Beer Cheese Pretzels from the Mad Anthony Brewing Co., on Broadway.
Braised short rib grilled cheese from the Mad Anthony Brewing Co., on Broadway.
Scooby Snacks from the Mad Anthony Brewing Co., on Broadway.
The original Munchie Emporium ceiling in the back of Mad Anthony Brewing Co., on Broadway which bears the names of members of the Guiness Club.
Beer Cheese Crawfish dip from the Mad Anthony Brewing Co., on Broadway.
Mad Anthony Brewing Co., on Broadway.
Shrimp Boil from the Mad Anthony Brewing Co., on Broadway.
Jambalaya Pasta from the Mad Anthony Brewing Co., on Broadway.
The Munchie Burger from the Mad Anthony Brewing Co., on Broadway.
The bar area at the Mad Anthony Brewing Co., on Broadway.
Mad Anthony Brewing Co., on Broadway.
Campfire S'More Lava Cake from the Mad Anthony Brewing Co., on Broadway.
Odd photos line the bottom of the windows in the bar area of Mad Anthony Brewing Co., on Broadway.
Beer flight from the Mad Anthony Brewing Co., on Broadway.
Sunday, January 28, 2018 1:00 am
Appetizers shine at city's first microbrewery
RYAN DUVALL | The Journal Gazette
Mad Anthony Brewing Co.
Out of a possible five
Trusting your server to recommend a great dish is not always a slam dunk.
Given the high turnover most restaurants experience, it isn't easy to find one who has been around long enough to know the menu well. A lot of times, servers will flat out tell you, “I don't really eat here,” or, even worse, “I don't like this kind of food.”
So when my first server at Mad Anthony Brewing Co. on Broadway admitted she hadn't been working there long, her praise of the Cheddar Ale Pretzels fell on deaf ears.
But when another server had similar praise on another visit, I had to try the appetizer. I was glad I did.
The pretzels were courtesy of GK Baked Goods, so I knew they were going to be good. These shiny, dark-brown breadstick-looking rods of dough are split across the top and looked as good as they tasted. They are soft, a little chewy and are about as good as pretzel bread can be.
And the cheese bisque was the perfect partner. It was very creamy, almost runny, so it was like a soup and not a pasty, thick yellow cheese dip like many places serve. It also had a little zing of spice and just the right hint of hoppy beer flavor. The order included four sticks, which was plenty, but I still had some of that cheese left over and that ended up being a good thing later on.
It seems odd to call these pretzels the best appetizer I had at Mad Anthony given the somewhat legendary status of the Scooby Snacks. These potato wedges seasoned with a zesty spice mix similar to Old Bay and served with a side of creamy cucumber dip have been menu staples since its days as Munchie Emporium, but the ones I was served did not bring back fond memories.
The seasoning was perfect and the sauce was great, but the potatoes were limp and lacked the crispness I have grown used to over the past two decades.
Texture was an issue with another staple – the Munchie Burger. This spot has always been ahead of the curve when it comes to healthy fare and this veggie burger has long been considered one of the best.
It is, indeed, a veggie patty and not just a black bean burger as carrots, lima beans, corn, rice and potatoes were among the plethora of stuff I found in mine. The blend was nicely seasoned and had a lot of flavor, but it was not seared well, the patty was very loose and it had zero texture. The nine-grain bread was lightly toasted so it added little texture, and the whole burger, though tasty, was one big mush pile.
Had the bread been grilled on a flat top like it was for my Braised Short Rib Grilled Cheese, it would have been much better.
The sandwich, with its crispy, buttery GK bread, was packed with tender, stringy beef and balsamic-onion jam. It was a great short rib sandwich, but I don't know that I would call it a grilled cheese because there was not enough jack and cheddar on it. I liked the generous portion of meat, but it needed way more cheese to be a true grilled cheese.
I fixed that problem, however, thanks to that leftover bisque from the pretzels, which I smeared all over it.
Justifying if this was actually a grilled cheese was way harder than deciding that the Thursday night-featured Drunken Shrimp Boil was in no way a shrimp boil. When my server told me it was the special, I asked if it came with potatoes or corn or anything and she said no. That should have been my first clue.
It was simply a shrimp cocktail consisting of a pound or half-pound of peel-and-eat shrimp served cold with cocktail sauce and lemon wedges. The beer or any spices the shrimp were boiled in were barely present and the sauce was pretty mundane. But what really made this dish unsatisfying was that many of the shrimp were not properly cleaned and still had mud veins.
When I inspected the menu after the fact, the description did say they were served chilled, but when I asked if it had potatoes or corn, the server should have realized I wasn't expecting a cocktail and described it better.
The Jambalaya Pasta did not lack for heat and was a solid choice. That heat came mostly from the ground Cajun sausage dotting the pasta, along with stewed tomatoes and spice-coated shrimp. It was a generous portion and though not complex by any means, it was a nice belly warmer on a cold night.
I also had no complaints about the Beer Cheese Crawfish Dip appetizer, which also had a little spicy zing to it, but not as much as the pasta. This dip was made with sharp cheddar and was thicker than the pretzel cheese. It had a decent amount of crawfish meat in it even though I had to dig to the bottom of the bowl to find it. The addition of crispy breaded crawfish tails on top made it worth having again.
It was the perfect kind of appetizer to pair with one of Mad Anthony's beers, or, better yet, a flight that will let you taste more of what this brewery has to offer. It is the oldest microbrewery in town and even with seemingly everyone making their own beer these days, you'd have a hard time finding another one that does it as consistently good.
There was one choice that stood out among the commercially made desserts Mad Anthony Brewing Co. offered – the Campfire S'more Lava Cake. It had a spongy graham cracker cake filled with a smoked chocolate ganache and topped with marshmallow. Nothing not to like there.
When it comes to looks, the back room is the star as it has been modernized nicely but still pays homage to the old Munchie with the original ceiling covered in names of regulars who consumed enough beers to be in the “Heineken Club.” The front bar room is a bit dated and too kitschy with the lowlight being the photos of customers around the windows that look staged and phony like the ones on advertising fliers.
And though my servers hit a home run with those pretzels, they failed in some other areas. During one visit, I never got the soup I ordered and was handed an appetizer plate that was clearly dirty with something black smeared all over it. During another, the appetizers and mains arrived within minutes of each other.
My server did her best to deflect by saying something like, “Lucky you, look at all this food you have,” but I was not feeling lucky.
Restaurant: Mad Anthony Brewing Co.
Address: 2002 Broadway
Hours: 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 11 a.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday; 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday
Handicapped accessible: Yes
Alcohol: Full bar
Credit cards: Yes
Menu: Pretzels ($5.99), Scooby Snacks ($5.99), crawfish dip ($9.99), pasta ($16.99), shrimp boil ($8 half pound; $15 full) Munchie Burger ($9.79), short rib grilled cheese ($9.79), lava cake ($6.19)
Rating breakdown: Food: * (3-star maximum); atmosphere: 1/2 (1 maximum); service: 1/2 (1 maximum)
Ryan DuVall is a restaurant critic for The Journal Gazette. This review is based on two unannounced visits. The Journal Gazette pays for all meals. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org; call at 461-8130. DuVall's past reviews can be found at www.journalgazette.net. You can follow him on Twitter @DiningOutDuVall.