There is no hiding the simple truth of a skilled craftsman at work. The vintage vibe of The French Bulldog creates a stage to showcase the culinary craft of charcuterie where until now few have had the pleasure of eating. In a time of industrialized and hyper-contrived food chains, The French Bulldog feels like the exact opposite. Collaborators Phil Anania and Anne Cavanaugh along with charcuterie chef, Bryce Coulton gallantly bring forth straightforward artisan fare to the Omaha food scene.
Entering into the quaint space, you feel a sense of anticipation. The space is crowded, not even an empty seat at the bar. There are people waiting. Could it be as good as all this? Isn’t this just a deli? The lights are low as the candles flicker. There are hanging sausages curing in a window in the back. The tables run close together. There is a varied murmur of conversations throughout the room. Greeted with a friendly quick hello, we are pointed to a table.
We sit against a gray barn-wooded wall with the chalkboard of “Specials.” Menus in hand, I order a Matilda on tap and my husband ordered a Bulldog Rye. Our server was busy hustling about and, the rest of the staff had an aire of frenzy as they delivered our drinks then hustled about again. We looked over the menu, which is small yet mighty, and devised our plan. We asked questions, ordered then changed our minds then ordered again. Without writing anything down, the server took her job in stride with an unphased smile.
We began with the smoked trout crostini. I was picturing an ample bunch of “little toasts”, a knife and spreadable smoked trout. The French Bulldog went old school and served it as canapés, small pieces of toast with a savory topping. The smoked trout had a subtle smokiness that complimented the mellow salty taste of the trout. I asked for extra bread to spread the smoked trout further.
Next plan was creating a meat and cheese board. The menu has listed a selection of in-house cured meats and a number of craft cheeses to create a board of your choice. We choose the Finocchiona Salami and the Salami Cotto and three cheeses, the Lancaster Duet from Raymond, Nebraska, Little Darling from Fayette, Wisconsin, and Keen’s Cheddar from England. They were out of both in-house meats we had chosen. Two other options were suggested, the Borgogna and the Lomo. When you’re curing in house, and the meats age for 6 months and longer, it’s not that easy to replace. We did not hesitate at the suggestions. The board came out quickly and was accompanied with crusty bread, marcona almonds, spicy mustard, and honey to drizzle. It was all divine. Every combination self-created was simply divine.
As service briskly moved along, we were served our main menu items — first, a pork pie served on top of butternut squash puree with mixed greens and Maytag Blue cheese and second, a pork belly sandwich served with chips. We shared both. The pork pie was forcemeat, leaning towards tough, inside a flaky pastry crust. The butternut squash puree was true in flavor and added a complimentary texture to the well-seasoned pork. The greens were evenly dressed in a well-balanced vinaigrette. Add in the creamy, sharp and tangy Maytag Blue and the dish was complete. I had only one bite, a very good bite. My taste buds could not stay away from the pork belly sandwich: salty pork belly, sweet plum jam, horseradish mustard, smooth smoked gouda, crunchy red onions, bitter greens on crusty ciabatta bread. It was like a surprise party. It was beyond my expectations. Lucky for my husband, he had eaten the first half before I took my first bite of the Pork Belly Sandwich because I would not have been able to share.
For dessert, I ordered another Matilda. Although, we were assured that the desserts are fantastic, we will save it for next time. And there will be a next time for the sake of exceptional reasonably priced craft charcuterie. Most entrées on the menu are between $8 and $11. We paid our tab without remorse, chatted with the server for a minute and went off into the night, leaving behind a still bustling hot spot. The French Bulldog is forging their way into the Omaha food scene making Omaha food even more unique and appealing.
The French Bulldog
5003 Underwood Ave.
Open Monday through Saturday
Monday-Thursday 11 a.m.-11 p.m.
Friday-Saturday 11 a.m. – Midnight