REVIEW: A radish-al flip on a pub favourite
11620 104 Ave (and four other city locations.)
I’ve never liked brew pubs.
This seems like an important admission to begin with when a person is about to write about such a venue, but I raise it only to make the point that, as a light drinker, it’s very rarely a problem with the beer.
Typically, a brew pub is, with the exception of its name and the names of the beers, like any other pub: flat screens everywhere showing sports, bland decore designed to hide the insertion of as many customers into as small as space as possible, faux wood appointments and hints at Euro-snobbery.
And bad food. If you served the menu of the average Edmonton pub to anyone across the ocean, they’d probably…well, they’d probably just walk out, view you as uncivil and never come back.
If history tells us anything it’s that Europeans save the conflagrations for more auspicious circumstances. It’s not that they don’t have their share of crap pub food — the British fairly invented the concept — it’s just far from universal.
Usually, the problem at pubs is that the food is cookie-cutter fare prepared from frozen, to save time and money. It’s exceedingly rare these days to find a pub where nothing on the menu was pre-formed or pre-cooked, then frozen within an inch of its life, destroying any savoury background that may once have existed within the bland confines of its original recipe.
So the hamburgers all taste roughly the same, varying based largely on how much salt (or, God forbid, seasoning salt) the short order cook tossed out during the frying process; and if the pizza dough were ever tossed in the air, it was only whilst still packed away in a whitecardboard box as it exited the delivery truck.
Trying to review Brewster’s Brew Pub on 104 Avenue at Oliver Square is, then, a monumentally difficult task.
On the one hand, it has many environmental elements in a pub that I fine irksome.
On the other, the food’s good. And for a pub, that’s rare.
On the one hand, it took 45 minutes for a pulled pork stromboli sandwich to show up.
On the other, it was delicious, a rolled stromboli sliced into four sections, each stuffed with barbecued pulled pork, then topped with a light — very light, just the flavour, no heat — horseradish ceasar sauce.
I wanted to hate it. After all, like every pub sandwich, ever, it was cooked within an inch of its life. The waitress even had to check if I could make a slight alteration to it, conceding that she “didn’t if it was from frozen or not.”
Not, apparently. Or if so, cleverly disguised by virtue of being pulled pork: you’re not so much getting a mouthful of porcine wonderment as you are inhaling shredded meat soaked in barbecue sauce. It’s not a test for a sensitive palate.
But the sauce made it. Delicious, tangy, a neat combination of ceasar dressing and horseradish, zingy without being hot. And the sandwich plating was just superb, as good as you’d see at any upscale fusion joint, beautifully decorated with drizzles of sauce.
My friend had a chicken quesadilla, that most un-Mexican of Mexican food. He described it as tender, flavourful, with substantially more stuffing that the norm. His fries were “okay.” We all agreed the wheat ale was tasty, too.
Quite pleasantly, Brewster’s menu offers a little more, and does it a lot better than most of its brewpub brethren. Whether it’s lobster mac or one of their burgers, it’s an interesting deviation from the pub menu norm – although not cheap, by any stretch.
The downside? Brewster’s has the same general lack of charm that every pub has. Which is just as well: when you’re there with friends, it’s mostly a case of a functional place to be that doesn’t distract too much from the conversation. And it’s nice enough, I suppose, lots of brass fittings and open-seating, for those who just like being in a busy place.
I suppose that’s why they don’t go to actual restaurants in the first place, that feeling of being lumped together, with a common purpose: drinking beer.