Once a year, twice if I’m lucky, my parents make the trip down from Boston to visit me, and I use it as an excuse to explore new restaurants.
My parents quit the suburbs a few years ago, landing in downtown Boston after a stint in the San Francisco Bay Area, and since then the empty nesters have become bona fide foodies. I need not look up new and interesting restaurants when I trek up to the Northeast; my mom’s already curated a list of options with the help of Eater Boston, filling me in on spots such as SRV, Asian gastropub Banyan and Saloniki Greek.
After a decade of visiting their son in Greensboro, my parents have hit all the fine-dining restaurants in the city, some repeatedly. They remember a dessert at Table 16 or a lunch at Undercurrent, and my dad fills my mom in on his experience at LaRue during a recent work trip when he managed to swing over here. But by now I’ve pretty much run out, and despite their limited time in town, I’ve been squeezing in trips to Winston-Salem.
Last time, we slipped into the Honey Pot without a dinner reservation, and they enjoyed it. This time I knew I wanted to try 1703, based on diners’ feedback and the Instagram feed of chef Curtis Hackaday, but the stakes felt high. Would it meet the expectations of my parents, and their ever-refining palates?
Even at the outset, 1703 has a couple things going for it beyond the reviews and presentation, but the biggest is that the menu changes daily, the kind of roulette that is exciting for adventurous eaters but likely off-putting for the more conservative set. Knowing that didn’t describe my family, I counted it as a plus.
Just a few minutes after our arrival, though, I started to worry. It was Sunday night at prime dinner hour, and the 50-person capacity restaurant had just one server working the floor of about five tables and acting as the host, too. When she first glanced at the menu, my mom remarked that it looked a little predictable for a high-dollar place like this — salmon, duck, filet mignon.
But I encouraged her to read deeper into the menu’s liner notes, where the basic names gave way to a more detailed list of ingredients. Yes, the $36 filet mignon with mashed potatoes, grilled asparagus and Bordelaise sauce didn’t sound very inventive. But the ribeye that night came with a beet everything biscuit, Nduja gravy — that’s a kind of spreadable pork salume — and wilted greens. And Hackaday offered the swordfish with a raw green curry, the duck breast with sweet & sour mushrooms and the pork belly with apple ginger-braised cabbage and tomato fig Yuzu Shiso pesto.
You might find that in Boston — maybe — but only a couple other places around here are willing to put ingredients like that on a menu together. The name of the meat, printed in bold above the longer description, I realized, masked the complexity and creativity of the entrees.
Tempted to order the wild mushroom faux pho with black rice noodles, I landed instead on the marinated and grilled adobo quail with Oaxacan chocolate mole sauce. The Mexican-inspired dish was actually the cheapest entrée on the menu at $20.03 — all the prices had an extra three cents on them, presumably an eye roll-worthy nod to the restaurant’s name — but might’ve been the most delicious I tried.
And that’s saying something after sampling my dad’s pan-seared salmon with a delicious black lentil salad underneath or my mom’s tender, smoked pork shoulder with braised baby fennel and a curry Kraut maitake mushroom gravy. Each of us felt our selection bested the rest, which is always a good sign of a restaurant’s overall strength. My anxiety had been allayed.
We tried some of the appetizers too, and I particularly enjoyed the pairing of carrot and ginger in my mom’s soup and the fish sauce vinaigrette and furikake — a dry Japanese seasoning — that added flavor to my charred shishito peppers starter.
Having stopped at a brewery and a distillery already on their Southern weekend visit and planning to share a bottle of wine to make the presidential debate more tolerable later that evening, my parents opted to skip drinks during dinner. Noting that the alcohol menu consisted almost entirely of wine, with a few unexciting beers and no craft cocktails despite a small curved bar in the corner, I followed suit.
That didn’t stop us from enjoying our meal, and as we left we agreed we’d all rate it as the best we’d had that weekend. The meal lived up to its Instagram likeness, Hackaday’s cooking proved it warrants the hype, and my foodie parents went home satisfied.
Their next visit might prove more challenging.
Visit 1703 restaurant at 1703 Robinhood Road (W-S) or at 1703restaurant.com.