Featured Stories

Other Pamplin Media Group sites

Pub-aurant mostly grain, little gristle

Bread and Brew
by: Christopher Onstott Grain & Gristle, a new pub and restaurant on Northeast Prescott Street, offers a rotating local beer selection and pub fare — like the pastrami reuben (above) — served on dense homemade brown bread.

There’s plenty of grain at the new Grain and Gristle, from the homemade brown bread to the barley in the heady local beers to the textures of the rough wooden bar. For gristle, though, you’ll have to look elsewhere. I’m not quite sure what to call the place — pub? restaurant? cabin transplanted from the woods? It’s a collaboration between Ben Meyer, who tore himself away from the hearth of Ned Ludd, and Upright Brewing’s Alex Ganum. It’s casual and neighborly, the kind of place two people could go if one was hungry and the other just wanted a drink. Beer is front and center, with rotating selections listed on a chalkboard behind the wooden three-sided bar. The choices are interesting … almost too interesting. Perhaps it was just as well that I couldn’t taste the oysters in Upright’s oyster stout. Other small local breweries also get room to showcase their less mainstream efforts. Burnside Brewing, for instance, recently contributed Sweet Heat, a wheat beer flavored with apricots and Scotch bonnet peppers. Nothing goes better with beer than pork rinds, but don’t order them if you are easily startled. They’re salty, spicy, and so crunchy that they make your eyes vibrate a little. As you chew, they tend to let out loud reports at unexpected moments, like a faulty rifle. Mussels, Belgian style, come with thin, crisp French fries and a superbly eggy aioli. The mussels were tasty but the broth wasn’t something you’d want to scoop up on its own. It was dominated by lots and lots of chunky onion. The kitchen’s ruling tendency is for sharp, somewhat German flavors: mustard, liver, onions and vinegar. The meat board tends to pork and liver pates rather than the chewier smoked or air-dried meats. Fresh homemade brown bread was the perfect foil, but there was not nearly enough of it. Some of the homemade pickles on the pickle platter are better than others. The celery and the apples stood out for their crunchiness and the way their flavors matched up with the pickling vinegar and spices. But thin slices of Jerusalem artichoke had basically no flavor and the mushrooms were somehow off. Vinegar overwhelmed a pork sausage, which itself was slightly mealy and rather bland. The sausage was surrounded, however, by excellent German potato salad. Fingerlings were cooked just right, seasoned with bacon and some of that vinegar, but not too much. Grain and Gristle’s big breakthrough is the “two-fer.” Obviously, they didn’t invent it, but they may have perfected it. The details change over time, but basically it’s a meat-and-potatoes meal for two, with two beers included, for $20. My friend and I shared a roasted half chicken that was juicy with a crackly, peppery skin. It came on a big platter, perched on top of a pile of curly green chard and potatoes cooked slightly differently than any I’ve had before. Chunks of potato were sliced thin, but not all the way through, then seared to a crisp brown on the stuck-together side, like the world’s most delicious deck of Post-it notes. In some parallel universe, where the days are 26 hours long and refrigerators are self-stocking, this is the dinner you whipped up at home. Desserts strike a nostalgic chord: apple pie, a carrot cake with perhaps too many walnuts, and a sweetheart of a red velvet cake. The strawberry-red slice had a slightly crumbly edge and the cream cheese frosting was a little melty, as if Mom ran out of time and had to frost it before it finished cooling. In fact, it retained the delicate tenderness that cake has before the steam finishes escaping. Does it go with beer? Not really, and excellent cake isn’t quite what you’d expect to find on this somewhat dark corner of Northeast Prescott Street, but I’m not complaining, any more than I’m complaining about the lack of gristle. Grain and Gristle, noon to midnight Monday-Friday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. to midnight Saturday-Sunday, 1473 N.E. Prescott St., 503-298-5007, http://grainandgristle.com/ This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. , and on Facebook at Bread and Brew.