Rochester’s got craft cocktails and draught beer lists a mile long, Cajun, French, Greek and authentic Mexican food. We’ve got plenty of Chinese food, a few sushi options and, now, even a couple Thai places.
But Jon Carisch, of Rochester, looked around and thought something was missing from Rochester’s restaurant scene.
A longtime bar manager at Whistle Binkies, Carisch has long wanted to open his own place in town to pay homage to his heritage.
Just a few weeks ago, Carisch opened Thirsty Belgian Kitchen and Bar at 2650 S. Broadway, Suite 600 (near DSW and Sports Authority).
“My mom is a full-blooded Belgian from Antwerp,” said Carisch. He points to the new, custom mural painting that was recently featured in an Antwerp newspaper. “We used to climb and play around that statue. My wife and were there just two years ago for our honeymoon.”
I got to stop in to Thirsty Belgian for my first bite this week.
Let’s start with the centerpiece, shall we? Thirsty Belgian has four beers on tap, with four more to come once Carisch’s other taps are up and running.
“I can’t compete with the huge houses with 50 beers on tap, so I’m trying to do this one thing really well and offer something unique,” he said. “On tap, we’re going to feature beer directly from Belgium or Belgian-style brews from American breweries.” Carisch said there will be three or four authentic Belgian brews, as well as a rotating IPA (“there are a lot of hop-heads here,” he said) and a sour beer, which is a much-sought-after flavor right now.
In addition to taps, they have nearly 25 Belgian or import bottles, more than a dozen more domestic bottles, as well as some fun cocktails, including the popular “Bunny Mary,” which combines Bloody Mary mix with carrot juice and vodka.
For a place with “thirsty” in the name, there’s an awful lot of good food.
“When I go out for a beer, most of the time I just want a little snack, not a huge portion for a big price tag,” Carisch said. “So our goal was to do small plates with small prices. Fancy beers, simple food.”
The menu is a mix of American bar food with Belgian influences, to keep with the friendly neighborhood bar vibe. Highlights include the Belgian meatballs, Gouda cheese bread, baked brick cheese, as well as a page full of pizzas and several “toasties” sandwiches, which are inspired by the croque style sandwiches found throughout Belgium.
“We have big plans for the future, too,” Carisch said. “We want to do Belgian waffles on Sundays for sure, and Belgian fries are coming soon, as well as Belgian mussels.” Carisch said the menu will be evolving based on customer favorites and expanding the kitchen.
The Thirsty Belgian dessert menu keeps it local, featuring three cupcakes and two cheesecakes created by Jem’s Confections in Eyota, as well as two dessert wines from Four Daughters Winery in Spring Valley. The star is the B.M.W. cupcake for two, which combines a pancake cupcake, maple buttercream frosting, bacon chunks and a wedge of Belgian waffle.
“That thing is so popular, it’s going viral,” Carisch said.
The Thirsty Belgian is open from 11 a.m. to midnight daily.