Sometimes in life, travel, and business, the best things happen purely by accident. Acclaimed chef Thomas Keller learned that lesson all too well shortly after he opened Ad Hoc, his third restaurant in the tiny town of Yountville. The idea behind Ad Hoc was a temporary one; a mere placeholder until a planned hamburger and wine joint was ready to occupy the space a few months later. When Ad Hoc proved to be hugely popular, it was clear that the original designs for the restaurant had to be put on hold...permanently.
|Short, sweet, and to the point.|
The first impression of Ad Hoc is that it lacks any measurable degree of pretension. From the sign out front offering "Temporary Relief From Hunger" to the no-frills design of the dining room, Ad Hoc offers a level of casual comfort that one probably wouldn't expect out of a Thomas Keller restaurant. Even the name - a holdover from its original pop up concept - is simple, even quirky. It all comes together to form a unique and inviting atmosphere, but that's not the only thing which is comfortable at Ad Hoc.
If judged by their menu alone, Ad Hoc could easily be mistaken for just another member of the Pre-Fixe Nation. A four course menu with optional wine pairing is crafted daily, and reads like a description to the judges of Iron Chef America. After a quick glance at the surrounding tables, however, it's clear that Ad Hoc's version of pre-fixe is unlike any other. Service is done family style, which adds yet another layer to the comfortable atmosphere, by resembling the feel of a Sunday evening around mom's dining room table.
Upscale Comfort Food
The idea of starting a meal with Roasted Beet Salad was about as appetizing as that awful remake of Smooth Criminal a few years back. Sure, the beets are pretty and all, but after a few minutes of chewing on earth, it's easy to wonder if they are actually little mudpies with food coloring. At least if they really are mudpies, one can rest easy in knowing they've been harvested by hand at The French Laundry's garden just down the street.
|The Roasted Beet Salad|
The arrival of round two brought with it the revelation that the logistics of family style dining can be a challenge, especially when it involves navigating three serving dishes on a table for two. Once all was settled, however, a more important discovery came to light.
There was just something about the Gulf Shrimp, Chicken Confit, and Veal Sugo that was difficult to peg at first. A certain quality that, in addition to its phenomenal deliciousness, set it apart as something unique. With the first bite of the Zucchini Bread Pudding, things became a little more clear. This was comfort food. Upscale comfort food, if there ever was such a thing...
|The cheese course - Big Rock Blue by Central Coast Creamery|
|Dessert - Olive Oil Cake Trifle|
A final unique feature at Ad Hoc is the Addendum. As the name suggests, Addendum is a separate building located behind the restaurant which serves boxed lunches of their infamous fried chicken. Only in Yountville could a restaurant get away with selling a $16 boxed lunch, but this isn't any ordinary Meals on Wheels. They sell out every day they're open, and you better get there early.
|Sure would have liked to try the fried chicken.|
Fancy Without The Schmancy
When you combine the talents of Thomas Keller, a comfortable and casual atmosphere, and a unique family style menu, it is easy to see why Ad Hoc became so popular virtually overnight. This permanent pop-up restaurant is showing no signs of slowing down, with the recent addition of a full liquor license and what is sure to be an incredible array of hand crafted cocktails. All of this may leave Chef Keller's hamburger and wine dreams unfulfilled, but with the luxury of hindsight, the accidental success of Ad Hoc is really no surprise at all.
Enjoy Your Stay