Hearing nothing but praise for Four Friends Kitchen since it opened in Stapleton last March, I'd had it on my radar for a while, but quite frankly the restaurant's reservation policy had turned me off from visiting. Rather than taking reservations on Open Table or simply not taking reservations at all and letting potential guests decide if they want to wait, Four Friends encourages customers to download the No Wait app (yes, another app for my poor phone, which already has storage issues from my many food photos) to “get in line.” What that means is you can check approximate wait times to decide when to put your name on the list. Once you do that though, the app doesn’t actually tell you when your table will be ready, it simply lets you know how many other parties are ahead of you so you can guestimate when to leave your house (and it doesn’t explain at all how restaurants handle walk-ins who know nothing about this technology).
If it were up to me, I never would’ve had the patience to play this convoluted waiting game, but my friend decided it was high time we checked it out. Nice enough to let me sleep in while she strategically stalked the app, she first checked in at 9 a.m. and was quoted a wait time of just 5 to 10 minutes. Knowing we wanted to head over around 10 a.m., she waited until about 9:45 to add us to the list, only to find out that increasing the number of guests caused the wait time to jump from 10 minutes to about 40. Planning our arrival for yet another forty minutes later, we still ended up waiting an additional 15 minutes once we got there. Basically, all this app did was add uncertainly — like I need more of that in my life.
Described as "family casual," Four Friends certainly attracts its share of kiddos, but the wall of Etch-a-Sketches and basket of coloring books kept them mostly at bay. Open daily for the early risers at 6:30 a.m., the breakfast-forward eatery (which also serves lunch until 2:30 p.m.) is definitely catering to the Stapleton mom crowd in need of a trendy post-yoga breakfast — and that’s who’s there, in droves. The space is airy but the dining room is surprisingly small and feels pretty claustrophobic when the weather is too cold to allow guests to spread out onto the the rooftop patio. Tables are virtually on top of each other and planning an escape route to the bathroom is yet another challenge, especially with giant winter coats in tow. A woman en route actually did (intentionally or unintentionally) fall in my friend's lap.
It’s detox January for me so I passed on the liquor, but the drinks list looked phenomenal. Liquid pumpkin pie? Spiked sweet tea? Bloody with Old Bay? Yes, yes and yes — except this time.
With drinks off the table, we were here with clear focus on the food: Southern comfort at it’s finest (even without the Southern Comfort). First, the already famous beignets: Bigger, fluffier and arguably even better than Café Du Monde in New Orleans, the Four Friends version comes equipped with two dipping sauces — crème anglaise and wild berry compote thick with whole pieces of strawberry. While they came perfectly portioned four to a dish, we easily could’ve eaten four a piece and seriously considered ordering round two (until I saw the size of the bowl of grits).
I am a shrimp and grits fanatic and, despite plenty of other entrees catching my eye, I had to test the kitchen's bold claim that these grits would be the most flavorful I've ever had. Imported from Georgia and cooked overnight with excess butter and cream, the base was silky smooth and mixed with succotash, spicy tomato broth, spinach, and smoked cheese. But, the best? It was a hard statement to refute. The succotash added a level of texture to the creaminess, with the crunch of sweet corn and edamame rounding out the grittiness of the pan-seared shrimp. Yes, that’s one of those last-meal kind of dishes you'll dream about for days. And the size and quality of the portion justifies the normally steep $15.50 breakfast price tag.
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SHOW ME HOW
Four Friends offers a number of grits bowls; my brunch companion ordered the house special, which came topped with buttermilk fried chicken instead of shrimp. I preferred my own bowl, as her chicken was a bit on the dry side, although she pointed out that of the numerous times she's ordered the fried chicken, today's was the least memorable. I also tasted the Bluegrass Benedict, not something I would normally order (the advantage of brunching with multiple friends) due to the pile of creamy collard greens, but I was intrigued by flavor profile. Pecan-smoked pork belly topped a fluffy biscuit, along with poached eggs, scallion hollandaise and pickled-pepper relish.
Four Friends served up a delicious brunch, even if getting to a table was a hassle. Now, if only I could get some grits and beignets delivered in bed...I'm pretty sure there’s an app for that.