You know what they say in restaurants: when one lunch service ends, another happy hour opens. The Rieger Hotel Grill & Exchange (1924 Main Street) made news last week with the announcement that it will stop serving lunch. The decision was prompted, in part, by the decision of two chefs — including full-time lunch cook Marcus McCreary, who is headed to Austin, Texas, — to move on from the restaurant. The eatery’s new happy hour begins today at 3 p.m.
The Rieger’s dining room was full this past Friday, the last day of lunch service, with chef Howard Hanna floating between the open kitchen and tables to visit with regulars. Farm to Market had delivered slider buns earlier that morning and Hanna was also playing around with the reinvention of his pork tenderloin sandwich.
“It was so popular,” Hanna says of the tenderloin made with Paradise Locker Meats’ Duroc pork. “And like anything that’s popular, I got sick of it. So, I took it off the menu. But people went crazy, so we had to bring it back as our Wednesday special.”
“Heston Blumenthal has spent years searching for tempura that is as light and as crunchy as possible,” Hanna says.
In order to achieve the proper crunch, Hanna uses a flavor neutral vodka in lieu of water as part of the tempura batter.
“The alcohol has a lower boiling point, so the second it hits the fryer, all the liquid is gone,” Hanna explains. “The tempura just stays crunchy forever.”
Both sides of the bun are buttered and lightly toasted. Herb mayonnaise, made with tarragon and parsley, is spread on the bottom and top of the pounded and breaded tenderloin. Hanna also adds pickled red onion, sliced radishes and butter lettuce.
“We’re drawing from Kitty’s. I always order it with extra mayo and hot sauce,” Hanna says. “You get this sweet, hot, rich, crunchy sandwich.”
The Rieger’s happy hour runs from 3 to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday.