On the chalkboard sign outside the new Grand Rounds Brewpub, there was a message one day last week that said, “Beer — because no great stories began with someone eating a salad.”
But below it was a postscript: “We have great salads, too!”
They do — they have a lot of great food and grand ambitions.
Grand Rounds opened a few weeks ago in the former home of Sontes, which was one of the most elegant and challenging dining rooms in town. There’s no mistaking the new restaurant for the old, but General Manager Paul Koerner and his team clearly want to be known for more than fresh, homemade beer.
That’s a good strategy, considering all the brewpubs, taprooms and craft beer bars Rochester will have soon. As the P-B’s Answer Man quipped recently, we’ll have more brewpubs and taprooms than nail salons before long. Forager Brewery is getting ready in the Kutzky Market building on Sixth Street Northwest, the taproom at Kinney Creek Brewery is well-established, and with the expanded Tap House next door and Crooked Pint Ale House on West Circle Drive, there will be plenty of options for people who like quality beer.
Grand Rounds has plenty of that. The Hop Bollocks Session IPA is my favorite to date. It’s a hoppy, full-bodied IPA that’s light on the alcohol. But what sets the pub apart from the others is the chow.
The menu is “a take on classic pub food you’d find in any town across the country, but with a little bit of a twist,” head chef Alex Sjoberg says. “During my time at Sontes, I had the opportunity to work closely with local farmers and have maintained those relationships,” and the menu keeps the farm-fresh approach.
The eight apps include the expected onion rings and cheese curds (though a notch up in terms of quality and condiments, such as banana ketchup), but also on the list are Scotch eggs ($10) and confit duck nachos ($11). There are straight-forward salads but also a wild-card Lox & Bagel Salad, with shavings of toasted bagel, pieces of salmon, capers and red onions ($11).
The “big plate” entrees include a petite fillet, served sliced with gorgonzola sauce ($19), and among the desserts is the chocolate truffle duo, two 3-ounce chocolate truffles with spiced cocoa and sea salt ($7). The night we were there, they also had a killer tiramisu, with layers of cake soaked in espresso and dusted with cocoa.
They opened on Tax Day, April 15, and I was busy with Turbo Tax until midnight, but we checked it out the next night, and it was packed at 9:30 p.m. The kitchen was going full blast, and the servers were keeping up. On the whole, it was an impressive debut.
Speaking of debuts, I also checked out the amazing new Oliver’s Wine Bar in Red Wing last week and will have notes on that in the next 507.
Name your sandwich
After wrapping up my column last week about the horseshoe sandwich in Springfield, Ill., it occurred to me — what would Rochester’s trademark sandwich be? Cincinnati has the unappetizingly named “Hot Brown,” and Austin has the Spam burger, of course. What would Rochester’s be? A pulled goose sandwich? Breast of crow on brown bread? Inevitably, in the hometown of Mayo, it would have to be a sandwich that’s good for you. As Dr. Will Mayo once said — or he said something like this, anyway — the needs of the diner come first.
If you have ideas for a classic Rochester sandwich, or if you know of one that already fits the bill, tell me.