Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Ward 6 – St. Paul, MN

The guys and I needed a night on the town, and some of us had been interested in trying Ward 6 – a relatively new restaurant on Payne Ave. I’d heard great things about the food and the beer selection there from most people. I also heard there’s usually a wait to get in, and since we had five in our group, I headed over a bit early to get our name on the list.

The inside wasn’t what I expected. It’s bright and airy and fun (especially with the sun shining). I’m not sure why I was expecting a dark and quiet pub, but I was mistaken.

I took a quick look at the specials board and found they had a lot of interesting food items for dinner. Roasted Red Pepper soup, turkey meatballs, seared pork loin, a couple of bizarre charcuteries, and some cocktails and beer special. Noted. I grabbed a seat at the bar, since I might as well drink if I’m waiting for my friends. Thankfully they showed up right on time and only had to wait a couple of minutes since I had gotten there early. Slam rolled in a little later.

There’s a pretty comprehensive beer list with almost entirely craft brews from Minnesota. Pints are $5 and smaller glasses are $3, so you can try different varieties. They’re also separated under categories to make it easier for non-beer-snobs to decide on what to order. On the back are wine and cocktails which included some standards and also a couple of creative options. Finally, they have five adult milk shakes which all sounded really tempting. It was difficult to talk myself out of ordering one.

We got seated at one of the larger round tables and scoped out the menu. There’s a lot of appetizer items (or technically “Food For Drinking”), a handful of sandwiches and salads, 4 or 5 entrée-sized dishes, and a kids section. They do have breakfast, as well, which I will be returning for at some point. They do have a decent selection of vegetarian options, so if that’s your thing, you should be ok. And, what they do have available for veggies sounds pretty good. Enough about vegetarians: I had been told about the fatty melt and told myself a number of times I wasn’t going to get it – I was going to try something normal. I absolutely caved when I couldn’t decide and ordered it anyway. There were too many other things I wanted to try and it clouded my judgment. We also ordered poutine and an order of chicken wings to share at the table.

Chicken wings came out first. They have a house-made buffalo sauce on them that was actually pretty delicious. Maybe even my favorite thing of the night. “Someone” thought it was on the spicy side, but he’s Minnesotan. It wasn’t spicy at all – hahaha. But the wings were quite fantastic and large.

The poutine wasn’t what I had hoped. The sausage gravy was alright (note: I’m a sausage gravy snob, since my family is from Alabama and know how to make sausage gravy), and there was plenty of it, but I honestly didn’t touch a cheese curd the entire time I was eating. The fries were standard, as well. I wanted them to be so much more, but they were just ok. Better than some places, but not as good as I thought they might be. Again, my expectations…

The fatty melt looked pretty intimidating. It’s a burger between two grilled cheese sandwiches. And we all commented on how this place is fancy and cuts the crust off for you. It’s true. The sandwich is massive though. Really tall and there’s no way to smash it down to get it to fit in your mouth. You have to eat part of the top and then part of the bottom. The meat on the burger had good flavor, but I felt like the grilled cheese sandwiches would taste more cheesy. I forgot at one point that they were grilled cheese and thought I was just eating bread. It wasn’t until I was almost finished that someone asked about the bacon on the sandwich. I honestly hadn’t tasted it until then. I saw a small piece there, so I knew it was on there, but clearly it wasn’t enough. I feel bad giving this sandwich a meh review, but again, maybe my expectations were set really high. I should have gone with a standard burger, I feel like, and maybe the logistics of eating it wouldn’t have been so distracting – at one point, everyone had finished their meals and I got asked, “are you still eating that sandwich?”. Again, it was fine and am impressive thing to tell your friends about, but I wanted it to have more flavor excitement, not just horror factor.

I got to try a bit of the fish and chips and while the flavor was good, I had just had a crazy good fish and chips meal at a restaurant in Wisconsin that made this fried batter seem soggy. The flavor was good and there was a generous portion, but if it were crispier, it would have made the whole thing less greasy and soggy to me. I feel like if I had ordered this I’d be full quickly and moving slow the rest of the night.

The pot roast sandwich looked really good to me and got a “good” review. I loved the fact that it had blue cheese on it. The only complaint I heard was the bun was too hard to crush down to make it fit in your mouth.

The relish tray – one of the vegetarian options – was presented well and was appetizer sized. It had kimchee, pickled onions, fruit compote, olive tapenade, red pepper tapenade, cilantro somethingorother and some spiced nuts. It looked pretty, but I was disappointed it came with slices of French bread to eat it with. I thought there would be something racier like pita points – I know, racy, right? I didn’t get a review of this dish, nor was there in fact any comment spoken about this one at all from the person who ordered it. Take that how you want to.

I finally caved and ordered one of the adult shakes. I held out as long as I could. I wanted one of each, but since this was going to be day four of having ridiculous milkshakes, I only ordered one. I got the Sour Sophie – Vanilla Vodka and sour cherry syrup and just a hint of chocolate sauce. This was really quite good. You couldn’t taste the alcohol (which I THINK is good), but the cherry was just the right amount of sour to be tasty and not obnoxious, and there was just a hint of chocolate in the aftertaste. It was a really well-done milkshake and I’m glad I got it.

Overall, I was ok with my meal. I believe my expectations were set rather high for this place. I do appreciate the fact that this place takes pride in its cooking and creativity and drink selection. I feel like it’s better than bar food and less better than many nice restaurants I’ve been to. I will absolutely go back, but I’m going to tailor my expectations appropriately and maybe just enjoy a couple of appetizers and some drinks. That’s where I think this place can shine for me, personally. And it could absolutely be chalked up to ordering error on my part. (Please realize this is only my review, and this place has gotten TONS of great reviews from people – which may have adjusted my expectations really high up there to an unachievable place – it happens.) And, if you have a mouth that you can fit an 8-inch sandwich into (cough Sandra Bernhard cough), then feel free to order any of the sandwiches.

(For the record, I’ve already planned another trip there with a friend, so I guarantee it’s worth going back for. And I’m actually looking forward to it. …I just didn’t want you guys to think I was jaded.)

Top 5 things about Ward 6
1. Chicken wings
2. Sour Sophie shake
3. Fantastic beer and cocktail list (including all the different beers I had or shared)
4. Amazingly helpful and friendly staff
5. I love that the menu for both beer and food changes regularly and has creative things

Bottom 5 things
1. Fatty Melt wasn’t what I wanted it to be
2. Poutine wasn’t what I wanted it to be
3. Sandwiches are logistically difficult to eat
4. You’ll likely have to wait in line to eat here
5. Now that I’m looking at the brunch menu, I’m mad I didn’t go on a Saturday or Sunday…

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