Rob Fischer has another hit on his hands. Fischer is a local restaurateur who owns the Palo Alto Creamery and Reposado, an upscale regional Mexican restaurant across the street from the old-school diner. Last month, he opened Scratch, a fine-dining American restaurant in downtown Mountain View.

Open just over a month, the handsome restaurant, with its circular bar, plush booth seating and open kitchen, is already a standout on the restaurant-dense strip of Mountain View’s Castro Street. The street offers a great variety of restaurants, but until now there hasn’t been a place that specializes in classic American food. Scratch fills that hole well.

Scratch takes the place of the failed uWink, a diner/gaming restaurant opened by Atari and Chuck E. Cheese founder Nolan Bushnell. All the touch-screen computers are gone and have been replaced with soft indirect lighting and white linen napkins.

The American comfort category is a well-worn path where bacon, thick pork chops, roasted chicken, mashed potatoes, fancy hamburgers and high-impact desserts play a starring role. Scratch chef Sean Eastwood distinguishes his restaurant by going a little deeper and showcasing regional American food, particularly that of the South.

Crab cakes ($12) are a good test of the kitchen’s priorities. Are they loaded with breadcrumbs to stretch food costs or does the restaurant lead with the crab to really showcase the shellfish? Scratch comes somewhere it the middle with a single, well-crisped patty bound together with breadcrumbs but not in such quantity that they overshadow the sweet Dungeness crab meat. The arugula and fennel salad served with the dish elevates it further.

Oysters Rockefeller is a classic that’s well rendered here: four oysters with fresh spinach and leeks in a Pernod-spiked cream sauce ($10).

Pork belly is a darling of America comfort food, and the dish ($11) is a standout here. Two bourbon-glazed blocks of pork are served atop uncommonly creamy Anson Mills grits and delicious braised greens. How’s that for Southern-fried goodness?

Salads are particularly good, sprinkled with premium ingredients and not overdressed. Wedge salad ($9) is all too familiar, but at Scratch it’s served as two small heads of iceberg lettuce with a light application of blue-cheese dressing and bacon. Good, too, is the baby-green salad with aged balsamic vinegar ($8).

Of course, any American restaurant has to serve a burger and Scratch’s is a winner ($11), with caramelized onions, house-made pickles, a plump patty of meat and a soft but well toasted bun. The Reuben sandwich ($11), using Wagyu (Kobe-style) beef, is also good.
On the dinner menu, the short ribs Bourguignon ($21) is quite good. Served off the bone, the wonderfully tender chunk of beef is presented atop a creamy pure of roasted parsnips, pearl onions, glazed applewood smoked bacon and a few bites of portobello mushroom. This is a great winter dish, even in the summerlike weather we’re had lately.

The fennel-pollen-dusted red snapper special ($23) didn’t reach the same heights. It was a well-executed dish but rather one-dimensional: just a piece of fish on a plate.

Scratch offers several side dishes, including macaroni and cheese ($7), of course, as well as roasted Brussels sprouts with pecans and bacon ($7). Brussels sprouts are another favorite of American comfort food, and they’re good here but spent too long in the oven. I like a little crunch left in my sprouts.

Service is attentive but rather rote. The waiters are still learning their way around the menu and come off a little stiff. I’m sure they’ll loosen up in time.

The bar ought to be a draw in itself for its wide selection of small-batch bourbon and whiskey, particularly those from Kentucky. The wine list is a gem, too. All the wines are from the United States with an emphasis on lesser-known California producers.

Meals finish strong with dessert. The butterscotch pudding ($7) is outstanding, thick, creamy and rich. The New Yorkstyle cheesecake and chocolate oozing lava cake (both $7) are not particularly original, but they’re good. What I like is that the dessert portions here are restrained. Entrees are generous, and there’s no reason to pile it on with dessert.

Scratch’s predecessor didn’t last too long, but I have a feeling that Fischer’s latest venture is going to stick around for a while.