Family Rules

Eat like you're on staff

The demands of a restaurant's family meal are more similar to yours than you know.

For proof, look to Marissa Guggianna's new book, Off the Menu: Staff Meals from America's Top Restaurants ($40).

Inside, Off the Menu offers glimpses through the back doors of restaurants, where staff meals are constrained by ingredients and time limitations. There aren't any hours-long prix fixe menus on display here. And as always, out of necessity, invention sprouts.

The 51 meals in the book are thrift- and utility-minded: At Chicago's Blackbird, a menu item of aged Pekin duck breast with green garbanzos and tequila-braised radish means unused duck legs are braised, chicken-fried and served with coleslaw come family meal time.

Staff meals at chef Linton Hopkins's Restaurant Eugene in Atlanta are driven by simplicity. His six-ingredient clafoutis is served year-round, happily incorporating whatever fruit is in season (click here for the recipe). Make it a couple times and you won't even need to look at the recipe.

Here's to making time for dinner.