Saturday, June 29, 2013

Evolution Public House: Quality Food and Beer in Salisbury

Since the advent of the US-13/50 Salisbury bypass about 10-15 years ago, a trip to Maryland's Ocean City has gotten a bit more efficient but it's now missing a tour of downtown Salisbury.  Without giving the rest of Salisbury its due, the drive through business route 50 leaves the impression of a rundown industrial feel that many urban areas have, though perhaps it was always this way.  The town is perhaps best known for Salisbury University, a University of Maryland system school, and the headquarters of Perdue, the poultry company.  If you like craft beer, it'll also be known to you as the new home of Evolution Brewery, previously located in Delaware, and its attached brewpub, Evolution Public House.  Both are housed on Vine Street in downtown Salisbury, right along a railroad track and a seemingly nowhere culinary destination (nearby is a Holiday Inn, a hospital, and a gas station).  Kudos to Evolution for setting up shop in old Salisbury, a place now off the path for beach-bound tourists, and not on overdeveloped US 13, which is where everything else in the area that's part of a big chain seems to be located. What they've brought to the downtown area is not just top quality beer but a top quality dining experience.

Beer, food, and palm trees in downtown Salisbury

The Public House, which is where I went with my wife Kathy for dinner and, a few days later, with the full family for lunch, is in the left side of an old warehouse building, with a tasting room and the brewery occupying the right.  A lively bar area with some seating for dining is right through the front door, and a modest sized dining room is to the right.  When we there both times, the dining room was only modestly filled, and at times, we were the only party in the room.  Good for us, I suppose, though it makes me worry about the future of the establishment.  The menu is full of interesting dishes with beer pairing recommendations.         

The big board of charcuterie, beer, cheese, and specials for the day

For an appetizer, we started with a charcuterie and cheese board, which consisted of prosciutto and Camembert (our meat and cheese of choice), mini pickles, a maple-flavored jam, magno chutney, granny smith apples, artisan bread, and figs.  The presentation was quite exquisite, and everything on the plate, particularly the Camembert, matched in flavor. 

For dinner, I had the PH Fish and Chips.  The chips were tasty if standard housemade fries, while the fish was battered in a Primal Pale Ale batter and served with a side of gribiche sauce in lieu of cocktail sauce.  The fish was quite tasty, as it was soft and flaky and still steaming minutes after being served, and the batter was moderately crunchy, rich with flavor, and not greasy in the slightest (a common fault I have with fish and chips).  The gribiche sauce is a much better condiment with this type of dining--it's green, creamy, and robust with herbal taste.  Portion size was quite good--the perfect amount of fish, and perhaps a touch too many fries.

If you go to a brewpub, you have to try a burger at some point, which is what I had for lunch. I had their burger--billed as the "Johnny Burger"--topped with provolone and with a side of fries.  It came on a thick, almost buttery brioche roll with lettuce and red onion.  The meat was tender, done exactly to order, making a top-notch burger. 

Since this was the end of a week-long vacation, we had dessert with lunch as a last bit of decadent fun.  It doesn't get more decadent than an ice cream cookie sandwich, served with glasses of cold milk, a hot chocolate sauce, and, yes, cookie dough spread on the actual cookie.  This is as ridiculously good as it looks and sounds.  I split this with my eight-year-old daughter, who said that, when she grows up, she wants one of these desserts for herself. 

Okay, I haven't mentioned the beers yet, which is my main reason for going.  After some deliberation and help from our server, I went outside their nice main line of beers and with more exclusive items available seasonally or exclusively at the Salisbury location--Menagerie 8 and Prelude Gold with dinner and Spring Migration with lunch.  Menagerie 8, the best of this solid threesome, is a flavorful strong ale that's earthy, malty, and full of flavors such as dark fruit, sugar, caramel, and even honey.  I had this during the appetizer and it paired quite well; at one point, it hit a perfect note with the camembert.  Prelude Gold is a Belgian Pale Ale with a bit of a barleywine-type boozy kick.  It's quite smooth and malty.  When I ordered Spring Migration, it wasn't even on the board yet and I got the first taste of the keg (lucky me!).  This one was aged in a rum barrel and it comes through in the taste.  Malt, rum, wood, and honey come through well in this beer, and it's a bit boozy but not overwhelmingly so.

Menagerie 8
Spring Migration
Prelude Gold

Overall, the Evolution Public House is not just about their beer but also exquisite food.  You don't have to be a beer person to enjoy this place (indeed, three diners at a nearby table were partaking in bottles of Coors Light).  The food--tasty, well presented, and much more than standard pub fare--stands up on its own.  Hopefully, there's enough business happening to keep this place going for a long time. Take a slight detour on your way to the beach and enjoy what they have to offer, or make it a day-trip destination.

Additional notes: Kathy had a scallops and risotto dish for dinner, which she truly loved.  I had one taste, and it was quite, quite good.  Water is served in old square-bottomed tequila bottles at your table--a neat touch.  From the dining room, you can walk through a pair of doors that take you into the brewery area and you can keep going into the tasting room.  I've been to the tasting room before but not on this particular trip.

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