John Benton can describe his approach to cuisine in a single sentence: "I believe in simple food cooked perfectly." That's a lofty goal, and one that Mr. Benton works tirelessly to achieve as executive chef at Venue Restaurant & Lounge. Of course, it helps that he can rely on local and organic ingredients, including those he grows as part of his own rooftop organic gardening feature.
While he may look close to home for his herbs and veggies, Benton reaches across oceans for his culinary inspirations. A typical lunch at Venue might start with a gluten-free salmon ciabatta featuring fresh, grilled salmon open-faced with lettuce, tomato, capers, and drizzled with house-made remoulade or an uncured New York strip pastrami Reuben with house-made pastrami and Russian dressing topped with sauerkraut and Swiss. At dinner, the chef's brick-oven pizzas are browned golden and topped with smoked Gouda, chicken, artichokes, and savory Alfredo shrimp. Other meals are a bit more spontaneous. Benton's dry-aged steak of the moment, for example, changes nightly.
The chef's creativity extends to the rest of Venue's team, which includes bar manager and resident mixologist Barrie Kuhn. In addition to assembling an international wine list, Kuhn has dreamed up several original house cocktails and also offers barrel-aged liquors. Try the James Dean, which features Wild Turkey, Budweiser syrup, and orange bitters garnished with an orange peel or the Snap Pea Gimlet, featuring sugar-snap-pea-infused gin, fresh-squeezed lime juice, and house ginger syrup.