hipsters unite! because NRW this week took us on an adventure to bohemian little five points (l5p for shorthand), just east of the city, to experience everything cozy, cramped, and welcoming about the porter beer bar.
the porter beer bar is a husband-wife establishment, founded by owners molly gunn and nick rutherford back in september 2008. although they always had a palette for fine-dining, the hope for this spot was that it would be “something more casual.” well, they certainly delivered on this hope. the porter beer bar keeps its doors open for those of the typical l5p demographic and also for those who “visit for the novelty of it.” if you do not mind a different crowd and an “unkempt” vibe, this place is for you. if not, you have been warned.
its exposed-brick walls, “tables of rough-hewn and pockmarked wood,” and enveloping atmosphere give you a feeling of belonging, a feeling that is validated further by the knowledgeable and attentive staff service. our waitress rachel was pleasant and happy to answer all of our questions and to make spot-on suggestions.
the drinks that evening came often, which gave us no reason to complain. the beer menu at the porter beer bar is “immense,” offering 44 beers on draft and over 700 bottled choices. jon described the drink menu as “containing more pages and adjectives than ernest hemingway’s old man and the sea.” andrew can reassure you, though, to “not get too intimidated by the sheer volume of what you can choose from. They know what they’re doing and can point you in the right direction.”
The beer list contains only micro-brews and small imports, which means you get a taste of beers you cannot find at most local bars. if you are a libation-enjoyer, be adventurous when you come and discover something new. and as ben so simply put it, the porter beer bar is “a haven for beer snobs!”
i enjoyed a glass of the het anker lucifer, a fruity and crisp belgian blonde that was just perfect. andrew gave mine a try and made it his second beer of the evening after a bourbon-barrel beer with a lighter taste. jon may not label himself “an accomplished critic of alcohol,” but the evil twin lil b, a dark but approachable english porter, he ordered was fantastic. greg kept things simple with a tasty sweet tea, served in the coolest over-sized mason jar.
as for the food, chef nick, without a doubt, delivered on the appetizers. our table ordered a wide variety from the menu, and i ate so much to start that i only finished half of my entrée. so what were all these delectable little plates? there were several generous orders of the goat-cheese fritters on our table, and they did not last long. the clover honeyed batter and rich cheese required no dipping sauce or condiments at all. they were a stand out for many of our diners. the hushpuppies were served with a divine applesauce spread, an interesting change-up, that was to die for. the flavors together were perfectly savory and sweet. if you like salt and vinegar, the popcorn is a must-order based on our friends james’ recommendation. there were two bowls at either end of our table and it was the light snack that you wanted between your sips of beer. an order of crispy calamari went around for everyone to try and was also declared a favorite since it was not too chewy. andrew also had an order of the mac’n’cheese that was pretty standard but pretty delicious also. i told you there was a lot to start! you could have made an entire meal out of these dishes alone.
although none of us may have had room for our entrees, they came out soon thereafter and quickly covered the table. based on rachel’s recommendation, i had the kraut and beer brats and was absolutely satisfied. the homemade sauerkraut was so flavorful alongside the also house-made bratwursts. lucky for me, no one else really cared for sauerkraut, so i didn’t have to worry about sharing. jon sampled the buffalo shrimp po’boy, which he boldly stated “ranks with the best that the crescent city has to offer.” the buffalo sauce on the shrimp was flavorful but not overpowering. the southern chow-chow topping added a vinegary bite alongside the crunchy bread-and-butter pickles. the soft and sweet baguette served as the perfect base for this delicious entrée.
greg ordered the fish and chips, of which his fish was “cooked to perfection” and “the special seasoning on the fries proved for a delicious combination.” andrew’s shrimp’n’grits was “a crazy kitchen experiment” that did not go so well. there were too many flavors that were too overwhelming. vinh was excited to try the chickpea burger, since chickpeas were new to him; and he loved it! speaking of burgers, nathan loved the half-pound cheeseburger he had for dinner.
our diner greg thought the food and service were great but “felt like there was too much of a hassle” that would keep him from coming back for another visit. andrew would certainly come back, but perhaps just for the good beers and appetizers to start, more like a happy hour than a meal.
in semi-conclusion, the porter beer bar is comforting and graceful, yes, graceful. although the tables and stairs don’t sit quite straight, it all fits together so wonderfully. it is as though you are in some kind of mountain cabin retreat. since we were in l5p, though, you could guess that parking was a bit of a free-for-all and the restaurant actually was not the biggest, which meant our party of 10 was elbow-to-elbow. also, the porter beer bar does not take reservations, so the wait for a large group like ours on a wednesday night was about half an hour.
when we first told folks we were coming to the porter beer bar, those who could not attend were jealous. i think that is enough testimony to tell you something, which is that they are doing many things right and that they are doing them well.