Cooking up Community 6

It was one of those nights: snowy and cold (the weather); tired and hungry (my husband and I). The babysitter canceled, but we were still desperate to get out of the house and let someone else cook and do the dishes. With two young (read: rowdy) kids, there aren’t a whole lot of choices of where we can drop in for a good meal without having to worry about every rogue shriek or cry. I’d recently heard of a new restaurant in downtown Lafayette called Community, and if that name doesn’t scream “Bring your three and four year olds!” then I don’t know what does.

Judging by how full it was on a Tuesday night at 5:45 p.m., I’d say the community is responding pretty well to Community. We snagged one of the last available tables and breathed a sigh of relief that there were both small kids at the tables next to us, and a menu that didn’t read like a typical suburban chain.

The restaurant is modern and welcoming, with a sleek industrial feel, sliding garage doors, and a fire blazing out front. 
The service matched the welcoming feel – so much so that I ordered a drink called ‘Trust Me,’ with bourbon, egg white and lemon juice.

“It’s the most time-consuming to make, but it’s the best one,” my waitress promised. She was right: not only was it strong for the $9 price tag, but it was clearly very carefully conceived and mixed.

Community’s menu reads vintage southern, with viddles like sweet tea brined roasted chicken, bison Salisbury steak, collard greens, and a daily pie in a jar. We started with the tater tot poutine ($10), which was a trio of crab cake-sized tots topped with a light chicken gravy and deliciously sweet Cipollini onions. It was great, and made even better by the fact that the kids were so into their cool coloring sheet that I got to finish it by myself.

Entrees come in three sizes – small, medium and large – which encourages sampling. We tried the gently seared sweet potato gnocchi ($14; all prices are for medium portions), real chile Colorado ($15), and slow ‘n’ low oxtail ($15). The chile is heavy on the lamb and drizzled with a chipotle crème fraiche. Pro tip: order it with a side of cornbread for the perfect sweet-spicy bite.

The oxtail was so good that it made me abandon my gnocchi and box it up for lunch the next day. I was so enamored by the date demi glace swirling around the bowl that I tried to replicate it a couple days later at home (to no avail). The oxtail does have a healthy dose of fat, but it’s the fat that gives it its rich flavor. If you order one thing at Community, make it this.

The kids’ menu is fairly extensive, with choices ranging from creamy shells n’ cheese to fish sticks to flatbread burrata (all $7). They come with a healthy(ish) side, so I felt a little better about caving to the fried Oreo sundae ($8) for dessert.

Because the restaurant is clearly trying to cater to its, well, community, it recently started serving brunch on weekends. The root vegetable hash with poached eggs and berry crepe will most certainly be calling when we’re having one of those mornings. And we’ll be there, kids and all, along with the rest of our community looking for a good bite.