Making Amens: A Review of St. Joseph Brewery & Public House
St. Joseph Brewery & Public House turns a 135-year-old Catholic parish on College Avenue into a sanctuary of beer.
She says that a deal to return to Chicago is in early talks with two franchisees and involves 12 locations. New stores are soon coming to Cincinnati and Columbus, Ohio; Nashville, Tenn.; and a few Indiana cities. Yet another store opened at September’s end in Hamilton Town Center.
Now that Massachusetts Avenue has become an unofficial district of pubs and taverns, it’s nice to have one that’s doing something a bit different. But “curious” was the word we used the most as we dug into chef Roger Martin’s decidedly more precious and lighter-than-expected bar-food creations on our two recent visits to Ralston’s Drafthouse (635 Massachusetts Avenue, 317-493-1143). Owned by the same folks who brought the perennially popular Chatham Tap not only to Mass. Ave. but to Fishers as well, Ralston’s has revitalized the long-dormant former Agio space with a straightforward decor that emphasizes the pub’s focus on hard-to-find craft suds. Framed vintage beer labels decorate the far wall of the dining room, colorful bottle caps tile the bathroom doors, and a curtain of old beer cans dresses the host stand as you enter. Dart boards, a sleek shuffleboard table, and plentiful screens for game watching all point toward a place that’s a little more geared toward late-night quaffing than fine dining.
But none of that could explain the esoteric menu of fruit-drizzled and nut-crusted fancies that Martin is putting out for his customers. Whereas the menu at Chatham Tap has settled in to a sensible yet varied selection of fried pickles, pub pizza, hearty sandwiches, burgers, and fish and chips, Martin’s menu at Ralston’s wants to update and refresh those classics with flatbreads, sweeter sauces, and healthier sides—an homage more to the taverns of Copenhagen than Liverpool. As our sensible and fluent waitress suggested the first night we dropped in, Martin aims to pair his dishes more with the beers on offer, much in the way that chefs pair foods with wine, with an emphasis on fruit and cheese.
At times, it works. The Holyoke Sliders (available in both meat and soy, though we chose meat) are possibly the juiciest meatballs in town, literally oozing broth as you sink into the closest thing to a burger on the menu. Marinara sauce and fresh mozzarella avoid the heft you might expect in a meatball sandwich. A delectable mettwurst sausage wrapped in a crepe is another highlight whose fruit sauce doesn’t overpower the flavors. The Weizen Fish, on the other hand, is a jangling combo of blackened trout with a tangy raspberry reduction, rich pecans, and goat cheese (a cardinal sin to some chefs who rarely mix dairy with seafood).
A meaty squid salad at the SEO-friendly Sushi Bar Broad Ripple (911 Broad Ripple Ave., 317-257-7289). Carefully assembled to provide the perfect ratio of grated cheese to dressing per bite, the cherry tomato salad from Room Four (4907 N. College Ave., 317-925-7529). The shrimp and grits appetizer at
The homemade pickles on the plate in front of us weren’t exactly the ones our grandmothers made us as kids. There were cucumbers, yes, though mostly to support the lightly brined stars: hunks of crunchy daikon radish with a subtle bite of kimchi; a beet-pickled egg blushing pink. A single slender ramp—a wild leek foraged in spring—snaked around to a glistening dollop of peanut spread. Was this the new wave of pub grub, or just some quirky concoction dreamed up by a pregnant chef? And just how did the folks at Black Market, the much–buzzed-about, long-awaited nouvelle comfort-food spot tucked at the end of the Mass Ave restaurant district, expect us to approach it? “People eat it all kinds of ways,” said co-owner Ed Rudisell, smiling from behind the bar where we sat sipping glasses of wine. “We don’t tell customers how to do it.”