Sometimes you don't realize how much you liked a place until long after you finished the meal.
After making a couple of visits to The Pub at 1802, I knew it was a decent place that I would likely go to again, but that was before a friend just happened to ask me how the restaurant and pub was.
Before I knew it, I was glowingly recommending a few of the dishes and cocktails I enjoyed there and was encouraging this friend to check it out. Decent suddenly became stellar.
The dish I was most eager to talk about was one that simply made too much sense not to be good. The Fried Green Tomato BLT was easily the best thing I tasted at the relatively new place along Spy Run Avenue in a familiar space that was once home to Bill's Bistro.
The starring fruit was battered beautifully in a zesty cornmeal breading. They were tart and tangy and the bacon was deftly proportioned to not overpower anything. It also had cheese, which was melted over that bacon while it was on the grill so the edges got brown and crunchy.
The next item I raved about did not make as much sense. The elk burger was the only wild game on the menu, so I nearly dismissed it thinking it wouldn't last. But it was good enough to make me dismiss the rest of the burger offerings.
It had just a hint of gamey essence to remind you it wasn't beef and its bacon was thicker and less crispy so it mimicked pork belly a little. The yolk of the fried egg on this sandwich played well with the sriracha aioli and the pepper jack cheese added more spice, but it still was not too intimidating.
The Beef and Brie Sliders, which I chose as an appetizer, had shaved rib-eye instead of ground beef, a thick slab of oozing brie, a little spinach and a basic olive oil aioli. They blew away the rather dry chicken sliders but could have used a little more beef – of course, I always want more meat on about any sandwich.
The Scotch eggs were spot on in terms of makeup – the panko-coated sausage was crispy and clean, the boiled eggs inside had fluffy yolks without a spot of darkness and the stone-ground mustard was a nice condiment. They perhaps could have fried a little longer as the sausage layer was a tad pink, but it wasn't pink enough to be worrisome.
I paired the Brussels sprouts with my BLT and was torn. They were beautifully fried to have the perfect texture and the sweet sauce dotted with pepper flakes was scrumptious, but there was too much of it. Perhaps more Parmesan on top would have cut the sweetness of the sauce, but these little orbs were slathered with it, making the dish a bit too sweet.
The loaded red skin mashed potatoes were flawless. Blanketed in cheese and stuffed with some of that good bacon 1802 put on my sandwiches, the spuds were whipped into a light fluff and were tasty to the bottom of the serving dish.
They were better than the macaroni and cheese I had with the 12-ounce Angus rib-eye, though the macaroni was also respectable. The steak was also a pretty respectable cut of meat, and it looked inviting with its deep, dark grill marks. The fatty parts were best – they always are – and its peppercorn marinade gave it an interesting flavor profile though a little more seasoning would have been welcome.
The house-made blood orange dressing on my Pub Salad is welcome to come back to my palate again. It was bright, acidic and really popped with flavor. The salad had a nicely seasoned grilled chicken breast that also looked inviting with its browned exterior, a lot of boiled egg that was chopped up – a nice touch as halved eggs require labor – and plenty of bacon, cheese and tomato. The addition of avocado was nice, too, as it added creamy richness to the salad that the chicken could not provide. I was a bit disappointed that my avocados did not appear to be grilled like the menu promised.
The desserts delivered in a way I did not expect at The Pub at 1802. They had me at “Cobbler of the Day,” and they had me double when the day's selection was peach. Unlike the egg in the salad, this dessert needed some chopping as there was one giant hunk of peach buried in mounds of dough and sugary sauce. The flavor was just right, but I wanted peaches in every bite.
The Peanut Butter Blitz was actually the better choice. This warm cookie buried in vanilla ice cream had coarse sugar – I thought – coating it, but there was a distinct salty flavor that had me thinking the sugar was actually kosher salt. Regardless, the salty note was just right to cut the sweetness and it all worked.
The folks at The Pub at 1802 were working, too. The service at lunch was flawless and it was about as good as could be expected at dinner. It was packed that night, and, except for a couple of slightly tardy courses, the flow was fine.
The Pub was noisy at night, but it has good acoustics and I had no trouble conversing at my table. The design is sort of nondescript and minimalist with a gray and black color scheme. There are plenty of TVs to satisfy the sports crowd, but they are deftly placed so it doesn't scream sports bar and suits several occasions.
Restaurant: The Pub at 1802
Address: 1802 Spy Run Ave.
Hours: 3 p.m. to midnight Monday and Tuesday; 11 a.m. to midnight Wednesday and Thursday; 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Friday and Saturday; 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday
Handicapped accessible: Yes
Alcohol: Full bar
Credit cards: Yes
Menu: Scotch eggs ($8), sliders ($8), Brussels sprouts ($7), BLT ($8), elk burger ($13), rib-eye ($18), Pub Salad ($10), dessert ($6)
Rating breakdown: Food: ** (3-star maximum); atmosphere: * (1 maximum), service: * (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 email@example.com; call at 461-8130. DuVall's past reviews can be found at www.journalgazette.net. You can follow him on Twitter @DiningOutDuVall.
The Pub at 1802
Out of a possible five