The hardest part of being a kid, at least for me, was not being able to do what I wanted when I wanted to. Now, as an adult, if I do just that, it’s viewed as childish. You just can’t win.
Unless you’re at Canard, where doing what you want is the damn point, and exactly what makes it so fun. The third restaurant from Gabe Rucker (or restaurant/bar, bar/restaurant, as he calls it) is a playground for the city’s most inventive chef, tucked right next door to the original Le Pigeon on East Burnside.
A brunch including oysters, martinis, French toast, and White Russian soft serve swirled into a peanut butter sprinkle cone?! YES, PLEASE.
“If you look at it under a microscope, Le Pigeon has roots in junk food that’s done in a fine dining manner,” Rucker tells me over the phone. “The flavors are big and bold—I’m not afraid to add cheese to foie gras. Canard is that, distilled down. It’s Le Pigeon without all the layers.”
“Canard” means duck in French, continuing the aviary theme with Le Pigeon and downtown’s Little Bird. But unlike its two older sisters, Canard is keeping it (for Rucker, anyway) simple. The entire menu is snacky-type plates meant for sharing, ranging from $6 to $20.
Open weekdays from an astounding 8 am to midnight (weekends from 9 am onward), Canard is meant to be a breakfast/brunch spot, a daytime café, an anytime wine bar—courtesy choice selections from co-owner Andrew Fortgang—a great dinner spot, and a late-night service-industry dive.
“Canard can be anything you want it to be,” Rucker says. “If you want to have a glass of wine and stare at people on Burnside, that’s great. If you want steam burgers and a cheap beer at 11:30, come in, we want you to do that.”
According to Rucker, Canard’s “holy trinity” is the oysters, soft serve, and steam burgers. The rest of the menu moves around that, creating a high-brow/low-brow steez that makes each meal a choose-your-own-adventure experience.
At brunch, we kicked off with a martini that was jazzed up with celery bitters, caper brine, and a single raw oyster on the side (Breakfast of Champions, $13). We moved on to a Benedict with hollandaise sauce over panko-crusted shrimp toast and poached eggs ($15)—a French-meets-dim sum plate of dreams.
Rucker says Chef de Cuisine Taylor Daugherty (Woodsman Tavern) gets to lay claim to the diabolical genius behind the French toast ($8), which is soaked in soft serve before being deep fried and drizzled with crème anglaise and Grand Marnier with orange slices. It’s bonkers.
At any time of day, the duck stack ($15) is a very wise choice—pancakes piled high with duck gravy, onions softened with Tabasco, and a duck egg—a riff on chicken and waffles we didn’t know we needed.
The wine list reflects the menu, with glass pours from $8 to $22 and an approachable bottle list that also has a good smattering of high-end options. Look for fun stuff like a rose from the Canary Island or an orange Gewürztraminer from California. Cocktails are similarly awesome (I loved the Scotch Fix, with pineapple-rhubarb cordial, lemon and absinthe), although a cocktail involving foie gras bourbon doesn’t deliver on the flavor for $15.
The rest of the menu is a murderers’ row of options—literally nothing was disappointing, although a few dishes were more memorable. Plump dry-fried truffled chicken wings ($16) are paired with truffled ranch and truffled honey. Uni “Texas toast” ($14) takes orange heaps of sea anemone more commonly found on sushi and places them on slices of bread slathered in fish-sauce garlic butter with a sprinkle of yuzu tobiko (Japanese citrus-infused fish eggs). Christ, one bite gives you the salinity of the uni, fat from the butter and avocado, and the textural pop of tobiko. I wanna go back right now.
Visit during happy hour and score the steam burger for $3 instead of its usual $6. It’s pure American cheese-topped greatness and worth ordering a stack just like Jughead would before Archie got glammed up by the CW. Bring in a bottle of wine older than 15 years and duck a $30 corkage fee.
When it comes to foie, Rucker says he didn’t want to cannibalize the signature protein from Le Pigeon, but also knew it had to be at Canard. The solution was the sublime foie gras dumpling ($18): thin sheets of hand-rolled dough wrapped around a mousse-like foie filling, swimming in a perfect peanut sauce and diced apple with miso-roasted shallots. They’re best straight from the kitchen, but devouring them quickly shouldn’t be a problem.
Rucker says he opened Canard with the idea that families would be able to hang out—and in fact, while we polished off brunch with soft serve, his wife, Hana, and three kids came in. Rucker sat down at an unoccupied table with a steam burger for some family time. He says the soft serve machine has bought him cool dad points with his clan—and my inner child is glad he did it too.
Closed through June 16 for summer break, otherwise Mon-Fri 8 am-midnight, Sat-Sun 9 am-midnight. No reservations. Kids are very welcome.