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Brouwer’s Café


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Barking Dog (specifically) is extremely LOUD. Some infants can sleep through anything.

Edited by MsRamsey (log)

"Save Donald Duck and Fuck Wolfgang Puck."

-- State Senator John Burton, joking about

how the bill to ban production of foie gras in

California was summarized for signing by

Gov. Schwarzenegger.

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How did this mild-mannered topic turn into a referendum on kids in restaurants?

I actually think its a good conversation to have and one that I can now meaningfully participate it. :wink:

Before having a baby, I was squarely in the 'what the bleep are these people thinking, bringing a baby/kid to this place!' I now completely understand although it's still unacceptable to stay in a restaurant with a child who is disrupting others' meals. We've walked out a handful of times when irreversible melt-down set it. On the other hand, I don't think it's unreasonable to ask fellow-diners to tolerate babbling and toy rattling at a volume consistent with the overall level of the restaurant.

FWIW, the 'noisy place = good place for babies' equation hasn't worked for us. Maybe when he's a toddler, but at this point, it's just a sure-fire way to get the baby riled-up and in a tizzy.

I agree with Tighe's rule completely. If you're bothering other people---or, at least, if you're bothering other people more than they're bothering you!---it's time to leave. (This has happened to us, usually near the end of a meal, but fortunately only a few times.) If you want to go out for a nice relaxing low-key dinner, you'll probably pick someplace quieter than the Barking Dog in the first place. If we want to go to Union, for instance, we get a babysitter.

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Regarding Brouwer's cafe, I was there on Saturday night. It certainly is a unique space. It has a lot of style, but other than one skylight, is completely lacking in windows - which feels a little strange. I don't know what their hours are but the lack of windows means this place will certainly only be a nighttime destination for me. I had been anticipating more of a cafe and/or pub feel to the place, but they seem to be aiming more towards hip and happening bar.

It is somewhat of a strange beast. In some ways it feels like a pub - you seat yourself, order from paper menus, and it feels as if you could be there with friends for a few pints. But it seemed like quite a few people were there to have dinner, and some beer as well. Since it was full, newcomers had to sort of fend for themselves until a table opened up - which meant a lot of confused people sort of loitering in the entrance area.

Perhaps if I was familiar with the German beer drinking establishments they claim to be using as a model, I would have known exactly what sort of place this was, and therefore how to navigate it. I am sure I will figure it out, though. Hmmm, maybe a trip to Europe is in order ~ in the name of research.

As for the beer and food, I had a lovely Weissbeer (sp. ?) and a surprisingly good cheese plate. There was also a chocolate stout cake, that satisfied the need for chocolate, but did not otherwise astound. I will definitely be back for the Weissbeer. If I was a true beer connesieur, I would remember the name. Franken- something. Can that be right?

The kitchen seemed to close around 10 pm ( a guess - I wasn't exactly watching the clock). Perhaps this will be another one of those Fremont places where your reception varies depending on whether the staff has decided that the dinner/restaurant stage of the evening has ended and the drinking/bar stage of the evening has begun.

I don't mean this post to be negative, by the way. I think this place will settle down and evolve into whatever sort of beast it will be. And, whichever beast that is, I'll probably find a way to enjoy it.

edited for glaring errors.

Edited by crouching tyler (log)

Robin Tyler McWaters

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I decided to check it out on Sunday night - recon for the barleywine fest. Got there as the sun was setting. I'd say it was less than half full. Staff were milling about most of the time I was there, trying to stay busy. I was surprised to see a nice, wide screen TV between to two bars. So, I sat closest to it (at the end of the beer bar) because they had the Red Sox-Yankees game on! And, I was there by myself.

I had very good, friendly service and very good beer. I was a little disappointed that there were only about 8 true Belgian's on-tap, out of the 45. But, I did have two lovely domestic versions (Anderson Valley and Snolqualmie). [i'll be in Belgium in 2 weeks, and in my research, I've read that pubs there typically don't offer very many beers on tap, but do offer extensive bottled selections.] I also had an Erdinger Weizenbock (Germany), and a Gulden Draak (Belgium). All, rich, strong, malty ales! Yum!

I'd be foolish to have done all that on an empty stomach, so I ordered the marinated hanger steak & frites as the accompaniment. It took a while to get out of the kitchen, but it was tasty. Though, it was a little too much on the rare side of medium-rare for me. No problem! I ended up with a perfectly cooked 2nd steak! The fries, however, seemed to be missing their 2nd fry. They were cooked through, but not crispy. Do I have misconceptions about Belgian frites? I guess I'll be doing my own research very shortly!

I really liked the space. The rock wall is impressive and the hard bar looks cool situated in front of it. The beer bar is nice and long. All the better for looking at all those taps. (I heard that there is capacity for 65 taps/kegs.) There are windows, along the upperdeck west wall, that lent a nice late afternoon glow to the bar. I like the second level, eventhough it's the smoking area. The cigar room is fun (met up with some friends there at the end of the night). I think it'll be a fine location to enjoy a barleywine festival!

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My wife and I went to Brouwers for dinner last night...Wednesday. Since I've been a member here at eGullet, I have posted very little and mainly observed. I feel compelled to share my experience at Brouwers, if for no other reason than to perhaps foster more interest in folks who will then go to Brouwers and URGE some improvements and/or have better experiences. Also, let me state up front that I work in the specialty beverage business (though I do not serve or work directly with these owners), have worked with Belgian beers for several years, and have been to Belgium several time for business and pleasure...if that makes me more critical, my apologies:

First...there is no sign above the door. Perhaps this is intentional, but even realizing we were in the right place, my wife and I weren't 100% sure we'd found Brouwers until we opened said door. Once inside, there was no indication of what to do with ourselves...though plenty of servers were bustling, and several tables were empty and waiting. I had to stop a passing server and ask if we could seat ourselves...there was no other greeting or attempt to clarify in any other way. So...we sat.

Once seated, we waited many moment for the appearance of our server, during which time my very patient wife said "gee...it'd be great if I could get some water", to no one in particular, mainly me, I guess. Once the server arrived, I asked what I thought was a very understandable question...you see, Brouwers has one of the largest walk-in coolers in the Western hemisphere, in which they stock their numerous kegs, and even more numerous bottles, the front of that walk-in basically forms the back-bar, and has several glass doors where the bartenders can retrieve bottles...knowing that bottled Belgian beer is the more traditional format for this type of beer, and seeing what looked like a great selection of Belgian bottles (50-75-100 types?), and having only a draft beer list on the table, I asked "may I see the bottle list". The response: "we do not have a bottle list. I reccomend that you go up to the bar, look and see what you want, in fact even the draft list is out of date, so you better look at the taps too." To my mind, with the seriousness of purpose that the owners have obviously opened Brouwers with, this is akin to having the Sommelier at Canlis say to a diner "sir, we have no wine list, please head back to our wine cellar, pick put what you like and let me know." It flies in the face of basic professional beverage service 101, beer or wine, and especially given the prices, which are steep, steep, steep, even for Belgian beers. Most of the Belgian drafts were $8-9 for a 10oz. pour. I realize the kegs are expensive, and the beer strong, but $9? For 10oz. of beer? Come on...

I ordered a draft Maudite, a Belgian style Dubbel made in Quebec by Unibroue...one of my very favorite breweries that makes many bottlings of traditional and non-traditional Belgian styles. That beer was $7 (10oz.), a relative bargain. For my second beer, I downgraded (pricewise) even further and had a 16oz. pour of Dick's Trippel...made here in WA. and a palatable $4.50. And, now the food: I was in the mood for steak, which they were out of, so my wife and I both readied ourselves for Moules Frites, or mussels and fries, which as its been pointed out many times before on these boards are something of a national dish in Belgium. The choice of sauces was limited, but I opted for aioli, and my wife for chipotle mayonnaise. When two huge (half gallon?) stockpots arrived with lids on, we were excited and anticipated that rush of fragrant steam that comes with the unveiling. When the lids were removed, we were deflated.

What lay within, in a tepid broth that took up barely 1/16th of an inch in pot-volume (normally, in Belgium, the broth is nearly as copious as the mussels, allowing you a veritable soup to drink and sop with bread after the sea creatures are all gone), was maybe 24-30 mussels...at $14 This was insulting. Here we are, hours from one of the largest mussel producing spots in the world (Penn Cove) and we get less mussels in our order than I have received in several neighborhood taverns at happy hour!...and they were lukewarm, and tasted far from fresh. The bread provided for what tiny amount of broth there was, was of the bad Safeway french-loaf variety. And, the frites... You know, my best friend has a theory about pizzerias in New York; when you try one for the first time, you get a cheese slice, no adornment, that way you can really taste the sauce, crust and clearly judge the merits of the pizza maker... Frites are like that in a Belgian idiom. If the restaurant can't make frites, time to rethink some things. And, they were cold, stale even, warmed by a heat lamp no doubt, not a hint of crispness, and on top of that, overcooked to the color of mahogany. The aioli had no taste of garlic in it...but did have chunks of something green in it (not aioli, in other words)..and the chipotle mayo. my wife had tasted of nothing but plain mayo.

That was the bad. The good: cheese croquettes my wife and I shared as an app. were crispy, gooey, and perfect foil for strong Belgian style beers. The place is beautiful. Obviously, the owners took a lot of time and pride in transforming the space into a cave-like grotto with all the feel of old Europe in the faux stone work and art they used, while at the same time presenting a very modern space with great sight-lines, decent sound dampening, and a real showcase piece for the beers...the star of the show.

I feel I am a really gentle critic. I rarely get upset at a restaurant to the point that I won't go back, complain to the management or do something direct. Having worked in restaurants, I feel a sense of duty to give them a break in nearly all situations. Even in this situation, we did not complain...it wasn't the servers fault...though in retrospect, I probably should have contacted a manager. Which is why I felt I needed to write this...the place needs to be fixed and fixed fast if last night was any fair indication. There are too many great beer serving establishments in this town, who also make great food, for Brouwers to survive as we experienced it...espcially when the proprietors are recognized as some of the most serious beer men in the Northwest (owners of Bottleworks). The beers, primarily the reason the place was opened, need to be presented in a professional manner and explained to a crowd not necessarily pre-disposed to understanding all the nuances of Belgian beers, and why they cost what they cost. If stock levels are an issue, as they always are with wine, then that's ok...most people understand when a hard to get item is out of stock, but a core list of what's available with explanations is needed pronto. And, the kitchen needs to take a hard look at whether or not it can survive sending out $14 plates of bad mussels, in miniscule portions, and terrible, nearly inedible fries. With all the money invested in the joint, I certainly hope the fixes are already known, accounted for and in process. As for me, I will not be back for a LOOOOOOOONG time. While I give them the chance to sort it all out, I know many places I can get good mussels, great beer and service, and a lot less dissapointment for my $63 (total, for two, incl. tip).

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HamHocks: Not that you asked but... were I in your shoes, I would copy that post into a letter and send it to the manager.

You're about the 6th person I have heard make some serious complaints about this place, and given that it seems to have such potential, I'd hate to see it go down in flames over what are essentially fixable problems.

~A

Anita Crotty travel writer & mexican-food addictwww.marriedwithdinner.com

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Thanks for the recc. I would consider it...but its kind of a sticky wicket. You see, as a member of the "industry" in a fairly small community, its bad to make enemies. And, I don't know if this sentiment would make enemies or not...my gut hunch is to just let it play out here and with other customers who are not personally invested in the Seattle beverage bizz.

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This is pretty off topic, but I've been surprised about the number of times I've had really bad mussels (like served mostly unopened, inadequately cleaned, rotten tasting...), even at "good" places. Mussels are so cheap and easy... I wonder if restaurants just think that people won't recognize bad mussels?

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It saddens me to hear this kind of thing about a place I was so looking forward to opening. I'm not usually in the "more food is better" camp of restaurant evaluation, but as HH&C says, one of the joys of moules-frites is the big bowl of mussels and broth with a pile of fries. It should be a full meal by itself.

In my write-up of Red House over on the other web site whose name shall not be mentioned, I mentioned an an excellent (large format) bottle of Belgian brown ale I had with dinner. I believe it was $7.50 which I thought was fair, but now sounds like a bargain compared with Brouwer's.

Most women don't seem to know how much flour to use so it gets so thick you have to chop it off the plate with a knife and it tastes like wallpaper paste....Just why cream sauce is bitched up so often is an all-time mytery to me, because it's so easy to make and can be used as the basis for such a variety of really delicious food.

- Victor Bergeron, Trader Vic's Book of Food & Drink, 1946

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Laurie and I went to Brouwer's last weekend, and I don't have a whole lot to add above what's been said so far, but I'll see if I can fill in a few cracks here and there.

HamHocks is right that a bottle list is absolutely mandatory. Yes, they'll have to update it every day. Boo hoo. That's what laser printers are for.

I had the carbonnade, which was pretty good. The meat could have braised a little longer and the sauce had too much flour, but otherwise I liked it. I also had to try the endive gratin. This is not supposed to be a subtle dish, I suppose, but the prosciutto was sliced too thick and the cheese formed a crusty peel-off layer on the top. But not bad, either.

Laurie had the mussels, and I thought they were okay. Freshness was fine. Not enough broth. I had a glass of Delirium Tremens, which was great, and I don't really have a problem with the beer prices.

Above all, again right along with HamHocks and others, the fries and the bread totally suck. The bread can be fixed instantly. Grand Central baguette would be fine. The fries clearly need a total overhaul. I'm not sure exactly what they're doing wrong, but boy is it wrong.

I'm going back tonight and hoping for the best. I'm not reviewing the place, so I'll feel free to bring some of these things up with them.

Has anyone sat upstairs? It looks really cool.

edit: Oh, and HamHocks, why don't you mail them your post anonymously?

Edited by mamster (log)

Matthew Amster-Burton, aka "mamster"

Author, Hungry Monkey, coming in May

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Laurel, I absolutely agree. The last place that disappointed me with their mussels was the Dahlia Lounge. They're so easy (and inexpensive) to make at home that I've completely given up ordering them at restaurants.

Hamhocks, thanks for posting.

I wonder what it is about not having the name on the door-Via Tribunali is like that, and a bunch of bars/clubs that I just went to in NYC were like that as well. Is this a hipper-than-thou thing that is just now catching on in Seattle?

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Has anyone sat upstairs? It looks really cool.

Malarkey and I did. It's the smoking section, which we didn't know before we got up there. Which means it is smart to have it upstairs because we couldn't smell the smoke downstairs. That's also where the cigar room is - which I didn't know was a cigar room until Mr. Bill posted. Paul is going to be very excited. He likes to end an evening out with some scotch and a cigar and now we don't have to go to Zig Zag or El Gaucho to do so.

Edited by LEdlund (log)

Practice Random Acts of Toasting

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You guys are right about getting my post to the powers that be. I suppose it does the restaurant industry at large a disservice if we keep things confined to a message board. Thanks for the feedback, I will get the post anonymously to the restaurant, and I hope people will have better experiences there and share them....

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I agree with HH&C's post. These guys need to know these things, they might already be aware, but they should also be aware that its being discussed on a very visible public forum like eG.

I WANT this place to succeed, its potentially one of my very favorite places. And as everyone has said, all these things are fixable. I would hope that they want the servers to be knowledgable, especially since the folks that work at Bottleworks seem to know everything about the beer in there and are always very helpful.

Born Free, Now Expensive

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I've been to the Brouwer's three times so far. The most recent time was on Sunday, and I'm happy to report that they finally have a sign, albeit a temporary one (banner style, taped to the outside wall).

I agree with most of the posts so far... the decor is beautiful, and the beer selection blows my mind. I very glad that they also have wine and spirits, since I know a lot of people who don't care for beer, or don't know much about it. Partly because of this (customers' lack of beer knowledge, that is), Brouwer's really does need to improve upon their printed tap list, and provide a bottle list. The Bottleworks people know a LOT about beer, so I don't think that writing a one line description for each one on their list would be difficult for them. Plus, I peeked into their office upstairs, which was gorgeous and well-equipped. I bet they have the laser printer that mamster suggested in there.

When I was there on Sunday, their Hard Liver Barleywine Festival was going on, and as my friend pointed out, there certainly wasn't a "festive" atmoshere in the air. I don't think that I'm alone in knowing very little about barleywine, so a special menu with an introduction would have nice. What they did have was a printed piece of paper with the wine name and a tap number. No prices, no descriptions.

The bartender (Julie?) was very nice, and since the place was pretty empty at 4pm, she had some time to talk to us and explain a few selections and the pricing system. Additionally, we were lucky enough to be sitting next to a big barleywine fan and self-described beer snob from Oregon, who was both knowledgeable and happy to let us try some sips from the selection he'd picked out to sample from. I don't think we would have stuck around had the place been busy, since it would have meant navigating the cryptic selection list by ourselves.

As far as food goes... unfortunately, as many have pointed out, the frites are terrible. Old tasting, greasy and soft. From what I know about making frites, the cut potatoes should first be rinsed/soaked to lose the excess starch. Then they're fried at a low temperature to cook they insides... at this point, they can rest until an order comes in, then quick fried at a high temperature for a short time to get the crispness on the outside. It seems like Brouwer's is only frying once, then letting them sit under a lamp or in a warming oven. Mine weren't hot.

The cheese plate was very good. Yay!

I'll keep going back because I like the overall environment and the drinks. The servers (and staff in general) are friendly, and I felt pretty comfortable there. I've just got my fingers crossed that the food and the printed menu both improve.

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I did, indeed, go back for the Barley Wine Fest. I went last Friday, the first day of the event. (I would have preferred going on a slower day - like a Sunday - but this was the only chance I had.) It was packed to the rafters, but after a few minutes of standing around, my friends snagged a table. It took a few more minutes to snag a waitress, but after that, I'd have to say that we got pretty good service considering the conditions - new place, beer fest, Friday night...Especially considering all of the brandy snifter sized glasses that were being ordered. My friends and I were there several hours and sampled 27 of 32 barley wines! Good times!

As for food, 4 of us split one order of fish & chips. It was a sad plate. The infamous frites and greasy chunks of fish cooked too long in oil that had been overused. We all left hungry and went elsewhere for more food.

Again, though, I had a good time. The beers were great. Kudos to everyone who was pouring. We were ordering 4 or 5 different beers at a time, and our servers always had them sorted out for us. It was a treat having table service like that for the beer! This was in great contrast to any of the events at the Elysian. (Don't get me started!)

Yes, I'd agree that information is lacking with regards to the beers (festival and regular offerings). While it is all about the beers, even beer geeks don't know everything about everything! The bartenders were helpful, but a printed description would be greatly appreciated.

And, yes, there needs to be a bottle list.

As for a sign, I heard that there is going to be a cool, fire-breathing laser etched glass sign installed soon!

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  • 2 weeks later...

I stopped in for a couple of beers last night and am happy to report that they now have a printed bottle list. No descriptions, but at least there is a list.

I didn't eat, so I can't speak to the food. I did notice that the frites looked much darker than they did on my first visit. Maybe they have corrected this problem?

Practice Random Acts of Toasting

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  • 1 month later...

Had dinner at Brouwer's again last week. Had a croque monsieur and frites. They are still using crappy bread. No excuse for this with Essential just down the road.

I've not had a lot of croque sammies, so I really have no frame of reference for this, but to me it was fairly bland and I would have liked the cheese on the outside of the sandwich to be crispier. (they broil the sandwich after grilling)

They've changed how they do frites, but its still not right. frites came in all shapes and sizes, skin on, some still dark and mushy, and some lighter and less mushy. Hmm. I'm not sure why they can't seem to get this right. frites aren't that hard! I'm pretty sure that dandelion is right, they aren't pre-soaking, and I also wonder if their fat isn't the right temp.

Yay for the bottle list, and the on tap selection continues to rock.

Born Free, Now Expensive

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  • 3 weeks later...

The Brouwer's Cafe was reviewed in The Stranger this week... it seems like we've got a city-wide consensus on both the high quality of the beer list, and the low(ish) quality of the food.

<a href="http://www.thestranger.com/seattle/Content?oid=21819" target="_blank">What Ales Fremont?</a>

Perhaps they'll take note and make some improvements to said food now that there's a review in print?

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The Brouwer's Cafe was reviewed in The Stranger this week... it seems like we've got a city-wide consensus on both the high quality of the beer list, and the low(ish) quality of the food. 

<a href="http://www.thestranger.com/seattle/Content?oid=21819" target="_blank">What Ales Fremont?</a>

Perhaps they'll take note and make some improvements to said food now that there's a review in print?

Anyone else find that Il Bistro ad in the middle of the article amusing? That guy looks like he's saying, "What the hell you lookin' at?" :laugh:

"Save Donald Duck and Fuck Wolfgang Puck."

-- State Senator John Burton, joking about

how the bill to ban production of foie gras in

California was summarized for signing by

Gov. Schwarzenegger.

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I went last Saturday for a friend's birthday. We got there at 7pm and had no problem getting a table or service. I don't drink (much) but my friends all liked the beers that they had. most everyone liked the food, though I thought my steak was awfully small, for the price, but OK. My main complaint is that it gets so loud that it was hard enough hearing people right next to me, let alone 10 people around a table.

I think it's going to be another pretty boy & girl singles hangout, like the Red Door. Just what Fremont needs.

"Homer, he's out of control. He gave me a bad review. So my friend put a horse head on the bed. He ate the head and gave it a bad review! True Story." Luigi, The Simpsons

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I think it's going to be another pretty boy & girl singles hangout, like the Red Door.  Just what Fremont needs.

Mmm I don't know about that. This is one bar that is TRULY designed for beer geeks. Too bad they left food geeks out of the picture!

Born Free, Now Expensive

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