Honk if you love beer. No, wait — we’re waking up our neighbors in Wisconsin. Anyway, the sudsmeisters of Southwest have got the message. Over the past few months, we’ve been blessed with lots of new pubs which proudly sport almost as many craft beers on tap as Andersons in the phone book.
Pig & Fiddle is the latest to debut, where, try as I might, I barely made a dent in the list, ranging from a fruity Belgian number to a deep-chocolate Porter, with a terrific, obliging server as tour guide.
Taking over the dearly-departed Pearson’s (R.I.P.), at 50th & France, Pig & Fiddle replicates a classic British pub (minus the smoke) with wood-paneled walls framing a mighty fieldstone fireplace in the dining room beyond the bar. Yet the pub boasts more of a mittel-European flavor on its food list, thick with hearty, ungussied working-man’s dishes, well chosen to accent its beers, and vice-versa. Sure, there’s the pasty favored by Cornwall’s miners, and, of course, fish and chips, but also dishes from Czech and Polish kitchens and the rib-sticking stews of Belgium and Ukraine. No sliders, and not a whiff of goat cheese: Can you imagine?
Better believe it. Instead, apps like moules frites — mussels steamed with Witterkerke and bacon, plus the proto-British ploughman’s lunch of cheeses and house-cured meats; a coarse terrine; and, our choice, apple bramborak (starters $9–$16). Those potato pancakes came dressed with a thin, sweet slice of country ham aside a drift of sweet-and-sour cabbage to accent the fruit — together, lighter than it sounds, and tasty.
The soup and salad section’s offerings ($5–$11) include a hot and hearty winter borscht and more beets in the form of a salad of ruby, marinated rounds topped with crunchy homemade pickle chips (warning: mightily addictive) and a slice of hardboiled egg: no smoke, no mirrors, simply a straight-arrow composition. Want bread? A basket of a dark raisin-walnut slices sets you back $3.
The list of entrees is where choosing gets harder. The kitchen’s specials range from a $10 pot-roast pasty to sole Solyanka — a fillet garnished with more cabbage and pickled cukes for $22. We shared the Polish-style pierogi — tender pockets lightly filled with mashed potatoes, then garnished with mushrooms and sour cream — fine, in a mundane kind of way (but not up to those in Nordeast). Next, a bowl of Alpine rabbit stew, involving ribbons of broad, hand-rolled noodles undulating in a light gravy piqued with tomatoes and crunchy almond bits — again, satisfying if not earth-shattering, just like supper at Grandmas’ house. Or go for the Belgian carbonnade, saluting beer-braised beef mingling with a mash of potatoes, carrots and Brussel sprouts, or the generously-proportioned smoked pork shank.
And here’s another shocker — a dessert list without the requisite creme brulee or flourless chocolate cake: however did these Eastern Europeans survive? Well, with applelgeback, the iconic Dutch apple pie, for one. And for two, a light Swedish cheesecake. For three, our choice, the chocolate-Stout pudding, layered with brown-sugar crème anglaise in a tall, slim glass. Yummy.