Nearly 20 years ago, when Brew City first opened on Shrewsbury Street, its craft brew strategy could have been dismissed as trendy. But only to those who didn’t see the artisanal/craft movement coming down the tracks. The momentum of that locomotive has proven to be sustained and growing; Brew City’s viability has never flagged.
Of course, it helps that the restaurant matches its mega-selection of beers with a sophisticated grill/pub menu and quality cuisine. Yeah, that might sound strange: “sophisticated” and “pub” used in the same sentence. If so, read on about our latest visit to Brew City.
My dining companion and I began our meal with one of the basics – the Onion Rings appetizer. It’s a cinch to spot factory-produced rings; just watch for a ruddy chokehold of thick breading surrounding strands of limp onion. Happily, Brew City’s were the polar opposite, with stacks of rings made from thick-cut Spanish onions quick-dipped in a light batter and deep-fried to a golden brown. Inside that crispy coating, the onions had received just enough heat to become sweet and tender. They came with a spicy remoulade sauce for dipping.
The burgers at Brew City have always been imaginatively conceived and well executed; this is the only place I’ve had a burger of Italian Piemontese beef topped with a gigantic ravioli. Brew City periodically reworks the burger menu, so tonight, my friend tried The Carnegie, ground Black Angus beef topped with a blanket of tasty pastrami, oozing Swiss cheese and beer-braised onions crammed into a huge pretzel bun. With each bite, drippings ran freely and drizzled the plateful of golden french fries.
At one point, he took a break to catch his breath, turned his burger to me and asked, “Where does the burger stop and the pastrami begin?” That was a question for the ages, but I had to admit, this was one fistful of juicy meat.
I chose something a bit more challenging for the kitchen, Creole Jambalaya. Served in a large shallow soup bowl, a spicy tomato-and-jalapeño-flavored broth was thickened with rice cooked to what I consider an ideal state: just a bit beyond crunchy, not too soft. Simmered into the mix were jumbo shrimp, strips of boneless chicken and slices of spicy sausage. Topped with scallion strips and ribbons of lime aioli, this was a dish that packed smoldering heat without overwhelming the taste buds.
Throughout our meal, the energy level of the dining room was amped up with birthday celebrations at adjacent tables and large parties of boisterous workmates. But that’s Brew City – rarely intimate, usually relaxed and fun.
All of that seemed to fade when Katie, our server, served dessert. Brew City’s Beeramisu – as strange as this might seem – was easily the best tiramisu I’ve sampled in years! Everything about it was classically conceived; the moist sponge cake, thick layers of dense mascarpone custard and the blizzard of powdered cocoa on top. Chocolate Stout contributed an elegant depth of flavor. Even better, the portion size was more than satisfyingly generous.
People love to ask, “What’s your favorite Worcester restaurant?” Of course, that’s a question best answered by category. In the informal dining genre, Brew City rests right at the top.
Brew City Grill & Brew House
104 Shrewsbury St., Worcester
By Bernie Whitmore