Monday, February 24, 2014

States of Matter

I am not a gastropub guy.

To be honest find them to be the embodiment of everything I dislike about craft beer culture. From their style over substance nature, to the justification and treatment of beer as the "new" wine; and their overly-self indulgent menus. They have a pretentious, hipster-like quality that makes my skin crawl. I always feel self-conscience eating at them, as if my hoodie and sneakers just aren't as cool as tattoos and and ironically ugly cardigan sweater. I get that there are food trends, but, relabeling pizza as "flatbread" isn't fooling anyone, and it sure isn't an excuse to charge $24 for it either.

I also can be proven wrong.

Here's the set-up. My wife and I spent a much need 36-hour, overnight away from the kids in Lake Placid, New York. We did our fair share of eating and drinking but one place stood out—even though it falls squarely into the gastropub wheelhouse. Funky artwork on the wall, farm to table-this and that, and a meticulously thought out beer pairing menu. Everything that I dislike about what makes gastropubs, gastropub-by.

In all fairness, it was my idea to go there in the first place. We had just been in the Lake Placid area the weekend before (with the kids), and as we were heading out of town I noticed a new sign on what I remembered to be a pretty dive-y place. The sign read: Liquids and Solids at The Handlebar. I was intrigued.

So we went this weekend.

Yes, like I said the place had the funky artwork on the wall, farm to table-this and that, and a meticulously thought out beer pairing menu—but it was cozy. There were no ironic cardigans and I didn't feel judged by my lack of tattoos. In fact I might argue that in our late thirties (as late as you can be without being 40) we were the youngest couple in the place, although a few younger folks may have headed in before we finished. The place had been, as I thought, a dive bar—The Handlebar—but four years ago that place closed and, the now proprietors switched things up a bit with better food and better booze. Oh, and a year ago they added a butcher shop right next door. They have a great selection of bottled beer and five or six on draft. The beer list was approachable, not all a bunch of Belgian Quadruples and palate erasing hop bombs, although some of those were available. I had two from the drafts—a Jack's Abby Lashes Hopbock and Stillwater Artisanal Folklore.

The food—oh, the food—was really the star. We started with a lamb rilletes, served with sweet gerkins, pickled onions, cranberry Dijon and toasted bread. Yum. Amy had Salisbury steak (formed into a meat ball with a soft boiled egg in the middle), served with a Bordelaise sauce, and sweet potato and kale hash. It was spectacular, with just enough "Salisbury steak-iness" to harkened back to those frozen TV dinners we all had as kids. I went with the partridge leg served over gnocchi and spinach, in a light-cream sauce of bacon, and more shredded partridge meat. All I can say is holy-moley. Do you remember the Brady Bunch episode when Bobby gets kissed by a girl—for the first time—and he spaces out thinking of fireworks? That's what it was like eating the partridge. 

So, for now at least one gastropub is okay in my book. But I'm holding off on buying skinny jeans and a scarf. 

By the way—the two beers, the rillettes, and our two entreés was a whopping $48...

...and I am hip to that.


  1. An interesting look at this phenomenon. However you see it, the fact that such urban-based outfits can now be found in rural areas, albeit those frequented by urbanites, shows the appeal of the form. I see it really as coming more from the restaurant side, it's a development of gastronomy if you will. It was a way for creative chefs to enter the business without making a huge investment since (this originally in London) older pub properties could be rented or bought for less money than the more traditional locales for good eating. Ambitious chefs went in and even though prices seem high, they were lower than what a top flight city-centre restaurant would charge. The pub and beer part was really an add on although later the reverse probably occurred, with bar owners seeing a way to distinguish themselves. But really what I am suggesting is, you went to a top quality restaurant in effect.. The meal sounds wonderful (the beers too).


  2. Wise choice drinking the Jack's Abby. I feel lucky to live close to that brewery. Their beers impress me over and over again. Even if they are an all lager brewery. Maybe because of that.

    1. A+ to Jack's. Smoke and Daggers is one of my favorite beers.