American Craft: significant improvement over Roadhouse
I initially had great hopes for Brookline's former Roadhouse - after all, a restaurant run by Publick House management couldn't help but be great, right? - but a few too many lackluster dinners (flavorless grits, bland Brie quesadilla, etc) dashed those hopes. After those meals, I only used the Roadhouse as a way to pass time drinking American craft beer while waiting for a table at PH.
However, the Roadhouse's replacement, American Craft, is a worthy destination for food as well as drink.
We started out with the hand-cut fries with beer and blue cheese fondue. The fries were prepared similarly to PH's, though cut larger and sprinkled with fresh parsley, chives, and coarse salt. The fondue was more of a thick cheese dip, with a grainy texture and robust gorgonzola flavor. We couldn't taste the beer in the dip, but we had our drinks to fill that void (Allagash Interlude [American wild ale] and Victory Braumeister Pils [Tettnanger-hopped pilsner]).
I ordered the Myers all-natural beef burger medium rare, with a challah bun, truffle cheese and mushrooms on top, and mixed greens on the side. The burger itself was well-spiced and lightly herbed. It was my favorite expression of medium rare - the meat was juicy and moist, yet the juices did not run and make the bun soggy. The truffle cheese was a lightly-flavored Brie, and the mushrooms were soft and pleasantly earthy. The burger came with shredded lettuce, diced tomato, and diced onion - an unusual interpretation of default burger vegetables. The challah bun, courtesy of High Rise Bakery, was robust and sweet. It may be the first hamburger bun I was excited to eat! As a whole, this burger was the first burger to really "wow" me since Bonfire's memorable pound of Kobe beef. The side salad was mostly red leaf lettuce, tossed in a light poppy seed vinaigrette. It was unremarkable flavor-wise, but its lightness was welcome after noshing on such a hearty burger. My boyfriend ordered the oven-roasted trout - which turned out to be an entire fish! - served on a mixture of spelt, cherry tomatoes, escarole, and fresh herbs. The trout skin was crispy, with plenty of spices nicely burned into it. The meat itself had a light fishy flavor, and was flaky yet firm to the touch. The escarole was nicely wilted, and played well against the firmness of the cherry tomatoes. The spelt was reminiscent of lentils, though grainier.
We then washed our meal down with Avery's Anniversary Sixteen Saison, a heavily-carbonated Belgian ale flavored with peach, jasmine, and honey.
I really appreciate this successful application of the PH beer-and-food philosophy to American classics - and now, if PH has a long wait, I won't be upset to walk the block or two down Beacon and grab dinner at American Craft.
Tried it last night and was pretty pleased. They have Goose Island Pere Jacques on draft! (Apparently the Chicago-based GI is making big inroads here after being MIA in the Boston area for too long.) Followed that up with an excellent Danish-style rye ale from The Bruery and Pretty Things St. Botolph's Town.
Had the burger as well - topped with truffle butter for extra artery-clogging appeal (with greens on the side, I swear).
I still don't love the space - it's cavernous and drafty - but at least they've brightened it up a bit from its Roadhouse incarnation.
Personally I find the Publick House Management does NOT care very much about the food or providing hospitality to their clients.
It has been true most of the time at Publick House, it was true at Road House; I will be VERY surprised if 6 months from now they actually continue to deliver at American Craft.