The New York Times
January 20, 2012
Westchester Dining | Tuckahoe
By ALICE GABRIEL
For Beer Aficionados, the World on a String
“How long have you been waiting?” the host asked.
“Oh, five minutes,” said the man, stretching the truth by four and a half minutes.
“Well, that’s inexcusable,” the host said. “I’ll send a waiter right over.” And in a jiffy, a waiter was at their table. I don’t know if the couple, who complained openly about the noise and never removed their winter coats, will ever return, but they certainly could not fault the service.
Growlers, which opened in October with one of the most impressive craft beer selections in the area, has some of the friendliest — and most taxed — waiters, bartenders and hosts I’ve encountered anywhere. It also has some darned good food.
Part of a regional trend, Growlers — owned by Ciaran Cullen, the chef, Eric Lorberfeld and Jamie Villarie — joins a new breed of pubs and taverns responding to economic uncertainty with affordable food and drink that nonetheless satisfy requirements for artisanal correctness. But stand warned: with its emphasis on imbibing and its harsh acoustics, Growlers is not for everyone. Diners looking for certain frills — firm reservations, tablecloths, discreet replacement of flatware — should read the fine print.
Growlers aggressively promotes connoisseurship (don’t look for hot wings or Miller High Life). The beer list, printed in a throwback typewriter font, designates style, alcohol by volume, state or country of origin and price (for example, Brooklyn Monster Ale (English barley wine, 10.8 ABV, NY, $9); and Southern Tier Eurotrash Pilz (Czech pilsner, 5.5 ABV, NY, $7). Waiters are well versed — in fact, steeped — in beer lore, and it is worth seeking their advice (they happily encourage sampling).
The seasonal menu — substantial snacks, hearty sandwiches and high-calorie sides — is tailored with beer in mind. One of my favorite dishes was a rich gumbo made with rabbit, house-smoked chicken and andouille sausage, which paired nicely with the full-bodied Bear Republic Racer 5 (cask-conditioned IPA. 7.0 ABV, CA, $8). I also loved the All-American Tractor Toast, an open-face grilled cheese sandwich made with rough country bread, a swipe of mayonnaise and New York State Cheddar, which was a perfect match for the honey-and-spice Sixpoint Sweet Action (cream ale, 5.2 ABV, NY, $7).
We also liked the retro devils on horseback — prunes stuffed with blue cheese, wrapped with fatty bacon, skewered with toothpicks and served on a tuft of greens. Smoky baby back ribs came with excellent sweet pink coleslaw and grilled cornbread (the latter could have been more moist). A no-nonsense mixed green salad with shallot vinaigrette was just right for the time and place.
The Growler burger, made with a beef, pork and veal blend, was a perfect medium rare. The rosemary chicken burger, with American cheese, rosemary garlic mayonnaise, arugula and roasted red peppers, was also tasty. Both, however, arrived on anemic, half-baked rolls — Growlers should consider finding a better bun.
The one real misfire was a special, a pulled pork sandwich that had a weird chemical taste. The guest who ordered it was heartened, however, by the delicious pork and beans that came with it.
The restaurant’s trademark Growler fries — showered with bacon, parsley and Parmesan — were hot and cold, literally. On one plate they were all but sizzling, on another, stone cold. The hot ones were everything fries should be.
As unpredictable as the fries is the scene itself, which can be almost serene on a weeknight and boisterous on a weekend. On a Friday night, we tried mightily to identify a few songs on the soundtrack, but the roar of the crowd — especially the revelers at a communal table near the bar — drowned it out.
Growlers has recently given in to grumbling and added a liquid dessert to the menu: a serendipitous blend of Wells Banana Bread Beer and Young’s Double Chocolate Stout ($8). Beer floats are in the works.
Growlers Beer Bistro
25 Main Street
THE SPACE Modern tavern in a former railroad electrical plant. Industrial interior features a long, tall communal table, cowhide banquettes and lounge area; concrete floors, large windows and exposed ceilings amplify noise. Wheelchair access.
THE CROWD Mostly adult, some families (children eat free Saturdays and Sundays from 1 to 5 p.m.). Casual dress. Live music Wednesdays and Saturdays.
THE BAR Side-by-side televisions above a lively L-shaped bar. Beer is it: 17 on tap, and many more in cans and bottles. Growlers to go. Craft sodas. Short, appealing wine list. “Hoppy” hour, with $5 drafts, 4 to 7 p.m. weekdays.
THE BILL Snacks are $3 (for hot pretzel bread) to $13 (for sautéed mussels). Sandwiches are $9 to $14. Charcuterie and cheese plates are $13 to $28.
WHAT WE LIKED Devils on horseback; baby back ribs; pork and beans (special); gumbo with rabbit, smoked chicken and andouille sausage; tractor toast; Growler burger; Growler fries.
IF YOU GO Open Tuesday through Thursday, 4 p.m. to midnight; Friday, 4 p.m. to 1 a.m.; Saturday, 1 p.m. to 1 a.m.; Sunday, 1 p.m. to midnight (also open on Mondays in January). Parking is free in designated spots in adjacent commuter lots on weekends, and weekdays at designated times; metered parking free on Sunday and after 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday.
RATINGS Don’t Miss, Worth It, O.K., Don’t Bother.