Out in downtown Durham we’ve seen a bunch of new restaurants popping up: Mothers & Sons, Lucky Delicatessen, and now Littler! Brought to you by the folks from Pizzeria Toro, a friend of mine had it on her short list so we decided to stop in for dinner one evening. And given I had no idea what to expect, there were big surprises all around from Littler!
From the outside, Littler presents a mysterious front. Oooh, what’s behind that black curtain, Littler?! What you’ll find is a cozy little nook of a dining room dressed out in brick and warm woods. Large mural to one side and a refreshed retro feel to the space. 70’s mod, white chairs and the reel-to-reel tape deck in back is functional and handling the music for the evening, groovy BABY! The overall space is warm and well-done in a very hipster, urban fashion.
And as you can guess, Littler is all about the small plates. With about 20 on the menu ranging from raw bar, snacks, full plates and sides, the menu is quirky and tight. The tricky part is while the menu lists ingredients for each plate, the preparation is missing from the description so you’ll have to guess outside of the raw section. We order up a handful of small plates: fried duck tongue, latkes benedict and my pastrami with rye. All the plates are interesting looking, my pastrami is paired up with rye crackers, pickle and heavy grain mustard which dazzles the eyes. The pastrami is lean and smoky and plays off well with the crunchy rye and mustard. A nice spin on a deli classic. The latkes look beautiful full of pinks and greens, great visual appeal. And the duck tongues are a hit although I pass on giving them a try. I guess I must have had Daffy Duck on the brain, preventing me from trying it out!
Our mains come out next and my hanger steak plate is beautiful. Four pieces of nicely grilled medium beef with some compound butter, marrow flan and grilled cipollini (onions). It’s a great forkful combining the sinewy beef with the creamy flan, a creative take on steak. A nice side of squash au gratin completes my meal which feels like a spin on the steakhouse! My friend’s lamb burger looks excellent paired with an interesting potato salad.
Service at Littler is very professional but a bit formal for the space. While the ambiance says casual and relaxed, the prices and service at Littler speak to a more formal type of meal. And overall the plates were a bit hit and miss in terms of taste and flavor profile. But you know what, it’s still early for Littler. While I liked my meal and thought the creativity and preparation was decent, at its price range it makes it more of a challenge to accept some of the inconsistencies in the menu. So good start Littler, while your plates are on the smaller side, your culinary ambitions are quite large. More to come, I’m curious to see what visit #2 will bring for me at Littler!