Words you never thought you'd see together: "White Water Tavern" and "chef." But the Seventh Street dive bar's vibe and small kitchen is just the sort of place where Nick Castleberry feels comfortable. A Little Rock native who spent the last 15 years in Seattle, Castleberry brings with him a CV that includes serving as sous chef and chef at glowingly reviewed fine dining spots (Sitka and Spruce and Artemis, respectively). More recently, he was at the vanguard of the "pop-up" restaurant movement in Seattle, where young chefs set up restaurants-within-restaurants (or bars), taking over on off nights or in spots where food is an afterthought and running a one-man-show: prepping, cooking, cleaning and even, Castleberry told Seattle Weekly, "killing the pig and sticking it in the back of the truck."
Back in town because of family and the economy, Castleberry has picked up where he left off in Seattle with Castleberry's at White Water Tavern. With weekly menus, an emphasis on local ingredients — "You'll never see a Sysco Truck dropping off anything for me," he told me last week — and a price point he says working class folks can afford.
Last week, the meant items like the Belt ($9), a BLT with a hard-boiled egg; vegan pasta salad and vegetarian macaroni and cheese ($3) and the hot plate ($9), slow-cooked pork, semolina, vegetables and pomegranate chili peach sauce.
Castleberry's making most everything — bread, mayo, sauces.
I got a little taste of the cold salad ($5.50), which was watermelon slices, cucumbers and feta tossed with apple vinegar, olive oil and mint, with some homemade pita on the side. It was fantastic.
Most everything, he said, is subject to change. But look for him next week, on Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, to man the kitchen from 5 p.m. until midnight.
And keep track of him in the future on Twitter.