Eye of the storm

Photo by David Robert

Hammering out a niche in the casino-populated area by the river is no mean feat, but partners Brian Ralston and Alex Umana have done just that with their venture, Hurricanes.

Undoubtedly named after the potent, Mardi Gras-inspired cocktail, Hurricanes is primarily a bar, but it serves great food. Do not allow the unassuming façade or the oddball Second Street location to fool you. This place is an oasis of laid-back hipness in a work-weary world.

When my husband, Tony, and I dropped in on a Thursday evening, we were treated to an unapologetic blaring of Limp Bizkit and a small but lively group at the bar; one of the group members looked like he could have been a body double for Fred Durst. We elected to take a table in view of the bar, and the area that was being set up for the evening’s live music offering.

The place is deeper than it looks from the street, with long, stucco-coated walls with slate inserts that look like a cake decorated by a stonemason. There is room for dancing and plenty of seating at tables and at the bar.

The menu consists of a diverse selection of sandwiches, salads, burgers and some respectable entrees, including barbecued baby back ribs and vegetarian lasagna. Entrees come with two choices of sides and soft, chewy, hot cornbread.

The Mama Mia sandwich, consisting of a grilled chicken breast, pesto provolone, bacon, avocado, red onion, lettuce and tomato piled high on grilled foccacia bread, sounded like something I would make myself. However, I took Ralston’s recommendation to try the baby back ribs with the accompaniment of garlic mashed potatoes and green beans ($12 for a half rack, $18 for a full rack). I was not sorry for taking his advice.

The ribs were slathered, but not drowning, in the homemade sauce and fell cleanly off the bone. This is one of the few times I have had ribs that were meaty and tender enough for me to bite off more than I could chew. They were smoked, but not so overpoweringly smoky that I couldn’t taste the pork. The mashed potatoes were also great, with a delightfully lumpy texture.

I have to say that the green beans were the topper. Cooked perfectly with just the right amount of bite, with the extra addition of onions and bacon, they were reminiscent of the family dinners I had as a kid growing up in Ohio. After I slathered my cornbread with butter, I let it cool off a little and devoured it too. Oh, wretched excess: the main perk of this job. I settled into a hazy food-induced stupor and enjoyed what arguably is the best Cosmopolitan martini in town.

Tony did just as well with his selection. The Guacamole Jack Burger (a steal at $6.50 for a huge burger) took up almost half the plate that was not covered with medium-cut crispy fries (other sides are available, in case you want the green beans). The bun was soft and yielding but held up nicely to the juicy contents. The burger itself was succulent and super-tasty, with gooey melted Jack cheese and fresh guacamole.

The music changed, and we were watching a recording of a recent Santana concert. Our server brought us another round, and we hung out for a while, digesting our meal and grooving to the atmosphere. If you go to check this place out, do not be surprised to see me there. We were plotting all through our meal not only to come back, but to raid the place with our friends.