It has barely been a month since the former T-shirt storage room at the Saint Arnold Brewery completed its transformation into a small full-service kitchen, but chef Ryan Savoie and his staff are already filling the beer hall with a modest weekday crowd — sometimes selling out of their daily lunch specials.
During a recent media lunch, Carbonnade au Flamande was the dish du jour, a hearty beef stew — made using Santo — served with a side of crisp, salty frites, a dash of creme and a dollop of spicy mustard, alongside a fresh, peppery salad.
At $19 (tax included), it's no cheap bite, but it does include an unlimited amount of beer. Even so, as Saint Arnold Brewing Company founder Brock Wagner admitted over lunch, the concept will never be a money-maker for the craft brewery.
Just as Saint Arnold doesn't claim to brew any specific type of beer — just good beer — so does the kitchen hope to turn out good food.
"The goal is to get people to come in and experience Saint Arnold in a different way," he said, likening the community-building lunches to the humble beginnings of the brewery's (now wildly-successful) tours.
Wagner initially envisioned the in-house menu as "Belgian, French, Alsatian bistro kind of fare," and while the Carbonnade was decidedly European, the general food philosophy has aligned more closely with the beer philosophy: Just as Saint Arnold doesn't claim to brew any specific type of beer — just good beer — so does the kitchen hope to turn out good food.
"The better the ingredients, the better we cook," said Wagner, who gave Savoie full freedom with regards to menu creation. "It's the same with the beer."
The upcoming menus feature dishes as varied as chicken gumbo, Philly cheesesteak sandwich and vegetable curry with saag paneer and basmati rice. And take it from me: Don't skip out on dessert, an additional $5 including tax. (Savoie was trained as a pastry chef.)
Savoie and his kitchen staff will also be available to cater event rentals at the brewery, and Wagner hinted at cones of frites served during Saturday and Sunday tours in the future.
We can't wait.