Cask Republic, with its gleaming wood, polished countertops, and fashionable gloom, feels like a bar. It is a bar. I had known it was a bar. Until last Friday, though, I hadn’t fully grasped that it was also a restaurant.
Most bars serve food, but it seems to me that some do it with noticeably less enthusiasm than others. (Toad’s, I’ve heard, serves soup.) Cask, though, in spite of its definite bar-ness, doles out food with surprising good cheer and efficiency. All in all, my three-course lunch was tasty, timely and even a little trendy.
For the appetizer, I chose the “Curried Chic Pea Fritters.” I was fairly certain these were going to be some pretty chic peas, but my waitress informed me that they were chickpeas — you know, like garbanzo beans. Still unsure whether the menu was putting on airs or just bad at spelling, I awaited my fritters apprehensively. When they came, though, they were three satisfying orbs of fried chickpea, topped with dollops of lemon dill aioli, resting primly on triangles of pita. The whole thing was festooned with a cucumber and onion salad. On the whole, it was a perfect appetizer — filling enough to pique one’s interest, insubstantial enough to leave one awaiting the main course.
Pretty soon thereafter, the main course arrived! I had ordered the “Kale Salad with Grilled Chicken.” To me, this was the ideal entrée — the chicken was a conventional, respectable option, while the kale added a crunchy soupcon of New Age daring.
I’ve never been the world’s biggest kale fan (though I’d love to meet the “world’s biggest kale fan”), but this kale salad was awesome. It was like a fluffy green cloud of awesomeness. This might have been because the salad was lathered with the creamy ginger vinaigrette, or perhaps it was because of the sizable sprinkling of cranberries, walnuts and radicchio (a purplish chicory). Either way, it was probably not too good for me — but it was very good.
The chicken was, well, good chicken. Chicken is tough to mess up. But it was cooked just right, spiced to perfection, and served in abundance. I would estimate six solid slices, balanced up against the quivering, green forest of awesome kale.
My roommate Gordon, who had come along for the gastronomic adventure, got the restaurant’s iconic burger — a hefty slab of cow topped with bacon and a few other goodies. The fries that came with the burger were excellent. But, then again, it’s hard to screw up fries.
Gordon and I ate our main courses slowly, savoring every bite. Cask started to fill with people. It never got full, exactly, and most of the lunch crowd gravitated toward the bar. Nonetheless, a cheerful sound filled the restaurant.
For dessert, I had the “Dark Chocolate Almond Brownie,” a cute little arrangement of two triangular brownies, one overlapping the other. In the negative space between them, almost like an afterthought, sat a slowly melting sphere of vanilla ice cream. The whole concoction was sprinkled — well, bathed, really — in a rich amaretto caramel. The ice cream, especially dunked as it was in the caramel sauce, was excellent. The twin brownies, Gordon and I agreed, left a little to be desired. Brownies can’t really be bad (unless you talk to Maureen Dowd), but these were just the wrong amount of flaky, not quite the right proportion of sugar to flour, or something.
All in all, my meal — appetizer, entrée and dessert — ran me $18. Pretty reasonable, but probably not an everyday outing for a college student on the meal plan. When you can, though, head on over to Cask!
And now for a joke: A horse walks into a bar. He says, “Can I have some food?” The bartender responds, “We don’t serve horses here.” The horse replies, “Oh, that’s ok. I was more in the mood for beef.”
At Cask, the bartender would say, “Great! We serve burgers!” And the fries are excellent, too.