In December 2013, the Metro Wine Bar and Bistro, 6418 N Western Ave., turns 25, but owners Chris and LaVeryl Lower are celebrating more than a year in advance after hiring chef Christine Dowd to amp up the kitchen of one of the city's most respected restaurants.
When Dowd closed her downtown Trattoria il Centro earlier this year after seemingly endless construction in the area, it was a dark day in the local dining scene. She and partner Maggie Howell still run the highly successful Aunt Pittypat's Catering, but paraphrasing Chris Lower, it didn't seem right that diners could enjoy her food by invitation only.
So, a few months ago, Lower engaged chef Dowd, and a deal was struck. Dowd takes the executive chef jacket, following chef Rolyn Soberanis, who is now at Big Truck Tacos.
“Rolyn is doing great with Big Truck,” said Lower, who is also co-owner of the wildly successful gourmet taqueria. “We've got some plans for maximizing his talents there.”
Dowd, who was born and raised in New Jersey with professional stops in New York, San Francisco and Chicago, has spent her first month-plus at The Metro getting to know the kitchen staff, streamlining the operation and gauging how best to make herself at home. She was charged with taking the Metro to the next level. After a short audit, she was struck by the wine list.
“The wine list here is one of the best in the state,” Dowd said. “My goal is to create a menu that matches the wine list.”
Dowd and the Lowers are currently engaged in a menu makeover. They expect to unveil it in September.
“We will still offer classic, seasonal dishes,” Lower said.
Dowd concurred, saying she looks forward to the broader canvas The Metro offers her.
Dowd's ‘wow' factor
Those who knew Dowd only for her work at Trattoria il Centro will be wowed by her range. Her ability and knowledge of Italian food is unquestioned, but she is a classically trained chef. She is well-known in the chef's community for her knowledge and technique across the board, not to mention uncanny leadership and passion for sharing it with students and young chefs.
I love to tell the story of when Dowd joined us for the Chefs Recipe Challenge at Culinary Kitchen. Tasked with making fish sticks, she made what I still consider the best dish I had during that 13-month run. Then when she joined us for the Chefs Recipe Challenge Thanksgiving Special, her salted-caramel pecan pie was equally transcendent.
Then there was the salad topped with a flash-fried four-minute egg rolled in breadcrumbs at Odyssey de Culinaire in 2011, which chef after chef called the dish most likely to be stolen for a weekly special.
Chef Dowd's passion is seasonal cooking with local ingredients, which matches the mission the Lowers have put on The Metro over the years. This partnership has the potential to not only improve one of the city's most-loved restaurants but to raise the bar for the entire local restaurant landscape.
It's a win for a city working hard to develop its culinary reputation, and a win for diners.
If you go
Metro Wine Bar and Bistro, 6418 N Western Ave., is open for lunch and dinner Monday through Friday and dinner service on Saturday and Sunday. Call 840-9463 for reservations or book by Open Table online at metrowinebar.com.