Broadway Brewery

Like a great many people, we’ve been eagerly awaiting a chance to try the new Broadway Brewery in downtown Columbia. Flat Branch has good beer, but they serve generic food made from generic ingredients, usually with way too much salt. For non-local readers, Broadway is being opened by several area farmers and local-foods advocates, and is aiming to source a very high percentage of their food within central Missouri in addition to brewing beer. Take a look at their website and initial menu, which should set the heart of any foodie racing. The mere fact that they don’t even own a fryer tells you a lot about their goals. Note: the online menu isn’t quite the same as the menu we got, but it gives you the idea.

We finally got our chance on Saturday, as we needed to run a series of errands after market, including some downtown. As it turns out, we had a very good market day, and so celebrated by circulating some of those dollars back into the local economy. Here’s our review of the place:

Setup
They’ve done a truly fantastic job with the look of the place. It’s the perfect blend of formal/tasteful with laid-back/pub. Lots of wood, neutral colors, dark enough to be comfortable but not cavernous. There was only one TV, a flat-screen against one wall, and it was off. Perfect. Nothing wrong with a pub with a TV for major sporting events, but I hate trying to enjoy conversation with lots of flickering going on all around me. Walking back toward the bathrooms, you get the expected but well-done plate glass windows into the brewing area. Overall I can’t imagine a more attractive and well-balanced design for a high-end brewpub. A+.

Menu
The menu is fantastic. Definitely a step above generic pub fare, with both standards and creative options. Rare among restaurants, they have vegetarian options that foodie vegetarians would actually want to eat, not relying just on veggie burgers, tofu, and mushroom slabs on buns. And the meat options are heavily sourced from real farms, and also show creativity. It’s an excellent job of balancing high-end-foodie with beer-matching comfort food. A.

Food
Joanna ordered the Watermelon salad (arugula, cubed watermelon, feta, and crispy onions dressed with balsamic glaze.) and the Potato pizza (cheddar cheese, thin sliced potato, and red onions. Garnished with chopped pistachios.). This latter was a major leap of faith on her part, as we have very high standards for our pizzas, making them at home the Italian way with ultra-thin crust, quality cheese, and fresh ingredients. It’s very hard to get a pizza in America that doesn’t use cheap cheese, too much salt, and/or bad crust. Potato pizza in particular is a specialty of hers.

She was very happy with both choices. The arugula was excellent, with a nice rich flavor but none of the spicy bitterness that so often develops when we try to grow the stuff. The pizza was good. White cheddar (THANK YOU), thin crust, not greasy, potatoes about right. The only knock was that the pizza had clearly been baked on a metal pan, not on a stone. If you’ve won Joanna on restaurant pizza, though, you’re doing something right.

I ordered the Antipasto plate (whole roasted garlic, red pepper pesto, spicy olives, and baba ganoush. Served with goat cheese croutons and grilled pita.) and the Terra Bella Farms lamb burger (not on the website, but local lamb with tomato, lettuce, and so on). The tasting plate came with slices of pita and a few hefty chunks of (Uprise?) bread. The two spreads were very good and not over-spiced or -salted, and the olives were nice. The garlic was pretty crunchy, making me think it hadn’t been roasted long enough, and the flavor was pretty bland. Compared to what I know our garlic tastes like roasted, I wasn’t impressed. Otherwise the plate was excellent.

The lamb burger’s bun was good and solid, a step up from the squishy white bun one normally expects. The burger itself was huge, probably a 1/2 pounder, definitely a bit much for me. The lamb flavor was good, but it tasted highly over-salted or -spiced. It reminded me of a batch of sausage I made a few years ago, in which I accidentally dumped half the spice container in and ended up with a wildly too-strong batch that dried your mouth out just eating it. This wasn’t that bad, but did taste too strong. Not sure if that’s from the kitchen or if the burgers come pre-spiced from the processor, but it did bug me a bit and make me very thirsty for the rest of the day.

So overall I’d give the food a solid B+ to A. Nothing wrong that isn’t likely just a kitchen getting its feet under it, and still far better than all but a handful of Columbia restaurants.

Beer
They only had two of their own brews on tap, a wheat and a nut brown ale, so naturally we tried both. The wheat was tasty but a little bitter for our tastes, though I’m not sure if that’s just how they want it or are still learning. I like wheat beer smoother. The nut brown ale, on the other hand, was fantastic. Rich, smooth, and far too easy to slide down the gullet. I could have had a lot more of that one. A.

Service
Seating, water, and initial service were all timely and courteous. Then the server and the kitchen won our hearts entirely by taking their time. I hate ordering an appetizer and lingering over its flavors, only to have the next plate of food plunked down while I’m still halfway through. Our server allowed us to finish completely, and even gave us a rest before bringing out the main course. I don’t know if this was intentional, or even if it’s really good practice overall since some people will want faster service, but we were thrilled to be allowed to relax and savor the food without being rushed. Well done, folks, though it doesn’t hurt to feed the parking meter a bit extra before dining here. Only one demerit on the service; I wasn’t asked how I wanted my burger cooked, and it came out redder than I care for. A minor point, but worth noting, especially for a burger that thick in which there was a LOT of red. A

Summary
Wow. This place will likely join Sycamore, Main Squeeze, and Uprise Bakery on our most frequented restaurant list. With the inevitable tweaks and improvements that will come with being open longer, I think they’ve got a bright future.

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