R.A.H. (againstathorn) wrote,

And now, a word about Gastropubs

Although I'm hardly the authority on such matters, I do feel the need to address Gastropubs, or rather, the attributes I do and do not associate with them. I know the term itself originated the UK, but over the past 10 years these establishments have really taken on a life of it's own here in the US. The general idea is that they should place emphasis on the sort of high-end food one would expect at an upscale restaurant, but situated within a hearty pub type atmosphere. Nevertheless, during my morning commute on Brown Line I couldn't help but notice an unassuming property in Wrigleyville advertising itself as 'Rookies: Gastropub & Bar' across a dingy black vinyl banner. I'm not saying the term is sacred or anything, but I'm skeptical about any seemingly normal bro-pub which tries to tap into the Gastropub craze, just because I'd reckon it'd be an easy way for them to mark up the price while offering an otherwise lackluster product and/or dining experience to customers who might know any better, in this case drunken Cubs fans.

Anyway, and please take this with a grain of salt, these are the things which conjure in my mind when I envision a gastropub:

1. Food - Although I immediately think of gourmet-style pub-grub, I understand that gastropubs can offer a wide variety of dishes. There should be no such confines as long as they're offering quality, delicious food. Whatever their fare might be, I'd expect key ingredients to be locally based, if at all possible, and to basically steer clear conventional suppliers. Ideally I'd like the meat to come from a nearby farm, which should be proudly displayed on the menu, and extra points if the meat is ground and prepared on premises.

2. Presentation - Many American Gastropubs apparently still strive to achieve the look and feel of an English style pub. It must be challenging trying to create an environment that's appealing to Anglophiles but without the tacky vibe you get from an Elephant & Castle. Personally I'd like to see these places just drop the English facade in favor of exhibiting the cultural heritage of their own region. In my mind, this meshes perfectly with the idea of locally sourced food. But yeah, I know, anything named 'pub' is bound to have an English touch.

Consider this: Western-style Gastrosaloons! Trust me, it's coming! You'll be drinking micro-swill out of mason jars soon enough.

As for the decor, I'd expect to see old wooden furniture and maybe some framed paintings and animals heads hanging on the walls. Although they're terribly English, I'd welcome tapestries for the purpose of absorbing sound, as these places can get really loud with chatter.

3. Beer - And yes, any good gastropub should have a decent menu of regional microbrews. A well stocked selection of Belgian beers, as well as a few Trappist ales, is always a plus, but you really need to showcase local breweries, and of course brewpubs have the upper hand here.

4. Other Stuff - I must address the issue of flat screen monitors. Picture, if you will, a modern sportsbar with wall-to-wall monitors all playing "The Game". No offense to my friends who happen to be sports enthusiasts, but in my opinion a gastropub should be a refuge from this sort of activity. Seriously, the presence of a flat screens just doesn't fit the dining experience I expect at one of these establishments. "The Game" can be enjoyed at any other bar in the city.

As for music, if the pub wants something on in the background then fine, but keep it down at a reasonable volume. Honestly, I expect this courtesy at all restaurants, not just gastropubs. I can't tell how only annoyed I get when the staff doesn't understand that they can't blast music as if they were at home. 9 out of 10, people are there to eat and enjoy each other's company, not to hear your crappy music collection at full volume.

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