ALBANY — Druthers Brewing Company in Saratoga Springs has opened a brewery/restaurant in Albany’s South End, where it joins Nine Pin Cider Works and Wolff’s Biergarten in a creative and very cool re-use of old buildings.
More space is given over to brewing than food here, but that still leaves plenty of room. Ann Marie and I were at table 51.
Druthers Brewing Company
WHERE:1053 Broadway, Albany, 6507996, www.druthersbrewing.com
WHEN: 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday to Thursday, 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday
HOW MUCH: $52 for food, before tax and tip
MORE INFO: Credit cards: Master Card, Visa, American Express, Discover. Children’s menu. Wheelchair accessible. Parking on street.
Druthers operates the food service at McGregor Links in Wilton, as well. Menus vary slightly by location.
The renovated plumbing supply building probably never looked better, with polished wood floors, a large bar area with tables separated from a larger dining room and open kitchen by a casual seating area with fireplace. You can watch them make beer from the bar.
Druthers has casual, comfort-style food and a thoughtful menu; though there are wings and burgers and pizza, the wings are prepared confit-style, burgers include chicken and veggie, and the pizza menu runs to potato leek and Italian sub mix. There are a few entrees, like grilled marinated steak tips ($20) and Mexican lasagna ($18).
Appetizers are of heroic proportions and include rich stuff like hickory-smoked pulled pork with cornbread ($11), loaded waffled hash browns with smoked chicken, cheddar, bacon, gravy and maple syrup ($11), and beef short rib dumplings with horseradish cream sauce ($12).
Druthers has improved on pretzels. They make them properly, rolled into fat sticks and boiled and baked, and then do something that make them buttery and crispy. They’re puffy and pure white inside with a extra-crispy mahogany-hued crust, and dusted with fine salt.
They could stand on their own, but don’t have to, because they’ve got their own beer-based, thick, sharp and tangy cheddar sauce with bits of pickled red cherry peppers to dunk them in (beer and cheese dip, $12). Share it with three or more of your best friends.
The barley greens salad ($18) was healthy and enjoyable. I added hangar steak, which was sliced and fanned out around the rim of the plate for easier eating, but trickier cutting. The marinated steak was tender with only a little gristle, cooked to order.
The mixed greens were dressed with a hefeweizen vinaigrette, whose flavor spectrum went from sweet to tart but balanced out somewhere in between. Cooked white barley, chick peas and pistachios topped it off, along with grated semisoft cow’s milk Tilsit cheese, assertive but pleasant. Superior components added up to an excellent meal.
The Asian sloppy Joes ($15) were a good choice for someone like Ann Marie, who hadn’t tried duck, as the fermented kimchi, red cabbage slaw, and Kung Pao sauce would prevail over novel flavors. Kung Pao sauce, with soy and sesame and chile, is sweet and hot, with chopped peanuts for crunch.
Ann Marie resorted to knife and fork as the filling for the large Joe slid over the lettuce and tumbled onto the plate. Grilling gave the soft, sweet roll more integrity but it wasn’t enough to support the innards. Delicious; the panoply of flavors was like, “a party in my mouth,” she said.
Skinny fries get cold fast. Ann Marie thought her fries were so-so, I thought they were a bit oily, and we agreed that they could have been hotter. It’s a small quibble to make when everything else was so good.
On the server’s recommendation, we shared a slice of unconventional but extraordinary carrot cake that was unexpectedly spicy and dense. Ann Marie, an enterprising baker, examined it closely from all sides. “It’s amazing,” she said. Their solid but moist cake is packed with ginger, heaped with sumptuous whipped cream, dotted with fresh berries. The vanilla sauce dribbled over, evocative of cream cheese frosting was overkill, though.
Service was steady and mindful, neglecting to clear for a subsequent course the only slip-up. The restaurant was mostly full, but service and kitchen hummed smoothly.
The tab for our very pleasant meal in a very smart setting, before tax and tip came to $52.