Jump to content
crackers

The Brewer's Art, Tavern and Brewery in Mount Vernon Featuring Terrific Beers and American Cuisine

Recommended Posts

Brewers Art's dining room a couple of weeks ago had gone downhill since the last time I went. And the service was excruciatingly slow. It was somewhat early in the evening in the dining room, and there were only two other small parties there, yet it was almost 45 minutes before the first courses arrived. Our waitress must have been going up and downstairs a whole lot - she looked frazzled. The haricot vert and tomato tartare concoction was mushy green beans and diced hothouse tomatoes. My shrimp salad would have been returned even if I'd received it the day before. I requested the lamb cassoulet off the lounge menu, which, granted is not usually done. I had to hunt for the few bits of lamb, and they were dry and tasteless. The black-eye peas weren't bad. I didn't know at the time that there had been a change in the kitchen. Maybe that's why. And if you eat in the bar or the adjacent lounge area, expect a serious amount of cigarette smoke wafting by. It's in a beautiful old townhouse, and it has got awesome home brew. I'd go just for that. And they make really good rosemary garlic fries too.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Wow. I feel kind of bad that the Brewer's Art thread started out with such a brutal experience. But, I'm not the one who served someone a steaming pile of shit for dinner so I suppose there's nothing for me to feel bad about.

Except that I do consistently recommend the place. Most restaurants, even ones that I consider to be favorites, have strengths and weaknesses, of course. And, as most people do with friends and loved ones, I try to focus on what they do best and forgive the rest. Here's my very personal guide to what the Brewer's Art does best.

First, their beers just plain kick ass. Good beer is essential for life and I am truly grateful that I am closeby. Nothing takes the edge off like chillin' with an ozzy in that gorgeous old townhouse. As an aside, for those interested in world of high finance, the house once belonged to Alex Brown.

Second, a plate of perfect fries is not to be overlooked. You can try but it will be difficult to pass them up. While you are enjoying your beer, the smell of rosemary and garlic will drive you nearly insane as waiters and bartenders serve everyone else around you. I am weak, so I usually wind up with fries.

After fries and beer, my mood will be good. It will be about that time that I usually start to think that I should eat some vegetables. I will have a look at the menus, both the bar and dining room. MrMissCindy and I usually share a salad or two - they tend to do those very well. This spring, our favorite was the roasted asparagus with morels and a honey dressing. It didn't wear out its welcome. Sometimes beer, fries and salads are perfect for us. Sometimes we opt for sandwiches, MrMissCindy likes the burger. And, sometimes a pizza, depending on the toppings.

Occasionally, we order off the big boy menu. It changes frequently and is seasonal. Most recently I enjoyed the seared rockfish over yellow tomato and cucumber gazpacho. The fish was moist and the skin was crispy. A little too much of the gazpacho was in the bowl but I felt it was a minor quibble. MrMissCindy had grilled tuna with black eyed pea and silver queen corn succotash. He wasn't as happy as I was, mostly because the cream in the succotash made the entire dish feel a bit heavy on a hot day.

There have been times when I was unhappy with my food, never to the extent described in the original post, however. (Not that I am doubting it, mind you.) Most recently, I sent back a seafood gumbo that really was very crappy. There wasn't a whole lot right about it. Overall, though, my experiences there have been more good than bad. I think our last visit was prior to the change in the kitchen. I hope they regain their usual level of occasional inconsistency sometime soon.

While tolerance of cigarette smoke is highly subjective, during the week, I find it is usually pleasant to eat in the bar without getting too smoky. All bets are off on weekends. The middle room between the bar and the dining room is non-smoking.

We rarely venture into the dining room. It feels kind of dull to me. Reports of slow service are not unusual. But, besides all that, I just really like the bar. The bartenders are friendly and there's more buzz.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

My three experiences there for dinner were all sad. The service was abyssmal, the food not fresh, and nothing like what the menu describes. My trips to the bar, however, have all been rewarding, mostly for the beer and the fries.

Although this will make me sound like my grandmother, my pet peeve with the place is that while the customers dress nicely, everything from elegant casual to suits, the servers dress like total slobs, with bare midriffs, shirttails hanging out, raggedy and thread-bare jeans, high-top sneakers, and desperately needing a shave. It really makes me lose my appetite.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
My three experiences there for dinner were all sad. The service was abyssmal, the food not fresh, and nothing like what the menu describes.  My trips to the bar, however, have all been rewarding, mostly for the beer and the fries.

Although this will make me sound like my grandmother, my pet peeve with the place is that while the customers dress nicely, everything from elegant casual to suits, the servers dress like total slobs, with bare midriffs, shirttails hanging out, raggedy and thread-bare jeans, high-top sneakers, and desperately needing a shave.  It really makes me lose my appetite.

I actually had great service both times I have been there. In fact, one time my girlfriend was thinking about ordering a vegetarian dish that consisted on gnocchi over a pumpkin puree and the waitress told her not to. She didn't listen and she regretted it.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Working/Living in DC/Bethesda I can say that cheap flights out of BWI airport would feel like a lot more of schlep if not for the easy access to the Brewers Art (and blues at the Full Moon Saloon, but that's another story). Maybe I should also post a crap review just to keep the crowds down and help maintain the easy elegant vibe this place transmits. Generally the food trumps the decor for me - I'll eat in a trench carved out of the side of Pennsylvania Avenue if the food is good - but the BA is so gorgeous and faded decadent that I'd eat here if they only served mouldy hotdogs. The quite wonderful beer I'm not so negotiable on.

Hmmm. Suddenly I feel like booking a cheap flight to somewhere.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The Brewer's Art is a treasure. I have spent many a euphoric evening in the cave-like basement, relishing the Lucifer on tap.

For those not in the know, it's in the 1000 block of Charles Street, not exactly close to BWI, but if your jonesing for great beer in a cool-without-trying atmosphere, "this is the place"-Brigham Young :unsure:

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I have overdosed on Resurrection Ale and rosemary fries more than once.

Another Baltimore gem is the nearby Dyonisus. They have a very impressive beer selection in the super-cozy lounge (which is no surprise since - as I understand it - longtime B.A. bartender James migrated there a little over a year ago). What you get there is what you would expect from a bar catering to hipsters who celebrate beer snobbery: All varieties of Chimay, Brooklyn Brewery (double chocolate stout!), Delirium, plus Brewers Art beers and various US microbrews. Word on the street is that the food in the main floor restaurant is quite tasty, though I haven't been. B'More CP review

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

James was the bartender at Brewer's Art when I was a frequent patron, almost a decade ago!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The Brewer's Art is a favorite reason for driving to Bmore from DC, although I do not recommend driving back to DC after more than a few of their brews. (I'm always the designated driver -- lightweight.) The Ozzy, the Resurrection, and their pale ale are fantastic. I prefer their dark, dungeon-y basement bar where you can still order from their upstairs menu as well as the bar menu. Their menu has changed some, but we love their bar menu classic: the garlic rosemary fries with mayonnaise. Their burgers and sandwiches are good, and we miss the long-departed sausages and radish plate.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Been here but once and keep meaning to head back. The beers are great (both what they offer of their own plus, IIRC, the Belgians selection). The food is good and so is the service. I think I sat in the in between zone, not at the bar and not downstairs. I'd go back, especially for the beer.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The beers are go but go elsewhere to eat.

The dining menu is trying to hard to be pretentious, the service is lousy and it is still a brew pub. I had to convince them on an empty night to let my 2 teenage boys order budgers from the Bar menu. Those same two boys recognized lousy service when they wanted me to go up to the bar and get the beer i ordered 10 minutes ago. The dining room only had 10 tables yet the server managed to drop an entree when him and the bartender collided.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
The beers are go but go elsewhere to eat.
I'm assuming Marks meant the beers are good, and I agree with that, as well as (unfortunately) the second half of his statement. We wandered in here on Saturday night before an awesome concert at Meyerhoff Symphony Hall. The space is beautiful and interesting; the menu is mostly bizarre. We stuck with bar menu entrees and found the burger disappointing (dry, underseasoned, and overcooked) and I don't think we got the same fries that have been raved about upthread. The ones on this plate were limp, soggy, and tasteless.

I would have traded the three unidentified varieties of sausage on my sausage plate for just one of those scrumptious chorizos that were served at the picnic. They were boiled (?) and also on the dry side, served with a much smaller portion of sauerkraut than expected and a strange medley of (also boiled?) red peppers and artichoke hearts. Grilling would have seemed the obvious choice to me, and I think the sausages would have been a lot better for it.

Things that we passed on included such, um.... *unusual* combinations as trout stuffed with foie gras and chanterelles on a saffron risotto, and a seared foie gras appetizer with banana :lol: trifle and lemon marmalade... (lots of foie going on, wondered if it's the real stuff - the relatively low prices didn't seem to support that).

On the positive side, I would definitely go here to hang out and have some good beers. The green peppercorn beer was good and had just a tiny bit of kick at the finish. Both the bright upstairs bar and the dark basement bar had a good vibe. There were playing some great tunes downstairs and the very dark alcove with two tables in it is kind of fun. If only the food had been worthy of the setting.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Yes-I meant good.

They try to hard with the food in my opinion. It is a large dining space and I think they would do much better if they had a beer friendly menu.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
They try to hard with the food in my opinion. It is a large dining space and I think they would do much better if they had a beer friendly menu.
Absolutely - the focus on beer is completely lost in the menu. A plate of Cap City pretzels would have made me much happier than what we got. Has their menu evolved over the years into this fine dining wannabe or was there ever a focus on food that complemented their lengthy beer selection?

The place was packed, so somebody must like what they're cooking (just not me).

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Absolutely - the focus on beer is completely lost in the menu. A plate of Cap City pretzels would have made me much happier than what we got. Has their menu evolved over the years into this fine dining wannabe or was there ever a focus on food that complemented their lengthy beer selection?

The place was packed, so somebody must like what they're cooking (just not me).

I was last there a year or so ago, and a few times before that. I remember the food as being fairly good and honest, and without the effortful pretension it appears to have acquired in the meantime.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
The place was packed, so somebody must like what they're cooking (just not me).

As I recall, the place is known in town as more of a singles/pickup joint, particularly for the city's gay community, rather than as a place for a good meal.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I've been to the Brewer's Art hundreds of times over the past decade. The food upstairs can be great and can be middling, often in the same meal. The beer has always been outstanding. It never remotely seemed like a gay pick-up place, but if your looking, there are plenty of options in the immediate vicinity.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The Brewer's Art is a treasure. I spent some time in their upstairs lounge yesterday, and this is a place I'd come to all the time if I lived in Mount Vernon.

The beers I had (a remarkable $3.06 each at happy hour) were excellent: I started with the Nein!, which is described as "Our 'neinth' anniversary beer, this was brewer Rob Perry's first formulation for The Brewer's Art. A lovely Kolsch style ale, assertive yet smooth. 4.5% ABV."

Then I moved onto the Wit Trash, their summer seasonal wheat beer, flavored with coriander and curacao orange peel (4% ABV). I got the second beer because Brewer's Art has a relatively new chef in Dave Newman, and I thought the spices in the beer would go well with his ... get ready for this ... Grilled Pork Bánh Mì ($9). Yes, a Bánh Mì, and a damned good one, too - a double-sized version, served on a long, thin sourdough-based, focaccia-like roll (which is about 25,000-times better than the awful industrial baguettes you get at Eden Center and environs). This was made with cold, sliced pork loin, spicy carrot and daikon slaw, butter lettuce, Sriracha aioli, fresh cilantro, tiny slices of red jalapeño, and most importantly came with a small portion of those addictive rosemary-garlic fries (which actually could have been more freshly fried). I know I'll be crucified by purists, but as far as I'm concerned, this was the first truly great Bánh Mì I've ever encountered. Okay, fine, call it a "sandwich inspired by and very closely related to a Bánh Mì" if you'd like.

Cheers,

Rocks.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

long, thin, sourdough-based, focaccia-like roll

Focaccia-like? Yeah, not a banh mi. Bet it was a delicious sandwich though.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Focaccia-like? Yeah, not a banh mi. Bet it was a delicious sandwich though.

Yeah, and they actually used high-quality ingredients, so you're right: It wasn't a Bánh Mì :rolleyes:

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

a small portion of those addictive rosemary-garlic fries (which actually could have been more freshly fried).

The beer's great, but the fries are what keep me coming back whenever I'm in Baltimore. In my experience they've always been a bit bendy, but addictive nonetheless. And dining in the bar area downstairs can get pretty close to Dining in the Dark.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Yeah, and they actually used high-quality ingredients, so you're right: It wasn't a Bánh Mì :rolleyes:

Hmm. Just had an insanely good one on appropriately crispy-crumbly French bread at Cochon Butcher in New Orleans last week, made from entirely house-made stuff. May have been the tastiest thing I had all week.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Going to a couple of games at Camden Yards this weekend. Would it be totally inappropriate to show up in shorts and t-shirts? We'd just be getting beers at the bar.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

×