First Take: Mereday Plays Another Hit with Alto

The new Bayfront restaurant from Charles Mereday has swinging tunes and food that sings.

BY March 20, 2014

Charles Mereday seems to be a man who chooses his words carefully. If you hear him speak, he talks with purpose. So the order of the words would seem important in his newest restaurant venture—Alto Live Jazz Kitchen.

The music comes first. It isn’t an afterthought. That Mereday had one of the area’s best jazz groups, the Stu Shelton Trio playing alongside former Saturday Night Live saxophonist Lew Del Gatto and trumpet master Dan Miller, for an official opening dinner, made it clear he wants this to be a serious jazz club. The music isn’t toned down for dinner conversation, which, depending on your companions, can be a good or bad thing.

But Mereday isn’t messing around with the food either, bringing in his former mentor Nadir Sherwani as the executive chef. In limited sampling, highlights are already emerging. A trio of meatballs—one spicy, one garlicky and one herbaceous—were a great way to kick off a meal. The fries that accompanied the filet were stupendous. And while we don’t normally think much about salad dressing, the green goddess dressing served with mixed greens on the house salad was so creamy and bursting with the flavor of chives and tarragon that it deserves special mention.

We’ll need to go back, sample the menu a bit more under more normal circumstances to give our final verdict. But at first blush, Mereday has created another hit and a contender to see his places named our Best New Restaurant in back-to-back years.

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