What to expect: The restaurant, owned by Brian Twomey of the successful Loft 610 and his partner Corey Pond, opened last week in the old Lola space on Fairmont Street. Valet parking is pretty much required, though you might luck into a spot on the street.
The setup: As the name suggests, the Common Table is a casual, welcoming restaurant that has a neighborhood tavern vibe. In front, a black iron gate fences off the good-sized patio, where red umbrellas hang over round tables (this is also the only place I spotted an actual “common table”). The trees and bushes surrounding it give it a hanging-out-in-the-garden feeling. Inside is where the place really feels like a tavern. The lights are dim, the tables are made of dark wood, and large retrofitted warehouse lights hang over the bar. A chalkboard with specials hangs on one wall, and black and white photos of people like David Bowie adorn another.
On the menu: It's similar to several other restaurants around town right now (the Porch, Nick & Sam’s Grill, and Neighborhood Services Tavern come to mind). Upscale comfort food dominates. Two kinds of burgers are offered, as is a grilled cheese sandwich, a few salads, entrees like roasted chicken and braised short ribs, and "small plates" like fried calamari and crab fritters. We started out with three of these plates for $19, a special they offer every day. The pulled pork spring rolls were greasy and delicious, with a tiny spark of ginger. The veal parmigiana sliders sounded delicious, but ours came out lukewarm and chewy. The nugget-shaped calamari was good. It was served with sriracha sauce, which tasted like it was straight out of a bottle. After such heavy starters, splitting an entrée seemed wise. We chose the Uncommon Baby Back ribs, which were fantastic. Tender, well-seasoned, and just enough for two. The ribs came with jicama slaw (unremarkable) and matchstick fries that could have been a bit crisper. We also ordered a side of spring vegetables, which turned out to include pattypan squash (also known as sunburst squash), a delicious seasonal addition.
Drinks: The drink menu contains several “Cocktail Creations” named after significant events in history that happened on June 2 (the day the restaurant opened). We tried the L Train and the Mick. The L Train was like a light version of a mojito, and the Mick was sweet and fruity and didn’t seem to have much alcohol (but probably did). With our entrée, we chose the wine and beer pairings that were listed on the menu–a helpful tip. The Stone Smoked Porter and the Angeline pinot noir were both perfect with the meat. Wines were mostly from California. The beers are interesting, like Brewdog Tokyo, Brooklyn Local One, and Rogue Hazelnut Brown Nectar.
Who was there: The crowd was mostly in its 30s and 40s. Casual, but in a, “I just got back from vacation” kind of way, not in a, “I just left the pool at my apartment complex” kind of way.
Where to sit: The patio is pretty. If you can stand the heat, it is recommended.
Price: The filet is the most expensive item at $22.
Nice detail: Despite the fact that the restaurant just opened, the service was great. Our water glasses were always full, and empty plates were whisked away quickly. The food also came out fast. We were in and out in 45 minutes, which has to be some kind of record.
The takeaway: I’ll always miss Lola, but The Common Table exceeded my expectations. I would definitely like to return. There are several other menu items I’d like to try (the spicy shrimp wrap, the Camburger). I also liked the fact that the crowd skewed a bit more mature–a rare find in Uptown.