Restaurant review: Ward 6 on St. Paul's East Side gets things right
Jan 02, 2013 (Pioneer Press - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
I really like the trend of neighborhood bars serving good beer and good food.
It works best if both are true, as is the case at Ward 6, the new gathering spot on St. Paul's East Side.
Open just a few weeks, the dining room already bustles with locals excited about the new hangout, owned by Bob Parker and Eric Foster, restaurant veterans who live in the neighborhood.
It's one thing to have an impressive and all local beer list -- save for Hamm's, which used to be brewed across the street -- and yet another thing to serve food that will keep people coming back to eat.
The duo wisely hired Liz Olson, most recently of Pat's Tap, to head the tiny open kitchen at the end of the long, antique bar.
She's churning out bar favorites like Reubens (but not like any you've probably tasted) and fish and chips (decadently fried in beef fat) and a few healthier options, like a chickpea stew and a Wild Acres chicken breast with artichoke slaw.
We started with meatballs ($8), which change frequently but were turkey that night. They were juicy, well-seasoned and accompanied by a zippy yogurt sauce with Sriracha.
I couldn't resist ordering the chicharron de queso ($5), which tastes like the bits of cheese that ooze out of a grilled cheese and crisp up in the skillet. I always steal those bits from my kids' sandwiches, and now there's a local place where I can get a plate full of them. It's accompanied by a tart, grown-up tomatillo salsa.
We tried the Reuben
($11) at the suggestion of our server. Its house-made corned beef was decadent, tender and not overpowered by the fresh,and tangy dressing. Its many layers transcended the often heavy, overdressed affair served at many sports bar in the area. I was a skeptic, but I'll definitely order it again.
The shatteringly crisp batter on the fish and chips ($11) and the accompanying fresh fries were a textbook-good version of the English dish, but I wished there had been some malt vinegar to sprinkle on those fries. The dish came with vinegar mayo, but it wasn't acidic enough for me.
A grilled camembert sandwich ($9) was a light, fresh, grown-up version of a grilled cheese and is one of several options that should please beer-swilling vegetarians.
The Cicero stew ($12) was definitely light and healthy, but the portion was small, so not the thing for hearty eaters. It was Minnesota spicy and included chickpeas, broccoli and al dente sweet potatoes served over rice.
The atmosphere is laid-back and family-friendly. There's a decent kids' menu. Ward 6 might be just what the East Side was looking for. I don't live in the neighborhood, but I'll be back.
Ward 6: 858 Payne Ave., St. Paul; 651-348-8181; ward6stpaul.com. Prices $3 to $15. Open for lunch and dinner daily and brunch on weekends.
Small bites are first glances -- not intended as definitive reviews -- of new or changed restaurants. Jess Fleming can be reached at 651-228-5435. Follow her at twitter.com/jessflem.
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