Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The Dirty Truth (Northampton, MA) and Kulmbacher Braurei AG EKU Pils

The Dirty Truth is probably my favorite place to go in Northampton, MA, a small city that offers several good bars and restaurants, but none that offer the combination of food, beer, and ambiance of The Dirty Truth.  This place is not dim, it is dark; if you have trouble seeing in darker restaurants, you will not be able to read the menu here, but for me, that's fantastic.  I love a good dark bar, where I can feel like my friends and I are in our own little cocoon, and The Dirty Truth provides just that; even the acoustics of the place make it tough to eavesdrop on others.

A beer bar is how most people know this place, and for good reason; the selection is always fantastic, with a variety of high quality craft beers, typically including several local options.  The bartenders and waiters are all very knowledgeable and passionate about beer; I rarely pick my own beer there, usually asking for suggestions and relying on their advice.  Thus far, I have not been led astray.

The menu is bar food...sort of.  French fries, burgers, Reuben sandwich, and nachos are among the baker's dozen of options on the menu, but these are not your standard bar type foods.  The french fries are ridiculous, perfectly crispy on the outside and soft on the inside, served with ketchup made in house from local tomatoes, mayonnaise (I don't get that one, but whatever I get it now...holy crap that's some good homemade mayo), and best of all, gravy...perfect, rich, meaty gravy (that I can't even tell you for sure isn't vegetarian; it is Northampton, after all); overall, these are the best fries I've ever had, making even the fries at Bouchon Bistro seem only decent.  My friend Sean and I have been here a couple times, and there are few things better than the combination of great beer, great conversation, and french fried perfection.

For the vegetarians and vegans in the crowd, there are also homemade baked pretzels (with an IPA mustard), falafel, two salad options, nachos, spicy mac and cheese, and a veggie burger.  For those of us who prefer dead critter in our food, the corned beef Reuben, hamburger, mussels, fried chicken, and best of all, the pulled bbq duck nachos. I had the hamburger this evening with a glass of Kulmbacher Brauerei AG EKU Pils. 

Hamburger, french fries, and Kulmbacher EKU Pils
The hamburger, a giant patty on a perfect brioche bun, was fantastic, with few flaws; it was not up to the level of Burger Bar in Las Vegas, but it was among the better burgers I've had, equal to or possibly even surpassing the burgers at Bobby's Burger Palace at Mohegan Sun.  The bun, as I said, was perfect, with a lightly crisp crust and an airy, almost sweet crumb, and held up perfectly to the juices of the burger.  Cooked just slightly off what I asked (medium rare rather than rare), the quality of the meat, which the menu states is "certified organic" and "humane" beef, was clearly high, and the tightly packed patty held together perfectly without becoming too dense or feeling like meatloaf.  I ordered the burger with bacon and smoked bleu cheese, with one being successful and the other being a huge disappointment.  Incredibly, it was the bacon that bothered me, being undercooked to the point of almost being raw, and thus chewy and tough to bite through.  The cheese was a home run though, lacking the flavor of smoke that I was expecting, but it tasted like a strong Roquefort.  The texture was similar to a drier brie, and served as a thick slab on top of the burger, it was the perfect accompaniment to the strong beef flavor of the patty.  On the side were some possible toppers for the burger, including lettuce (and not iceberg, though I couldn't tell you what kind it was, though it was good), onion, and a few thick slices of what I suspect were homemade sweet pickles.  I hate sweet pickles; they are just the worst kind of abomination, a poor tasting substitute for the delectable dill or sour dill pickle.  These were freaking awesome.  Seriously, I have never liked sweet pickles before, and I loved these; I could have eaten them all night.

The Kulmbacher EKU Pils was suggested by the bartender when I asked for something light and refreshing, and as usual, the suggestion was spot on.  A light amber, nearly translucent, it had a significant head when served, a brilliant eggshell colored froth that dissipated quickly once I started drinking.  The beer itself had a slightly hoppy flavor, which I enjoyed, but was otherwise a very simple, albeit invigoratingly fresh barley taste.  It's a good introductory beer if you're trying to convince someone who claims not to like beer that they're wrong, but it's also a more than acceptable option if, like me, you're simply interested in something that won't fill you up or give you the heady feeling of a stronger, heftier beer.

I have yet to try The Dirty Truth's brunch, but I've heard it is absolutely fantastic.  The pork belly taco sounds spectacular, and who doesn't love chicken and waffles?  Savory bread pudding is a hard option to argue with, as is eggs Florentine, the vegetarian version of my personal favorite eggs Benedict.  I will definitely be returning, and I cannot recommend this place highly enough; it's the best choice in a city with many fine options.


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