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Dining at Steinbeck’s Ale House

IMG_8177Bad bar food starts to look enticing after a few drinks when you realize your choices are few. But good bar food? Aah, that catches your eye the moment you sit on a stool and crack the menu.

It seems that more and more watering holes throughout the city now break with the orthodoxy of burgers and brats and offer dishes that need washing down with a good pint of beer.

I had a perfect moment at Steinbeck’s Ale House in Decatur’s Oakhurst Village. Among the evening’s bar snacks were chicharrones — cubes of fried pork belly served Mexican style with sliced jalapeno and lime wedges. Salty, fatty, chewy, with that glassy layer of skin that threatens to break a tooth but then dissolves into porky goodness. Now, that’s what pork belly is for.

Chef Andy Gonzales has fans for his offbeat Asian/Mexican/Southern stylings. It’s the kind of food I don’t want to oversell because it’s sort of slipshod and not always quite thought out, but welcome in the moment. Kung pao brisket, fatty and spicy, arrives dumped over clumpy jasmine rice with fried peanuts and whole stems of cilantro. It tastes like smart drunk food.

You need to pay attention to the specials board, where you might luck into a soulful bowl of crowder peas. But sandwiches from the standing menu taste more like placeholders. Both the lamb burger and fried chicken sandwich (called the “Pimp Fil ‘Eh”) both turn sloppy and moist in your hands and get discouraging.

But it’s bar food; I’ll get over it.

- by John Kessler for the Food & More blog

9 comments Add your comment

Art

September 27th, 2013
1:45 pm

JK, welcome back from your Blog hiatus. You were missed! I love me some crowder peas.

Cancer Breath

September 27th, 2013
2:05 pm

Just as a warning to anyone headed here who has food allergies: this place serves cauliflower.

Erik

September 27th, 2013
2:25 pm

Brats? Heck, I wish I could just get a decent brat at a pub in Atlanta….but they’re all dry and bland, and generally mealy, even at the Brick Store and Porter.

Agreed that Steinbecks is good stuff though.

GraysonBird

September 27th, 2013
2:39 pm

Everyone I know ignores your thoughts JK. In fact, the only reason to read your reviews is to go to the places you don’t speak highly of.
This place is a great example of that. If your taste buds matched your ego, you might have a clue…but I doubt it.

Baltisraul......

September 27th, 2013
2:58 pm

Cauliflower is now bad for you. Never met anyone that could not eat cauliflower. I have a food allergy from shrimp. Don’t know if it is the white or the brown shrimp. Dr could not tell me. My guess it is the brown since they are the hardest to find and the most tasty. I get hives about 25% of the time that last about 45min. Don’t care! I can live w/ the 45 min. Now if it were frog legs, I would be really pissed off.

Anton Chigurh

September 27th, 2013
4:34 pm

John, please ignore the canary from Grayson and keep doing what you do exactly how you are doing it. And, I’ll do the same. How much have you lost on a coin toss?

Bob Reid

September 27th, 2013
5:47 pm

John, I read all of your columns and reviews and I have never sensed any excessive ego. Chicharrones…yum!

The Real Foodie

September 29th, 2013
12:32 pm

GraysonBird

September 27th, 2013
2:39 pm

Everyone you know ignores you. You just don’t get it

JM

September 29th, 2013
4:33 pm

Yeah John, ignore the idiot troll and keep on keepin on. Going to have to check this place out. I’ve been working a lot in Decatur the past year and love all the great spots around town.

FWIW – Those are Chicharrones de Carne. Discovered them a few years ago at a local tienda. Unfreakinbelievably good!