Chisme y Chicle
Boehler's Bar & Grille stays interesting with familiar fare
Published: January 18, 2012
On chill winter days the search for warming comfort food may lead to yet another taqueria or uninspiring fare at one of many city diners promising home cooking. Boehler's Bar & Grille, located in the old haunt of the Liberty Bar on East Josephine, offers a respite from the usual options with hearty American classics that have received just enough initiative from the kitchen to transcend the ordinary.
It's worth stopping in just to see this roadside attraction. The historical building was constructed in 1890 by Fritz Boehler, a German immigrant and former brew master at the nearby Pearl Brewery, and has remained in the family ever since. The building's severely slanted floors and tilted frame are a memento of the Great Flood of 1921. Originally called the Liberty Schooner Saloon, the name transitioned to Boehler's & Sons and Boehler's Beer Garden, while the food and drink emporium was managed by successive members and friends of the family. During Prohibition, it survived serving food and "near beer" as Boehler's Garden. The current establishment was opened last May by the great-granddaughter and great-great-granddaughter of Fritz Boehler. The Americana lunch menu lists chicken fried chicken, Ceasar and crab cake salads, and a variety of hot and cold sandwiches. Listening in as other diners placed their orders, I heard "grilled cheese," and "hangar 'n' dip" repeatedly requested. I took the hint.
Dubbed the "Fantastic Grilled Cheese Sandwich," this probably isn't what your mother served you on stay-home-from-school days. Large portions of cheddar, Gouda, mozzarella, and provolone cheeses are melted onto thick, soft slices of sour dough bread; their faces grilled golden brown and crunchy. In between are hot slices of tomato. The optional prosciutto suggested by the waiter was a good idea, bringing contrasting texture to the swirl of cheeses. Avocado is also available. Come hungry; even sliced in half it's a two-handed sandwich. Shoestring sweet potato fries can be had for an extra buck, but the hand-cut regular fries are far better; not hard but crisp on the outside, steaming soft on the inside. The cup of tomato soup is extremely rich. My server assured me it was blended with heavy cream and a touch of basil.
The hangar and dip sandwich adds mushrooms, properly caramelized onions, provolone, and smoked mozzarella to a pile of succulent hangar steak. A bowl of beef juice for dipping comes on the plate. At $11.95, it's not cheap, but no complaints. It's even bigger than the cheese sandwich. Next time I'll share it with a friend.
The dinner menu is available from 4 p.m. on. You can begin with ceviche, skewered shrimp, spinach dip, or a fancy version of mac and cheese. I passed on these, the green chile and chorizo meatloaf, and the fish and steak dishes to try the pecan-crusted schnitzel. The predictably large fried pork (not veal) cutlet came swathed in a breading of crushed pecans. Almost spilling from the plate, it sat in a pool of white sauce and was topped with a generous patch of red cabbage and tossed capers. Schnitzel is sometimes a bit sweet, and I've had my share accompanied by too-tart soft cabbage. The firm red cabbage worked well with the pork; the pecans only added a hint of sweetness and a dry bite to the soft white sauce.
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