Special Meals

Cafe Juanita Debuts Chef’s Tasting Menu

It’s available to two parties, twice a week.

By Allecia Vermillion May 17, 2012

Four times a week, Holly Smith turns some prime dining room real estate into a chef’s table. Photo via Gruman and Nicoll.

Sometimes restaurantgoers like to set aside the menu and ask the chef to design their dinner instead. It’s a high compliment to pay the kitchen, but Holly Smith of Cafe Juanita admits these requests just make her nervous—and the woman has been on Iron Chef.

What if someone has an allergy? What if she, an avid lover of beets, presents a table with a beet dish when it just so happens they prefer asparagus?

Hence Smith created her new Table 2 for 2 program as a way to give diners the tasting menu experience, but allow her room to plan and calibrate. Here’s how it works: Starting June 2, Smith will set aside a prime table in the dining room (yes, table number two—with a roomy corner location and a great kitchen view) for two seatings every Saturday and Sunday night. Book one of these meals and Smith and executive sous chef Justin Sledge will regale you and a companion with a multicourse tasting menu, while wine director Dawn Smith goes crazy with the pairings. The reservation process includes a conversation about allergies, dietary restrictions and a heads up if, say, a diner just really doesn’t care for octopus.

Smith announced this plan via Facebook and newsletter recently, and she says nearly three-fourths of the June seatings are already filled. She’s booking these meals on a monthly basis: Reservations for each month become available on the first Tuesday the month. “We’re trying to be fair about it,” says Smith. There’s no shame in calling at 12:01am if you want to lock down a certain date. Tasting menus are $135 per person (not including tax and tip), and optional beverage pairings run $75.

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