Yes, the name of this restaurant has a plus-sign in the title. I guess the word “and” was not hipster enough. Anyway, as you read this review of Old Glory Kitchen + Spirits, you might get the feeling that I did not like the place. Actually, that was not the case. Will and I both enjoyed it somewhat, and would consider coming back, but the experience left us both feeling, “This could have been better. Much better.” In fact, I am going to begin this write-up with a breakdown, something which I have never done:
Atmosphere: Stunning. Can’t beat it.
Live Music: Surprisingly entertaining.
Beer and Cocktail Menu: Excellent.
So what went wrong?
Food Quality: Uninspired
Shall we start with the positives? They have Allagash White on tap. No one has Allagash White on tap around here. That might be enough to get me to come back. It’s my favorite beer in the world. I had it only once before, at the Claddagh in Highlands several years ago. It was so good I swore I would never have it again. But there it was, staring right at me. I ordered it, and it was just like I remembered. This was after a tug of war in my head over an intriguing bourbon-Grand Marnier cocktail on the menu. Will went with a cranberry cider and loved it.
To be able to enjoy a drink inside an old, renovated church is a special experience. In fact, the atmosphere saves this place. As I said in my breakdown, it is stunning. Beautiful bricks and woodwork. A ceiling-sized painting of the American Flag contributes to a running patriotic theme. The tables were large and had benches. In any other circumstances, I’d say these were uncomfortable. Given the setting, it totally works. The band playing there on this past Wednesday night was highly enjoyable. They were not tacky or annoying at all. The music was great. It was shaping up to be a good night.
On to the food, we got an order of Texas BBQ wings since it was half-off wing night. Coming in at $5.50, I was blown away by the portion size. 10 wings and legs combined, and they were gigantic. A dinosaur-like chunk of meat on each one. The amount of sauce was ample, and they were even topped with potato straws. However, the sauce was too strong and tangy for its own good. The chicken itself had decent flavor, baked in their rotating wood-burning oven which they use for their signature pizzas. But the sauce just killed it. Still, I give them points for trying. The portion would have been well worth the usual $11.
My meal was the bison burger. It was 10 ounces and stacked on a bun with bacon, cheddar cheese, and frizzled onions. Usually restaurants skimp on the portion with bison and buffalo. Not the case here. But again, it was too big and thick for its own good. I didn’t even finish it. When the waiter asked how I liked it cooked, I told him whichever way the chef recommends. He said medium-rare and I went with it. Well, it was grilled to perfection. Juicy red in the middle, and melt-in-your-mouth tender, but there was no seasoning or even much of a taste. They managed to take a masterpiece and serve it up flavorless. Not even the bacon could rescue this one. As a side note: the steak fries were bland and useless, and that coleslaw was disgusting.
Will had the “Green Goat” pizza. An interesting combination of roasted kale, goat cheese, shredded mozzarella, beet pesto, roasted pine nuts, and a balsamic glaze. Whatever oven they have back there is a keeper. Excellent crust with a solid char. The toppings ended up being a little funky, but I cannot knock them for the creativity. Oh, and I forgot to mention the complimentary homemade garlic bread with rosemary olive oil. It was worthy of a fine Italian restaurant.
I saved the worst for last, which was the service. Barely around and not much of a personality. If I was working in a cool place like this, I’d like to think I’d have a bit more jump in my step. When waiting for him to return to take our order and one other time, I wondered if he would ever come back. Somehow, as if by magic, he was there whenever a beer glass was empty. The place was not exactly swamped. Look, I understand the trials and tribulations of servers everywhere. How often do I complain about service on this blog? Maybe a handful of times out of over 100 reviews. But something was just off. Maybe he had bigger fish to fry at another table. I don’t know. Either way, it annoyed two people who rarely get annoyed at such details. That combined with a few other complaints will lead me to give 3 out of 5 stars. Old Glory has a lot of potential. They are doing a lot right. I wanted to avoid using the word “pretentious” because I do not think that’s the case, but it’s close. I leave here with a sour taste in my mouth…and not because of that funky barbecue sauce.
Old Glory Kitchen + Spirits is located at 84 Broad Street in Keyport, New Jersey.