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Monday, July 15, 2013

Poor Calvin's: A mild fusion of Southern comfort and Thai cuisine

I don't know why Calvin Phan's restaurant across from Renaissance Park is called Poor Calvin's. Nor do I know why it hasn't gotten more attention from restaurant writers. Everyone knows critics are bums. So, maybe it's the fact that Calvin's occupies the former home of the BumBot, a robot that chased away the denizens of the night that made business so difficult for the former tenant, O'Terrill's Irish Pub.

Whatever, a friend who lives in the neighborhood told me the restaurant's inexpensive, kinda-sorta fusion of Southern comfort and Thai food was pretty good. I think he understated the case.

We found Calvin's crowded on a recent weekend night. The restaurant only seats 61 people, including bar and outdoor seating. So, I'd get a reservation just to be sure.

Among the comfy dishes is a surprisingly tasty meatloaf over kale-mashed potatoes, served with a couple of crispy onion rings and a somewhat spicy tequila gravy (above). I'm not a meatloaf fan typically but Calvin's rocks.

"Somewhat spicy" is the norm here. You won't find any fiery flavors - certainly not in the dishes I sampled, but the same is true of those with stronger Thai influence, according to my friend.

He especially recommended the excellent fried chicken over mac and cheese, as Southern as it gets - except for the generous addition of lobster chunks. It works. Really, it does. But I still liked the meatloaf better.

If available, be sure to try the red velvet cake. I hope you like pistachio mousse, ganache, and blueberries built into your cake. Pretty amazing.

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