Friday, July 19, 2013

West Town Tavern

If their reputation had not preceded them, I may not have ever went there.  While it looks like a tavern from the outside and there is a bar as you walk in, the focus at West Town Tavern is much more on the food than it is on the alcohol.  If I had seen the place without knowing about it, I may not have ever come here.  This is not to say that the place looks bad.  In fact, it looks like a neighborhood tavern in a vintage building in a nicer neighborhood.  I may never have come here because there are any number of neighborhood taverns located closer to where I live than this is.  There has been much written, though, about the food at West Town Tavern so when the opportunity presented itself, it was an easy decision.  West Town Tavern is a small space in a vintage building.  There is a tin ceiling, a hardwood floor, and a bar that will seat about 10 people that runs from the front into the building.  Located on a corner, it has a couple of patios for dining al fresco.  As it was a beautiful evening, I decided to dine outside.  The fence/divider was steel and had several planters on it.  After I had ordered but before my food arrived, the restaurant owner, who is also the husband of the executive chef, came out to water the plants and I had an opportunity to talk with him.  We simply talked about the plants and the fact that they have changed what they grow in the planters several times trying to figure out what might work out best.  In the past they have grown herbs and different flowers and while they have all grown, for a variety of reasons, they have not been ideal.  This year, they were growing petunias.  While the conversation was pretty light, I enjoyed it and it helped to contribute to the feel of a friendly neighborhood restaurant.  West Town Tavern does not have an extensive beer and alcohol list but it does have enough craft beer and spirits to offer some variety.  They do have a pretty extensive wine list though.  For my drink with dinner, I ordered an Anchor Steam Lager.  It's a pretty good craft beer from the San Francisco area that I hadn't had in a while.  It's a copper colored beer with a nice head and a smooth finish.  For my appetizer, I went with a salad.  It was not, however, a simple salad of lettuce, carrots and tomatoes.  It was an Asparagus and Strawberry Salad with a Hard Boiled Egg and a Strawberry Balsamic Vinaigrette.  Both the asparagus and strawberries were very fresh and crisp and the hard-boiled egg provided some depth to the dish.  I would not have thought that strawberries and asparagus would go together, but I think that the fact that this was so simple helped.  The vinaigrette tied the asparagus and the strawberries together.  The sweet-sour of the balsamic matched well with both the strawberries and the asparagus and the simplicity brought them together. 

I got the idea when I was ordering that asparagus was in season because it was featured in several dishes on the menu and so it showed up again with my main course.  I ordered Pot Roast with Garlic Mashed Potatoes, Asparagus, Natural Jus, and Raisins.  The pot roast was incredible.  It was fork tender and very flavorful.  The garlic mashed potatoes were smooth and creamy with a lot of garlic.  The jus tied the mashed potatoes and the pot roast together.  The asparagus was the nice crisp side vegetable and while I would never have considered adding raisins to a pot roast dish, it worked, bringing out the sweetness of the meat and tying it with the asparagus.

While my first two courses were pretty local and seasonal, my dessert was not.  You will not find any bananas trees of note in the midwest (nor any cacao plants) so most of the ingredients of my dessert were shipped a long way.  Despite that, it was really good.  I had a Banana Cream Pie with Salted Peanuts, Whipped Cream, White Chocolate, Caramel, Brown Sugar, and a Mint Garnish (which may very well have been found locally).  It was sweet, creamy, and salty with a lot of bananas and a dense crust.  It was a very good finish to a very good dinner.

I am glad that I had the opportunity to come to West Town Tavern.  The staff is very friendly and attentive and the food is very good.  While it isn't far from where I live, I will definitely have to make a point of returning.  

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