Every day after I’m done teaching I load onto a bus with six other raucous kids and am transported over to a martial arts practice center. Here I am part of a jujitsu group. I am the lowest member on the totem pole. There are kindergarten kids who can jui-jitsu better than me. This weekend we had a competition. Afterwards our best jui-jitsuer, Cassie, her friend Bella and Cassie’s parents headed to Cigar City Brewpub for lunch. I decided to tag along, hoping to pick Cassie’s brain about some of the difficult moves she can do with ease. J-Fur and her parents joined me there along with Z-Bot.
For Cassie’s family, it was a short stay. Cassie kept messing around with Bella to the point where her mom had to say sternly, loud enough for the people sitting a few tables away to hear, “No Cassie, we don’t practice jui-jitsu on our friends.” Her mom looked at me hoping that I would step in and be the sacrificial lamb. She must’ve seen the fear in my eyes because Cassie’s family packed up pretty quickly and hauled it out of there. This left my wife, in-laws and I to our own devices. No problem. I harnessed the emotional intelligence that my jui-jitsu master had instilled in me and made my way to the menu.
The first order of business was an appetizer. Cigar City Brewpub had a couple different choices that seemed like they could be vegetarian. These included the madura brown ale cheese soup and tomato bisque soup. Both the soups had cheese in them so I passed and went with the Black Bean Cakes instead. These cakes come with a chipotle sour cream and a fire roasted salsa verde on top. I wasn’t too excited about either topping, the sour cream because of the dairy and the salsa verde because I typically don’t like green salsa but knowing bean cakes, I figured I needed something to moisten them up. I asked for mine with just the salsa verde.
Bean Cakes and Fire Roasted Salsa Verde
I wasn’t quite sure what to expect when the bean cakes arrived. I imagined a Morningstar patty with salsa verde on top. What actually came out was nothing like that at all. It was three decent sized bean cakes (or was it two humongous ones?) that were reminiscent of the ones I make in my own kitchen. The salsa verde was neatly placed on top and spruced up with a bit of green. Everyone at the table took a little bite and weren’t super impressed. Why? Because they didn’t take any of the salsa. Despite my deep, deep dislike of salsa verde I thought the bean cakes were made by the salsa. It was the subtleness of the fire roasted taste that really dazzled.
Next up, main course. On my only other visit to Cigar City Brewpub I wrapped my hands around their lovely veggie Cuban and let it make sweet love to my tastebuds. The balance of herbs, zucchini and squash blending nicely with the sundried tomato hazelnut pesto and the orange balsamic reduction. Put it all in crusty Cuban bread and you’ve got a winner. I planned on repeating that sweet music this time around until I saw the Panzanella Salad. Cuban bread, beefsteak tomatoes, basil and arugula with a white balsamic vinaigrette? I was in. The actual salad calls for a healthy dose of Pecorino Romano to finish it off but I abstained. This is a bit of a risk as you never know what you are going to get when you leave the cheese behind. Some dishes work fine (Cappy’s Deep Dish with Asparagus and Spinach) and some are calculated just right with the cheese so when you take it off, things get all out of whack.
Thankfully, this wasn’t the case here. The Panzanella Salad had a lovely, light taste. The bread was perfectly toasted, the tomatoes had a deep fresh feeling to them. The vinaigrette served as a gentle reminder, not a dousing rendition and the arugula offered just enough pepperiness to appeal to the palette. The salad was mostly bread. This wasn’t necessarily a bad thing but I love veggies. I would’ve liked a bit more tomatoes.
J-Fur stuck with her old stand-by the Veggie Cuban. She also ordered a side of yucca fries. This brings me to my biggest gripe with Cigar City Brewpub. I love that the brewpub offers yucca fries. The Lime used to. When it quit, I quit it. The only other place I’ve found them are at La Teresita. Cigar City’s version are a lot better than La Teresita’s. Each fry I bit into at Cigar City was done perfectly. Because of that, I understand paying a bit more. But twice as much? Uh uh, I’m not down with that. There is also a bit of inconsistency between the side version and appetizer version. On this visit, J-Fur ordered a side of yucca fries and was charged 1.50 for 5 of them. That’s about thirty cents a fry. On our first visit, we ordered the appetizer version of the yucca fries for six dollars. By my calculations that means that we should’ve received twenty yucca fries. Our order maxed out at twelve. I hope this was an oversight. I really do. But to think that an appetizer version would be so much less economical than a side rubs me the wrong way.
The Veggie Cuban
The Yucca Fries
My mother-in-law ordered the exact same thing as J-Fur. My father-in-law went with the fish tacos and a Florida Cracker brew. He enjoyed it immensely.
The Fish Tacos
I expected a lot from Cigar City Brewpub. The food didn’t exactly disappoint but on some of the items, when you stacked it up with the price, it wasn’t impressive. I appreciate the time and effort the restaurant puts in to serving fresh, homemade items with local ingredients when possible and I’m willing to pay more as long as I feel I am getting my money’s worth. At Cigar City Brewpub, sometimes I do and sometimes I don’t.
I washed my Cigar City experience down with a side of Action Item. Action Item is a four piece housed in New Jersey. The band’s latest single “We’ll Be Fine” was produced by Dylan Scott (who has also worked on Young Rising Sons, HALSEY, Wonderful Humans). The song welds together a memorable chorus, charming pop hooks and upbeat synthery. The final result? A song that will have you feeling it all day long.