Foodie Underground: Formulating the Foolproof Foodie Menu

ColumnStipple that fennel emulsion with cold-pressed chervil oil and serve.

The signs are clear.

You can name the five local artisan cheeses served at your neighborhood wine bar, and you have come to accept the fact that one of them comes from more than 100 miles away. At your dinner parties, you inevitably hear “You should start a restaurant!” at least once before the main course is even served. Your liquor cabinet includes various home distilled bottles that verge on being illegal. You’ve eaten at least one dessert or baked good made with butternut squash in the last week. You drizzle olive oil on your ice cream. You scoff at fellow diners who do not instinctively question the origin of their meat, or inquire after the cow’s/chicken’s/salmon’s name.

Yes, the time has come: You’re ready to channel your foodie chops into a full time gig.

But before you go scoping out the latest empty warehouse space and decorate it with minimalist salvaged furniture and soy tea lights, take some time to focus on your menu. Foodie Underground has put together a foolproof guide to help you along your way to launching a successful business, one that’s sure to get you plenty of write-ups in the blogosphere and, more importantly, tweets from food nerds.


Bourbon, bitters and definitely something infused, preferably with bacon.

Champagne and elderflower.


Choose either a dynamic or intentionally plain name for this section of the menu. Anything in French will do, or simple phrases like “small plates.” Then make sure to have at least two of the following:

Wilted bitter greens.

Some type of carb with crust cut off.

A basket of bread studded with as much farmhouse cheddar or bacon as possible. Rosemary is so 2005.

Goat cheese. Preferably on beets, but other roots will do in a pinch. Think parsnips or rutabaga.

Braised greens on brioche. Both are on foodie menus everywhere, but in such an inventive pairing? Sure to get you a write up.

Main course

May also be referred to as “Mains.”

Creamy polenta. Garnish with bacon.

Roasted [free range chicken or alternatively, any extremely tiny poultry] with heirloom [insert root vegetable] atop fennel [emulsion, sauce, or stew]. Garnish with bacon.

Pan-fried offal seared in duck fat. Garnish with bacon.

Cured [insert pig part] with medium-rare [insert fatty pig part] and grapes.

Something Scandinavian would be nice, like pickled [anything] with an aquavit, lingonberry, dill sauce, but call it glaze.

Something French, that includes at least two prepositions written in italics.

Something soulful. Mashed fingerling potatoes with macaroni and cheese is a great start as long as you garnish with bacon.

Something that inspires the diner to use the word “locavore” in a sentence.


Caramelized fruit with toasted hazelnuts drizzled in olive oil.

Hand-cranked ice cream flavored with a savory ingredient. Think black tea, coriander or bacon.

Anything baked in a ramekin.

Creme brulee with locally grown lavender, seasoned with bee pollen.

Cappuccino, as long as it is shade grown and isn’t – whatever you do – wet.

Other tips

Get a logo in Helvetica.

Accept cash only. Plastic would simply ruin the authenticity of the experience.

Hand write your menu. Or choose a typewriter font.

Stick to lowercase letters, or all caps, but make sure it’s one or the other.

Serve your booze in Mason Jars, your water in old wine bottles, and if you’re going for a more upscale feel, your housemade seltzer in bottles that close with a wire clasp.

Hang up some art, preferably a framed typography poster.

Paint your back wall in chalkboard paint and write up the day’s specials in cursive.

Have some pink Himalayan salt somewhere, ideally as a votive candle holder.

And when you’re finally open for business, be sure to let us know, because there’s nothing we love more than spending an evening in a low lit restaurant that’s painfully hip. We’ll bring cash, we promise.

Editor’s note: This is the latest installment of Anna Brones’s weekly column at EcoSalon, Foodie Underground, discovering what’s new and different in the underground food movement, from supper clubs to mini markets to the culinary avant garde.

Images: Anna Brones

Anna Brones

Anna Brones is a food + travel writer with a love for coffee and bikes. She is the author of The Culinary Cyclist and Fika: The Art of the Swedish Coffee Break. Catch her weekly column, Foodie Underground.