, the Abbott’s team performed a little reconnaissance on a few of the town’s chain places (which are going gangbusters even as locally owned restaurants close left and right). What a clever idea. If Ruby Tuesday’s can clean up with salads and burgers, why not Abbott’s? And you’d better believe Abbott’s would be much better.
Reading and Cunningham have the talent to turn salads into wonderful creations and to make burgers masterpieces of local bison patties with portobellos, smoked onions and bacon—all the while keeping the tab under $20. I didn’t get to try the fry-chos, but I’ll bet they’re delicious. Nearly everything else I ate was.
From the start, it’s easy to see the labor that has been poured into these dishes. Reading and Cunningham’s knack for hard-fought flavors can be found everywhere on the varied menu. Even simple creamy chicken and corn chowder, with its barely-there tendrils of tender chicken and notes of sweetness, took hours to perfect. The kitchen roasts whole cobs of corn, shaves off the kernels, then steeps the bare cobs in cream to begin building the broth. Tasso ham comes through with much-needed saltiness.
I really enjoyed the few occasions when the kitchen eschewed traditional down-home cooking for a hybridized haute-country style. Such was the Cajun meatloaf, a hunk of meat so juicy and tender, it yielded like birthday cake to a fork. The traditional country gravy was very good, but I dug the dollop of peppery chutney, whose hints of curry and ginger had me thinking Far East instead of Southeast.
Earthy shrimp and lobster pot pie, meanwhile, had me pining for Nantucket. The dish is steeped in French tradition. The velvety filling was lobster veloute, a creamy lobster broth built from mirepoix, roux and bouquet garni. The veloute I would guzzle like Gatorade. The only negative was chewy, slightly overcooked chunks of lobster.
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