I'm going to keep this simple: I believe it's impossible for anyone to not like Mondo. Susan Spicer's intent with this new restaurant, located in Lakeview, was that every diner would find something to his or her taste, and the carefully crafted menu accomplishes this task. It might be true that any restaurant serving pizza can boast that it satisfies even finicky eaters. But what Mondo does is sneak subtle culinary lessons into even the tamest plates, so that nonadventurous patrons will feel satisfied and enlightened at the same time. Here are some examples, from our first Mondo visit, of the easy-to-enjoy twists put on comfortable classics. First, our snack of caramel-bacon popcorn:
Do you like caramel corn? Then you like caramel-bacon corn.
Or our appetizers: Do you like meatballs or crab dip?
Then you like Thai Shrimp and Pork Meatballs and Creamy Crab Toast. The meatballs are skewered on lemongrass and have a light, slightly sweet coating; the creamy crab mixture is very sparingly spiked with what I think is a bit of licorice--I'm guessing Sambucca, but it might be an undertone of Sherry that turns intself licorice-y in the cooking. At any rate, it's stunning.
There are pizzas with bacon, eggs, and potatoes. There are green salads, peanut noodles, and steak tartare. There's a kids' menu that does not offer chicken tenders but does offer broccoli. In short, the food and the attitude of Mondo make a lot of sense, especially in a city where food can be so spectacularly daring that non-daring eaters go home hungry. There are a few Louisiana-oriented dishes, but Mondo could really be located in any neighborhood in any state. Take your people there. They'll like it.
Mussels in chorizo broth.
Stewed shrimp and okra.
Roasted pork shoulder, black beans, plantains, pico de gallo.
One last note: Mondo's menu has two "small plate" sections--one called "Snacks" and one called "Starters." What this means for those of us who love to taste many different items but don't necessarily want a lot of one thing is that we have found a new heaven. Small plates rule my world.