Day of the Week: Thursday, 5/30
Total Bill: $132.68 (before tip)
Breakdown: 4 appetizers/small plates, 2 entrees, 2 desserts, 4 beers, 3 drinks
Verdict: Good food, great beer, and a bright future.
When Cigar City announced they were opening a brew pub in the old TGI Friday’s building in Northdale, we were pretty excited. Northdale is very close to us and anything by Cigar City had to beat the pants off of TGI Friday’s. Hubby went for lunch within the first week or two of it being opened and was a little disappointed. The service was still very rough and the prices were quite high (some of which have come down; more on that at the end of this post). But we wanted to keep an open mind so we gave it a couple of months and then went for dinner.
Cigar City did a beautiful job renovating the space. I don’t think I was ever in that particular TGI Friday’s but I’ve been in other ones. They’re OK but…boring. Cigar City really warmed the space up with wood paneling, beer-related decorations, and rich, muted colors.
Hubby started with a Cigar City Café Con Leche stout ($5). I opted for ale with allspice and scotch bonnet peppers from the cask ($6). I love cask beers because they’re served at a warmer temperature, which really opens up the flavors.
I ordered the deviled crab ($8) to start. Hubby ordered the swordfish tacos ($9) and a cheese and charcuterie plate with hot capicola, serrano ham, Mill Farm Golden Cheshire, Caseificio Latour, and another firm cheese (whose name I have forgotten) for $17.
My crab was excellent and a very large portion. The tacos (three to an order) are full-size and have an excellent presentation, served in a wooden holder with bright purple pickled cabbage and sliced jalapenos on top. I don’t usually eat fish tacos but Hubby prevailed upon me to try one because he liked them so much. They were good, mainly because I couldn’t taste the fish, which also seems to me like it defeats the purpose of having fish tacos. The cheese and charcuterie plate wasn’t noteworthy. The cheeses were fine but none of the choices on the menu were that special. The meats were good.
For dinner I ordered the mojo pork shoulder ($15, served with black beans, rice, and plantains). Hubby ordered a Cuban sandwich ($9, served with chips), hold the pickles, mayo, and mustard, and got an order of pork chicharrones ($6) on the side.
My pork was tender and juicy, with great flavor. Our server, Brett, recommended it to me when I was torn between that and the arroz con pollo and I was definitely not disappointed. The chicharrones were excellent – salty, crispy, and decadent. I didn’t try Hubby’s Cuban but he was digging it. (He had the Cuban when he went for lunch back when they first opened.)
With dinner I had a Charlie Wall ($8), which is whiskey, blueberries… and honey maybe? I think that’s right. (The brew pub’s website is still under construction, so a lot of this post is from memory.) Hubby had a Firkin-tini ($8), which I think had elderflower liqueur in it. I tried it and it was good but a little sweeter than I prefer, so I wouldn’t get it.
For dessert I ordered a four leches cake ($8) and Hubby got the milk and cookies ($8). He also ordered a shot of espresso vodka ($6) to put in his milk. The four leches was probably the best tres leches-style cake I’ve had in a restaurant. Usually they are just so soggy that they’re practically inedible. But this cake still had body to it. But it was very rich, so I only ate half and gave the rest to Hubby. Hubby’s dessert was three or four chocolate chip cookies served with a big glass of milk. He said the cookies were delicious but, frankly, I think this dessert needs some tweaking. If I could have my way, I’d make an “adult milkshake” to serve with the cookies and offer a non-alcoholic version for cheaper (like $5).
Our server really did a great job and was super friendly. I was being quite indecisive this evening and he was very patient. But I will say that the restaurant wasn’t busy. I think there were maybe three or four other tables taken in our section of the restaurant (out of maybe 15 tables). The bar was much busier.
Fortunately, when Hubby first went to the brew pub, he got a copy of the dinner menu to bring home. And that menu has prices on it, which allows me to do a little comparison for you.
Swordfish tacos: Decreased from $12 to $9. (Portion size may have also increased. A friend who ate there about a month ago said her tacos were quite small but Hubby’s tacos were full-sized.)
Arroz con pollo: Decreased from $18 to $15.
Flat iron steak: Decreased from $22 to $20.
Pork shoulder: Decreased from $17 to $16.
Fish: Decreased from $25 to $17 or $18 (forget the exact price). I will say this dish has changed. On my copy of the old menu it was “whole local fish, local root vegetables, pearl onions, piquillo pepper vinaigrette.” I think now it’s a filet. But I think most people would rather have a filet anyway.
The new dinner menu also features a burger for $12, topped with bacon and plantains, which wasn’t on the old menu.
So what’s the bottom line? This brew pub will be very successful. Management already has demonstrated a willingness to recognize that something isn’t working and then change it. That is a HUGE advantage in any business, but especially the restaurant business. (Based on my observations, successful restaurants are the ones that never stop asking “what can we do better?”) I look forward to seeing what’s next!