You asked for it: Curbside on 5th.

I have always heard great things about the food at Curbside on 5th, but had never managed to try it. It’s a tiny take-out shack with some outdoor seating in an odd location and I didn’t have much sense of what it really was. I almost always check out menus online before trying a place and something about this one turned me off, though I can’t really articulate why. So, when one of you dear readers requested that I review it, I took the opportunity to oblige. I guess I’ll do anything for my readers’ approval, but this was no chore.

curbside
Photo via Facebook

To be completely honest, we were going to go to Daily Bread to get sandwiches for lunch but I failed to realize that they aren’t open at all on weekends, so Curbside on 5th was our fallback. Curbside’s menu is a little confusing and gimmicky. The “Wrap It, Stack It, or Mac It” portion of the menu made me want to see the face of whoever wrote it and Smack It. I may have been pretty hangry at the time. I realize the wording on a menu is an odd hang-up but if stuff like that didn’t bother me I wouldn’t be the Ellensburg Food Critic

On this day, I needed a sandwich. I ordered the 1890 Grilled Turkey and my husband ordered the Stack It (::twitch twitch::) with chicken. Both were excellent. Mine was a bit sloppy but that’s because it was loaded with roasted poblanos and slaw. I could only eat half, which is not something that normally happens to me. My husband’s sandwich-that-won’t-be-named was cheesy and flavorful with a crispy exterior–exactly what a souped-up grilled cheese should be. Both sandwiches were grilled with a layer of parmesan on the outside of the bread. While I do enjoy this technique (more cheese, please!) it was a bit heavy-handed. I can’t really be mad a cheese though.

My side caesar salad was really, really good. I’m not sure what else there is to say about that other than I’ll probably try an entree salad next time I eat from Curbside of 5th. I will be back because I would like to try more items from the annoying menu. Having only tried two sandwiches and a salad might mean this review is incomplete. I prefer to try a place a few times before rendering an opinion, but Curbside on 5th is making good food and doing things a little differently than anyone else in town and deserves credit for that. The Ellensburg Food Critic says that Curbside on 5th is a:

GO!

Curbside on 5th. 109 W 5th Avenue, Ellensburg. Curbsideon5th.com (509) 859-2004

Have you tried Curbside on 5th? What did you think? Do you have a favorite spot in town that you would like the Ellensburg Food Critic to review? Reply in comments or on Facebook!

 

We need to talk about The Porch…

Hey, look! I’m actually publishing new reviews in two consecutive weeks! Aren’t you proud?

This week’s review is kind of a tough one because there’s not a lot to say (Ed. I guess I actually had a lot to say). You know last week when I suggested that a lot of restaurants in Ellensburg seem content to serve “pretty good” or “fine, I guess” food? Well, this is exactly what I was talking about.

The Porch is pretty. So, so, pretty. In fact, if some of the money and thought that obviously went into designing the building was put towards making the food and service anything special, I would be writing a totally different review right now. But that’s not the case. The menu looks impressive, and the tasty cocktails could mislead one to think that the food could be really good, but, besides said alcoholic beverages, The Porch flounders.

Since moving to Ellensburg a year ago I have eaten at the Porch about five times, and each time leaves me wondering why I came back. It’s because I want it to be good, and yet, they just can’t seem to deliver. The breakfasts I’ve eaten there– including the eggs Benedict– have all been reminiscent of cafeteria food, not unlike that of a hospital or perhaps a college cafeteria, albeit a much fancier and more expensive college than I attended. The Bloody Mary was good though, so maybe the next time I accidentally go to The Porch I’ll stick to a liquid breakfast. I’m mostly kidding, I think.

Lunch and dinner at The Porch are a little better but still disappoint. You can get a decent, and maybe even interesting burger. The salads are flavorful enough. The steaks seem over-complicated by rubs and butters but are pretty good as long as the cook is on their game that night. The service is scattered but friendly, possibly too friendly. The truth is that The Porch isn’t bad, it just isn’t very good and most definitely falls short of their intended quality. Nothing seems to be seasoned exactly right, or quite fresh enough, or interesting enough. We can hope that the restaurant is going through an awkward adolescent phase, stumbling on gangly limbs and appearing more mature than it is, and will grow into itself. However, I haven’t seen signs of growth or change, so I’m thinking The Porch will stay in arrested development until something really shakes things up around there. I would love to be proven wrong.

Speaking of shaking things up, the drinks really are pretty good (aren’t I just so clever?). The Smoked Manhattan stands out and and I’ll try to ignore the fact that they have eight different martinis on their menu (for the record, there should only ever be two– vodka and gin) because I know lots of people like their drinks to taste like dessert. Ok, I’m getting bitchy again so I’ll wrap this up.

I’m rooting for The Porch to do better because it is a nice place to go and I think they have a great idea. It’s not a bad choice to take a group because their large menu will accommodate different tastes and the spacious dining room never seems too full. It’s certainly not a bad place to stop for a drink so I imagine the happy hour feels more worthwhile than sitting through a bumbling meal service. As I said, it’s not bad at all but The Porch’s most impressive feat is its astoundingly consistent level of mediocrity.

So, my take on The Porch:Go if...

you hate yourself and your dining companions just a little (mostly kidding). 

 

The Porch. 608 N Main St, Ellensburg, WA 98926.  (509) 925-4488

Dinner prices range from $12 to $29.

 

I’ve missed you!

Yes, I’ve been lazy about writing reviews this summer, but I promise it’s because I’ve been so busy eating and drinking my way through Central Washington. Someone has to do it. So let’s talk about my new favorite place in Ellensburg, shall we?

 

Whipsaw Brewery and the Red Pickle– meant for each other!

I’m a known wino and boozehound, so it’s pretty strange for me to really love a place that serves only beer. I don’t dislike beer but it’s not what I seek out. Plus, my husband loves beer enough for both of us. What makes us return again and again is the atmosphere. It’s cheerful and low-key, and the beer tastes great. Since I’m basically never without my toddler in tow, it’s critical that Whipsaw offers a comfortable indoor and patio environment for families, and bonus points for including the furry members.  This summer, when the new-but-beloved food truck, Red Pickle, parked itself in Whipsaw’s parking lot, this strange spot in industrial West Ellensburg became something pretty special.

whipsaw-lucile
This is Lucile. She’s named after an IPA at our old favorite brewery.

This is where the story gets cutesy. While Whipsaw is the product of a lovely couple who went all in to make delicious beer, Red Pickle is the product of a lovely couple who went all in to make delicious sandwiches. It’s basically the Brady Bunch but with alcohol. If I had the design skills to do so, I would make a helpful infographic to show how these two pair came together in this holy union that’s more than the sum of its parts. But I don’t. Sorry.

Now for the specifics. I’ve tried most of Whipsaw’s beers and have really, really liked all of them. Again, I’m not a really a beer person but I think I know a good one when I taste it and it seems like they’re all damn good. Crazy. Even the Buzz on Blackberry Wheat, despite my general dislike for overtly fruity beers, is amazingly subtle and refreshing; the Stumpblower is as good of an IPA as you’ll get anywhere, even here in hops country; and the stout doesn’t suffer from cloying thickness or overly chocolate or coffee notes. They always have about half a dozen varieties on tap (all their own creations) and I’ve yet to find a dud. For the non-drinkers, their root beer is delicious and pairs perfectly with a scoop of Winegar’s vanilla ice cream. Whipsaw, if you’re reading this, you are welcome to steal that idea.

The Red Pickle has the same attention to detail and it seems like their food just gets better and better. The buttermilk fried chicken sandwich is pretty excellent, and the cajun fries and fried okra that were offered over rodeo weekend were spectacular (where does one even get such fresh okra?). My favorite of Red Pickles offerings, however, are found on their weekend brunch menu. If you’ve read this blog you know that I have strong feelings about eggs benedict and constantly lament the lack of good breakfast and brunch options in Ellensburg. The Red Pickle does brunch really well. I’m not sure what else there is to say. The ham benedict, the breakfast quesadilla, and the green eggs and ham for the kiddo were all delicious. Once my kid got over the color of the eggs (which is, in a stroke of pure genius, just eggs and fresh spinach blended before cooking) he enthusiastically cleaned his plate.

What makes the Red Pickle and Whipsaw Brewery special is their dedication to excellence. Both are quite new, so not everything is perfect, but the fact that neither seems content to settle for “pretty good” is what sets them apart. When Mario, the co-owner/chef comes out from his truck to ask how the food is, he actually wants to know. True perfectionism and humility are rare qualities and I only wish more restaurants around Ellensburg adopt a bit of those attitudes that make Whipsaw Brewery and the Red Pickle a couple of diamonds in the rough.

I have only one suggestion: beermosas for brunch.

Oh, and in case this wasn’t obvious,

GO!

Whipsaw Brewery, 704 N Wenas St., Ellensburg, WA 98926

The Red Pickle Facebook, TheRedPickle.com