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Zydeco Steps on 28's Turf: Is Bond Street big enough for the both of them? 

click to enlarge Eat large with small plates at 28.
  • Eat large with small plates at 28.
Eat large with small plates at 28.
Anyone who grew up with a big brother, particularly one that is handsome and talented, knows how it feels when said sibling invades the little niche that you have diligently and meticulously carved out for yourself, that tiny corner of the world where you shine the brightest. With one step into your sacred space, he steals your thunder, along with all the attention and probably a few of your friends. Being just such a little sister myself, I immediately thought of 28, a fixture on Bond for the past three years and the second child of owners Steve and Cheri Helt, when big bro Zydeco opened last month in its new downtown location right across the street.

As a diner, of course I'm thrilled to have the whole brood in town. A recent visit to the new Zydeco showed that, though the decor is slightly more sterile than it was at the old location, the service remains impeccable and the menu is largely unchanged. Every bite was as impressive as always. But while lavishing my attention on the new kid on the block, I felt a little like a traitor to my kind and increasingly compelled to throw 28 some much deserved love-for little sisters everywhere.


Not that there's really any need for sympathy. Still a thriving hotspot with a loyal clientele, 28 is all grown up with a child of her own, an adjacent breakfast and lunch stand in the foyer of St. Clair Place that was just renamed Café 28. Offering bagels, breakfast burritos, 28's signature Kobe beef sliders with wasabi mayo, sandwiches and the like, it serves as 28's daytime manifestation and a backdrop for Thursday and Saturday night music in the lobby. Inside 28, the sleek red contoured bar still sparkles with specialty cocktails, a nice selection of top-shelf spirits and an attractive and lively mixed crowd. A stellar staff rounds out the equation, making it tough not to have a good time.

The menu is currently going through changes, though fortunately many old favorites are sticking around (yes, including the renowned bacon-wrapped stuffed dates). There are a few entrée-sized options, but it will remain focused on smaller plates, which has always made it good menu for those who like to share and sample a variety of flavors. Though on the pricey side, cold plates like creamy trout dip ($9) served with lavosh (a type of cracker bread) and warm plates like the fish tacos ($10) made with seasoned lightly fried rockfish and the aforementioned sliders ($11) which come in threes, can go a long way.

There are also a couple of Zydeco favorites on the menu (I guess these sibs are a little better at sharing than my brother and I were) like the barbecued shrimp, one of my favorite dishes at either place, and Acadian flatbreads baked with Monterey Jack and your choice of three toppings. Resembling a very thin-crust pizza, these are always a nice start, particularly if your choice involves andouille sausage. And don't overlook the specials. On a recent visit, the evening's best was among them. Snapper ($15), crisp on the outside and flaky on the inside served on a bed of spicy slaw with a perfect dose of lime and a wedge of avocado was excellent. The pair of shrimp on top sealed its victory.

Probably what sets 28 apart most, and the reason it will always hold its own even with Zydeco's tall shadow looming across the way, is that 28 is more bar than restaurant, both physically (the bar spans more than half the room) and in spirit. Only as a bonus, it happens to serve restaurant-level food. So I suppose I can stop projecting my childhood trauma on to the Helt clan. The little sis in this family seems to be taking it all in stride.

28
920 NW Bond St., 385-0828. Tues.-Sat., 4:30 p.m.-close

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