Skillet's kitchen handles the limited options with proficiency.
Skillet's pledge of "rustic urban food" seems like one of those irreconcilable contradictions, like deafening silence or Led Zeppelin.
Hours of debate could be devoted to what exactly constitutes rustic or urban cuisine, so let's not get hamstrung on the premise. There certainly is some rustic cuisine on the menu at this German Village-area eatery, such as the tomatoey pumpkin soup ($4) with black beans and wonderful little toasted pepitas, or pumpkin seeds. All that was missing was a dash of salt. Oddly enough, the small salt and pepper shakers are set on a strip metal panel on the wall, not on each table where they belong. The thin cream of tomato soup ($4) was not as successful.
Skillet seems to be a relative term, as most of the browned items are done on the flattop grill. No matter. It's done with skill in all circumstances.
There are more than a few metro-oriented choices, such as the braised beef short ribs sandwich ($9), served on grilled brioche. With a savory depth that's almost beyond words, a slice of quality Gouda gives it a rich, smoky dimension. A side of creamy horseradish sauce is a nice counterpoint to the garnish of grilled spicy peppers. All sandwiches we tried came with a ramekin of chilled black-eyed peas seasoned with onion and pepper. Decent, but they might have tasted better warm.
There's something insanely endearing about Skillet, which has taken over the former Banana Bean Cafe spot. Its pedestrian-friendly location and petite environs suggest something more citified than pastoral.
Familiar sounds and aromas drift out of the open kitchen, where orders are placed. The restaurant is a partnership between Banana Bean's founding chef Kevin Caskey and his son, Patrick.
The condensed menu offers about five grilled sandwiches, a couple of soups, sides and a pasta dish. Nothing on two visits topped $10.
The setup is simple: Order and pay at the counter and the plate is shuttled out to the table. A small assortment of beverages -- pop, water and juice -- is available.
A thick slab of juicy pork, with a healthy burst of garlic and rosemary, is set on ciabatta (porchetta, $7). The dousing of natural juices soaks the bread, making it that much more luscious and still manageable using your hands. Yet, it seems to be missing something -- mustard, tomato, pickles or some other condiment to give it dimension. Placing pierogis on toasted bread ($7) is one of those big carbo-loading propositions, like noodles over mashed potatoes. But in this case, the heat from a crunchy, Asian-style slaw seems to take away from the richness of the dumplings stuffed with cheese and mashed potatoes. Still, we couldn't help but feel the pierogis would have been better served alone with a dollop of sour cream.
Some people believe no meal is complete without dessert. For the time being, their needs will go unfulfilled as there are no sweets at Skillet.
With so many restaurants presenting an exhaustive, one-size-fits-all menu, it's nice to see an eatery confident with a limited number of choices. It will give the restaurant time to tweak the offerings before adding dinner hours.
Reservations: Not accepted
Hours: 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. (brunch) Saturday and Sunday and closed Monday