Grand Reopening

Connecting Dots

Venerable velvet-painting venue on SE Clinton returns intact

By Monica Down August 8, 2012

When dimly lit diner/bar/clubhouse Dot’s Cafe closed in early July, the free-spirited denizens of the Southeast Clinton hood were forced to appease their roaring bellies with cans of PBR and microwave burritos from the nearby Plaid Pantry. In a two-for-one hit, both spirits and diets were devastated.

But hey, everybody! Dot’s Café is open once more!

In a mere 16 days, new owners John Ricci and Eli Johnson have dusted off the ravishing collection of velvet paintings, turned the lights down to a “subtle” darkness, and maintained their allegiance to the ultimate salty treat: bacon cheddar fries. That’s right, woeful mourners of this beloved late-night destination—Dot’s thrift-store ambiance and comfort cuisine lives on.

Now, while the red booth furnishings, low-hanging lights, and chatty hipsters are still part of the décor, the menu reveals a changing vision. Burgers, quesadillas and sandwiches are still being served but with new ingredients and prices that launch these staples into a more refined class. The Franz bread has been replaced with local grain, the two-part cocktails are now infused, complex, and even more delicious, and new menu items include various rice bowls, miso green salad, and oxtail ravioli (still on the drawing board).

When asked about the changes, co-owner and all-around nice guy, Eli Johnson, commented: “For our soft opening, we stayed true to the old menu and were surprised when people wanted more. Our cook and I are known for creativity in the kitchen and bar, and it seemed people were expecting our take on Dot’s classics”.

As of last week, the menu and happy hour were still adjusting on a daily basis, as Johnson and company are trying to find a harmonious balance between maintaining Dot’s unpretentious prestige and putting their own stamp on things. However, coming from a girl who will always side with delectable eats over nostalgia (don’t judge me), the newly added spice rack is a definite improvement. If you walk into Dot’s expecting the exact same chow you scarfed down in the early oughts, you may be disoriented, but if you can keep an open mind then I have a few tasty suggestions.

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With a happy hour not yet established, my dining counterpart and I decided to go big with Johnson’s cocktail concoctions ($7-8). Like a true Southern belle wannabe, I opted for the Old Fashion Peach with infused peach vodka and orange juice. While I hoped this drink would make me feel as delicate and feminine as a cotillion debutante, it quickly became obvious that the bartender had different intentions for my night. My peach potable was more inebriating than graceful. Luckily, with a dilution solution—God’s gift to lightweights—I was able to enjoy the pleasantly fruity and refreshing elements of the beverage. Though the price is steep with no happy hour deals, my lone cocktail lasted the entire evening and my flushed cheeks fooled me into thinking I was into my second or third. Take advantage of a new and improved cocktail menu—you won’t regret it.

Even with change on the horizon, Dot’s is staying true to the untouchable holiness of burgers teamed with classic Belgian cut fries with topping options of cheese, meat, and jalapenos ($3-7). However, if you are looking for something with a tad less cholesterol, the spicy tofu rice bowl was my pick of the night. Seasoned just right, the spice of the tofu was perfectly balanced with crisp summer vegetables ($8). As of now, the happy hour isn’t substantial ($1 off everything except sandwiches) but I have a feeling my newly awakened taste for spicy tofu will lead me back to Dot’s door, no matter the price.

2521 Southeast Clinton Street

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