Let's get one thing straight: Market Garden Brewery is about the beer.
Start with the beer garden, a large European-style patio with rows of large tables and stools waiting for the 20- to 30-somethings who flock to this place on nights and weekends. Then add the fine brews being crafted in vats at the back of the Ohio City restaurant/brewery in a vibrant neighborhood that appreciates its suds.
It's all part of co-owner Sam McNulty's latest restaurant effort with beer as the star.
Market Garden Brewery opened last July in what had been a dismal space on West 25th Street. Right next to the West Side Market, it was previously an industrial space, a grocery store and, in the not-too-distant past, a place that housed and sold live poultry.
But the feathers have cleared and all that remains of its history is a faded "Poultry" sign on the outside brick wall, along with the well-worn hardwood floors and brick interior.
In its place are two expansive rooms anchored by large old-fashioned bars that keep the place hopping on most evenings. During the summer, the spacious patio is the place to be.
Brewmaster Andy Tveekrem oversees production of about 15 beers — from the light and crisp Progress Pilsner ($4.50), named for an old Cleveland slogan "Progress and Prosperity," to the pleasantly hoppy Cluster Fuggle IPA ($6) and the Forest City Brown ale ($5), with a slogan "Vintage is New Again."
With all the great brews being poured, the menu has a bar-food bent. Andrew Bower took over as executive chef about three months ago and brought with him a penchant for Southern cooking from New Orleans to Texas. His influences can be seen all over the menu, whether it's the po' boys, the tacos or the fried chicken. And the big, bold flavors that come with the Southern-style food hold up nicely against all that great beer.
For starters, try the Market Garden Meat Board ($12) with pork pate, green-chili sausage, kielbasa and other meaty provisions, matched perfectly with the house pickled veggies and whole grain mustard.
The three duck sliders ($11) were packed with a tender, juicy, roasted duck, Dijon mustard and topped with a tangy pickled onion. Not to be missed is the Scotch egg ($7), unusual for menus around here. It's a hard-boiled egg wrapped in very tasty house-made garlic sausage and cooked to a golden brown.
We also tried the Pomme Poutine ($8), which our server said was a selection popular in Canada. (Who could argue with those beer experts?) It was a dish of crispy, fresh-cut fries topped with an odd and extremely rich combination of melted mozzarella curd, black beans and smoked pork gravy, possessing considerable heft that probably tastes pretty good after a few brews.
Also on the menu are an array of tacos and sandwiches. The battered rock shrimp variety ($11) came with miniature breaded shrimp, salsa verde, roasted poblano pepper and mango slaw. It seemed disjointed spread among three flat tortillas, but when wrapped up, the flavors surprisingly came together. Others to try are the house-smoked pork tacos ($9) with black beans and guacamole, as well the braised beef tacos ($10).
You'd also be wise to order the Market Garden Ohio Beef Burger ($12), a half-pound of meat cooked to your liking, topped with creamy Havarti cheese, tangy pickled onion and a spicy aioli — all crowned with a fried egg. The delightfully oozy yolk adds a unique richness to an anything but ordinary burger.
We sampled a couple of the entrees, too. The Mustard and Buttermilk Fried Chicken ($17) was less than successful. Fried to a very dark crust, the pieces were unevenly done. Properly cooked pieces were moist and tender, but others were nearly raw. All were coated with a salty crust and served on what was billed as a German potato salad, but was more like a few pieces of sautéed potatoes and onions.
The 12-ounce strip steak ($22) was better — perfectly done as requested and served on a tasty bed of roasted, sweet sunchokes and succulent mushrooms all drizzled with a rich-tasting smoked pork demi-glace.
No longer on the menu, but also successful, was the North Pacific King Klip Fish ($17) — a tender, flaky fish perfectly browned and crisp. With its light Béarnaise and cold asparagus salad, it was a perfect summer meal for the outside patio.