We decided to check out the recently opened Market Garden Brewery as it looked like a fun place to eat and drink.

We reserved a table for 6:30pm on a Saturday, and it was relatively crowded. The place looks and feels like a traditional British/American brewpub with a strong emphasis on wood in the design and plenty of information about the beer.

We started our meal with the barbecue popcorn ($3), which was outstanding. I’m not generally a huge popcorn fan, but the sweetness, subtle spice and mild cheesiness (?) made this an addictive starter.

We also ordered the cheese plate ($10), which wasn’t bad but not really notable either. Even the smoked blue cheese, which sounds like a bold flavor combination, was a bit on the bland side. This would be less of an issue if Bar Cento across the street and plenty of other Cleveland restaurants didn’t have such impressive meat and cheese selections.

The accompanying pickle selection was good, although we wished the menu had mentioned that it came with the cheese plate. We ordered the a pickle plate separately as well ($4) which we would have skipped if we’d known we’d already be getting pickles.

A big selling point of the establishment is their fresh brewed beer, so I ordered a sampler. Below are brief reviews of each (from left to right):

St. Emeric - Decent dry stout with a clear hop presence along with the roasted malt.

Forest City Brown - Wasn’t crazy about this because hops overpower the typical brown ale sweetness, but some might like it.

Cluster Fuggle IPA - An unusual beer as the hops (Cluster and Fuggle) are more bittering than floral and not common for American IPAs. This one grew on me and might be my favorite in the batch.

Tarte Blanche Blonde - A bit too tart and thin bodied for my taste, but not bad in hot weather.

Progress Pilsner — A well-hopped lager, somewhat reminscent of Victory’s Pilsner but without any sweet aftertaste. Very refreshing.

Pearl Street Wheat - Banana — clove elements typical of Bavarian wheat beers but with an almost metallic bitter aftertaste that we didn’t like (Sarah tried a sip as well as she generally likes wheat beers).

The menu also includes bottles of regional beers as well as some specialty big bottles.

For my entrée I ordered the highly recommended Not So New England Lobster Roll ($17). It was very tasty and satisfying, stuffed with fresh claw meat. We’re not sure why it’s called “Not So New England” as the flavors seemed fairly typical.

Sarah had the Chorizo Joe ($9). She thought the chorizo had some kick, but my bite had more ketchup than spice. Both of our entrees came with excellent fresh fried potato chips, which were very much enjoyed by all.

Jonathan ordered the smoked pork tacos ($9), which were in my view the tastiest entrée of the three. The pork is perfectly tender and smoky with some rich cheese and plenty of refreshing veggies. Jonathan generally enjoyed these as well except for being taken aback by the very spicy pickled carrots.

We had the Oreo Ice Cream Sandwich for dessert ($2.50), which was excellent. The dark cookie was much more like a choclaty Oreo than a typical sandwich wafer, and the ice cream tasted great on in the hot weather.

Our waitress was friendly and knowledgeable about both the beer and the food. She also helped come up with kid-friendly options including a fried chicken sandwich and entrée (neither of which Jonathan felt like).

Overall we enjoyed our experience, although some elements of both the food and beer seemed overly safe and lacked depth. That said, they’d only been open for a couple weeks when we visited and definitely hit some major highs with the popcorn, potato chips, pork tacos, Cluster Fuggle IPA and Oreo sandwich. The food is also an excellent value, somewhat similar to the Winking Lizard but more interesting. They’re also going to be introducing a cherry kriek soon (a more unique style than the others offered), and I probably should have tried the Scotch Ale, which our waitress said was very good and unusal.

We look forward to our next visit.

The Market Garden Brewery on Urbanspoon

Note: After publishing this post, I read the review from Cleveland Food and Brews which quotes the price of the sampler at $16–and I just phoned them to confirm that price. We paid about $76 including tax and tip for our food and drink, and, adding up everything above, I just realized we seem to have not been charged for the sampler. The price, as Brad points out, is far too high, and we would have mentioned it if we’d noticed it.

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