With its slick design, sunny patio, and next-level breakfast and lunch fare, Call shot to the top of the short list for RiNo’s cafe habitués the moment it opened last December. But owner Craig Lieberman, chef-partner Duncan Holmes, and general manager Allison Anderson were only just beginning to implement their vision for the place, inspired less by American-style coffee shops than by the all-day sidewalk bars of Europe — where the locals who stop in for espresso and pastry every morning return at night for drinks and, perhaps, an assortment of the hors d’oeuvres on display at the order counter.
Now that Call’s evening service is finally underway (until 8 p.m.), it’s fair to say: Mission accomplished. Guests who drop by for happy hour on any given day get front-row seats to the show in the open kitchen as the crew starts rolling out the snacks du jour. From a menu formatted like a sushi checklist, they can then choose either four or eight items, which come as a set on a cute-as-can-be serving tray. And then they can do it all over again — there are 18–20 selections a night, after all — or check out the desserts. The mix-and-match model means that “people can build their own kind of experience,” Holmes explains. And due to frequent menu tweaks, that experience will rarely be the same twice: “We come in and it’s like, what do we want to do today? What’s available, what’s intriguing us?”
Such spontaneity only enhances the feeling that “you’re at a friend’s house for dinner,” says Holmes. “The interaction between kitchen and guest is fantastic. It brings everyone closer to the food.” Here’s what to expect.
Toasts and tartines
Call’s open-face sandwiches have garnered a cult following all their own, so naturally they’re central to the evening repertoire. With the arrival of spring, topping options might range from fava beans, ramps, English peas, and fresh ricotta to heirloom broccoli and blue cheese with pumpkin seeds to smoked wild mushrooms with salted ricotta and sherry vinegar — but it all depends on market availability. For Holmes, the key to a top-notch terrine is “matching the ingredient with the proper type of bread: Is the end result better on light, crispy, crusty sourdough, or is it better with super-savory and hardy rye?”
Not only is marinated feta from Australia’s Meredith Dairy a menu staple, it’s the seed from which the entire concept of Call evolved: According to Anderson, Lieberman is so enamored with the cheese that “at first he was like, ‘I’m just going to serve feta and wine.’” Now, of course, it’s only one of several deli-style nibbles that include other cheeses, marinated olives, pickled vegetables, and housemade charcuterie aplenty. Duck rillettes, pork terrine, chicken-liver mousse garnished with fried chicken skin or candied almonds and charred leeks — it’s all on the roster. Even Holmes’s signature aebleskivers (Danish pancake puffs) come draped in lardo, although he’s “experimenting with other variations — some stuffed with cheese, some with mushroom béchamel. The possibilities are endless.”
“We try to get a nice mix of things,” Holmes says of the cold and hot creations that round out Call’s hyperseasonal selection. In late winter, that meant the likes of cauliflower–pickled green bean salad with romesco, buttermilk-fried sardines with horseradish, and pork croquettes with cranberry beans. This spring, it could mean everything from house-smoked black cod to spinach salad with smoked duck breast, favas, and preserved lemon to confit potatoes with radicchio, capers, and breadcrumbs. As the chef enthuses, “It’s the best time of the year for produce!”