On December 30, we reported a big change at ¡Duino! (Duende). Nathaniel Wade, the longtime sous-chef at Bluebird Tavern, stepped in as executive chef of the “international street food” café last month. According to Wade, finding his new position was “kismet.”
While the chef was watching a band at Duino’s sister business, Radio Bean, general manager Lily Sickles mentioned her kitchen could use direction. Wade describes his first meeting with Duino and Radio Bean owner Lee Anderson as “amazing. It was beautiful how he and I fell together and agreed on the same points.”
What were those points? Keeping and refining the street-food theme, for one. San Antonio native Wade had already developed a passion for trying “fun, fast and accessible” fare while traveling and was eager to prepare it at his Cordon Bleu-educated level. Wade, who previously cooked at the esteemed nueva Latina restaurant Oba in Portland, Ore., brings Latin flair to the menu. Under his direction, chalupas have replaced pierogi as Duino’s stuffed food of choice.
Wade and Anderson’s other major goal is keeping all dishes on the menu less than $15. “It’s important that this town understands that there’s a way to eat good food and not to spend too much money on it,” says Wade. Duino’s menu now includes chicken and waffles similar to the version of that dish Wade prepared at the Bluebird — for $11.
Weekends have become bistro nights at Duino. Wade says steak frites and lobster rolls have been popular; diners should expect to see homemade pastas featured in northern Italian dishes soon. Original chef Richard Witting still returns every Tuesday to cook Ethiopian specialties.
The regular menu is an ode to some of Wade’s favorite Asian tastes. His cha siu buns, filled with heritage pork belly, pickled daikon and homemade kimchee, are inspired by visits to David Chang’s New York restaurants. Cold peanut noodles are a nod to the much-missed Five Spice Café, where, Wade admits, he used to eat the dish almost weekly.
In the midst of his experimentation, Wade emphasizes the importance of staying true to a “clientele that [has] some simple but delicate needs with diet and nutrition.” Most dishes can be made gluten-free or vegan. Vegetarian sides, including a $3 Argentinean veggie skewer and steamed kale with toasted garlic, are inexpensive supplements to any meal. Sounds like fun — for all.