Breakfast is equally inspired, offering fresh-pressed juices, coffee curated by A Good Egg's beverage director Jason Ewald, various teas and pastries.
Hearty breakfast entrees on the menu draw inspiration from home and abroad. The fried green tomato Benedict and the cat head biscuit with chorizo gravy are brilliant plays on classic morning fare. The soft-baked eggs with braised white beans and speck ham topped with poblano pesto is a good way to put yourself right back into bed to let the impending food coma run its course.
In some cases, Kitchen 324 kills two birds with one stone. The salmon-and-lox-inspired smoked salmon sandwich with pickled quail egg, double-whipped cream cheese, capers and slivered red onions on a homemade bagel is on both lunch and breakfast menus. For lunch, it stands in for the old baked fish present on every cafeteria that ever stood.
Due to overwhelming demand on weekends, Kitchen 324 offers a brunch menu.
“We found out right away people wanted breakfast all day on the weekends,” Keith Paul said.
Paul also said large crowds caused them to adjust their counter-service format slightly.
“When the line gets too long, we just hold people back from ordering until tables come available,” he said.
They had some trouble with folks table-squatting while friends or family ordered at the counter, which completely throws off the flow of a concept like this.
Baked goods are a challenge
Keith and Heather Paul and chef Robert Black will tell you the breads and pastries Kitchen 324 offers presented the biggest challenge they've ever faced with any concept they've opened.
So big, in fact, they enlisted the help of chef Pierre Fauvet, a renowned pastry chef who happens to be friends with chef Black's mentor Kurt Fleischfresser of The Coach House.
Asked the most important thing he learned during this process, Keith Paul said, “Pierre Fauvet's phone number.”
Fauvet spent two weeks training staff, refining recipes and teaching pastry techniques.
Chef Black said tapping Fauvet was the smartest thing they did during the process.
After one bite of the pecan pie Paul told me was Pierre's recipe, I didn't need to hear another word. Sold.
Kitchen 324 will sell fresh bread daily along with an assortment of pies, pastries and desserts all developed under Fauvet's direction. You will not be disappointed.
What's not to like?
Let us not pretend Kitchen 324 as it currently operates is perfect. It's not open for dinner. It is not currently taking call-in orders. It's not next-door to my house.
On the other hand, any restaurant that opens without giving itself room to grow is doing itself a disservice.
Construction still vexes downtown, making parking a problem. If you work downtown, like I will be starting sometime next year, Kitchen 324 is a godsend.
Keith Paul said the restaurant isn't taking call-in orders, but that will change soon. He said they also plan to offer limited delivery for downtown and commercial catering.
When A Good Egg Dining took on the fried-onion burger with Tucker's, they did it with aplomb and surgical precision.
With Kitchen 324, they've opened a box sure to inspire other chefs and restaurateurs.
After dragging the 1960s and '70s for cafeteria inspiration and the 1950s and '90s for coffee bar culture, the only thing left for Keith and Heather Paul to do is raid the 1980s and 2000s for an upscale fajita concept that couples Fresh-Mex and frozen yogurt. Maybe call it Fro Yo La Tengo.
I would hold my breath until that concept comes to life, but that would make it impossible to enjoy a fried chicken pot pie with a slice of pecan pie from Kitchen 324.
The world where that will happen exists on a plane of consciousness assigned to a life beyond this one.