*** THIS RESTAURANT IS PERMANENTLY CLOSED ***
Serving food in a cast iron skillet conveys rustic charm. It also creates fantastic textures. Dandelion’s Cafe’s Mac ‘n’ cheese, for instance, is crunchy at the edges, creamy in the center, and a little bit chewy along the bottom. It is made “southern style” (simple, basic comforting), “taco” (with ground beef, jalapenos, and salsa), “Philly” (steak [or chicken], onions, peppers, mushrooms), and “Mediterranean” (spinach, feta, olives).
Dandelion’s sizable single-serving skillets also are the medium for several kinds of poutine, the Quebec snack-bar staple that is French fries topped with gravy and melting cheese curds. With second-rate ingredients and bland processed cheese, Poutine can be very bad; but here the cheese is real (Wisconsin cheddar curds), the gravy packs potent beef flavor, and the fries are crisp-edged and creamy-centered. The mix of those three elements is brilliant. Like mac ‘n’ cheese, poutine comes in several variations, including taco, Buffalo, Southwestern, veggie, and traditional.
Mention must also be made of beef on weck, a sandwich once found only in Buffalo taverns and still extremely rare anywhere else. Here it is on Dandelion’s menu, and it’s the real thing: a kaiser roll spangled with coarse salt and caraway seeds (kummelweck in German, hence “weck”) sandwiching a thick sheaf of roast beef. It’s a magic combo, and with a ramekin of delicious au jus for dipping and hot horseradish on the side, it is one of the best sandwiches for miles around.
The menu is broad and eclectic and a little eccentric: sandwiches, hot subs, salads, wings, and a soup of the day. Among soups, I have relished chicken ‘n’ dumplings, French onion soup, borscht, Italian wedding soup, and one merry vegetable jumble called hodge podge.
There’s good pizza, too: thin-crusted and absolutely mounded with whatever ingredients you choose. I am fond of the round-the-world Mediterranean pizza (mozzarella, feta, sausage, beef, pepperoni, mushrooms, onions, peppers, tomato, olives) and the white steak pizza on which slices of banana pepper play a fantastic duet with great reefs of thin-sliced steak.
North Augusta, South Carolina, isn’t really a small town, but Dandelion’s Cafe has a small town vibe. It’s cozy and comfortable, but also stylish (note the graffiti-painted floor); and a git-er-done staff takes care of customers with unflappable good cheer.