Food.Bar.Food scores another tally point for downtown Harrisonburg in the category of restaurants with exposed duct work as a design statement. But hey, if it works, it works.
You can find this little nook along W. Bruce St, within walking distance of the parking deck if you are not lucky enough to snag one of the four parking spaces in front of the restaurant. Do not, for the life of your ego, park in the salon’s lot next door. The owner will ask you to move, and you will retreat to your car, red-faced, wanting nothing more than to forget lunch entirely and become one with the asphalt.
Food.Bar.Food provides a calming escape from the outside world. Here is a place you can breathe: the natural lighting, pastel color scheme, and reflective surfaces give the impression of elbow room, even if the restaurant is no bigger than most downtown. House plants line the floor next to the antique door dividing wall; mason jars coddle the tea lights on each table; weathered windows hang like art from the walls.
My friend and I sit by the non-decorative windows and watch the Sysco trucks attempt to parallel park on the cramped street until the waitress takes our drink orders: TAZO tea for me, coffee for my friend.o
Food.Bar.Food boasts global comfort food and an array of unusual mixed drinks (alcoholic and virgin alike), living into its fun-topronounce- ten-times-fast name. Simply studying the menu gives me the sense that the chefs here enjoy experimenting with unique flavor combinations: anchovy-molasses vinaigrette with mango; smoked cheddar and butternut squash with spinach almond pesto; mango salsa with peanut-ginger sauce; bleu cheese with arugula, fried egg, and steak.
I order the “Peanut Ginger Chicken” for $10. I cannot say I would ever think to put these flavors together myself, but every bite gets my tastebuds to tango trying to sort them out. As I sit here, chewing with what I am sure is a puzzled look on my face, I can almost feel the flavors twirling around on my tongue like Emile in Disney’s “Ratatouille,” swooning to a plucking cello. The peanut ginger and the mango: who would think they would pair so well.
The burger, on the other hand, proves to be an awkward eating experience for my friend. The lettuce came shredded, the fresh tomato is cut too thick, and both the cheese and fries are not included in the $8 price. The ketchup, however, arrives in its own porcelain vessel, which is quaint and makes me smile at someone’s attempt at creativity.
As Michael Jackson serenades us from the speakers, and as our waitress comments on the weather today, trying to be a friendly human being, I get the feeling that this place is not so bad. I could sit near this window, sipping tea, talking with a friend for hours, and forget all about the outside world.
I guess if you want customers to get the urge to camp out in your restaurant, take a tip from these past two eateries: paint the walls turquoise.