Ale’s angels

Quite a spread: beer tube and glass of beer, St. Louis style barbecue ribs, corn bread pudding with fruit, sweet potato fries, sangria, and fish and chips.

Quite a spread: beer tube and glass of beer, St. Louis style barbecue ribs, corn bread pudding with fruit, sweet potato fries, sangria, and fish and chips.

Photo By Allison Young

Rail City Ale House is open 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.

The alehouse dates back to Roman times. From the 13th century onward, it became a significant part of communities. By the 19th century, it was also an important social and entertainment center, where communal celebrations increasingly took place—it was the hub of the small town.

Fast forward to 2013, and that last sentence probably applies just as much today as it did then—except the food and grog is now so much better. This is a nice space at the west end of the casino, seating 145, with a nice patio for warm weather that will hold a couple of dozen. I had one of the best servers I’ve seen in a long time—knowledgeable, cheerful and polite, and the food came fast and hot.

Make no mistake, this is quality comfort food, and the portions are generous. Executive Chef Greg Schuh is a master of stick-to-your-rib cuisine and creates daily specials starting at $6.95. The restaurant offers a “pig out” ($49.95) that will serve up to six, and this includes barbecue, chicken, hot links, tri-tip and all the fixings. The menu ranges from $6.95 to $11.95 for a 14-ounce ribeye, and vegetables and a starch come with the meals.

Offerings consist of steaks and seafood, traditional pub food, and a dozen appealing sandwiches (all $7.77) from burgers to a classic Reuben, my first taste. This is one of my all-time favorite sandwiches, and growing up back east in the big city, I enjoyed the best of the best, so I am particular when it comes to my Reubens. The meat was generous and tender, with fresh sauerkraut and a nice smear of Thousand Island on swirled rye bread—thumbs up to this one.

Next, fish tacos ($4.95) with fresh pico de gallo and a creamy chipotle sauce. Beer-battered cod in a mini corn soft taco—it reminded me of the taco stands on the docks in Cabo, fresh, flavorful and very satisfying.

Then, I had the combo platter ($10.95), and it has ribs, a quarter of a chicken, Louisiana hot links and tri-tip, a hunk of homemade cornbread, potato salad, and baked beans. It was easily enough for two. Chef Schuh has a right-proper smoker the size of a Volkswagen and used oak for the smoky flavor. The ribs were tender, moist, flavorful and not greasy. The chicken was succulent and smoky. The tri-tip melted in my mouth.

There’s a proper wine list, with by-the-glass ($2.50), but this is a beer haven with a selection of more than two dozen draft, microbrew and bottled beers. I tasted three custom house brews—an amber, a honey blonde and an IPA. I found the amber caramel colored, bready, malt-forward, with delayed tones of hops. Earthy sweet aroma. Good winter earthiness.

The honey blonde was my favorite. It pours a clear golden with a small white head with light grain aroma. Taste begins with some honey sweetness, then a nectar, bready middle, and a lightly, earthy finish. The mouthfeel is light, medium carbonation. I’m not a big IPA guy, and this was the hoppy style they tend to be. The Ale House has a “tube” of beer, about three feet tall, with a tap ranging from 50 ml ($10) to 100 ml ($18)—what a party this can be!

Arguably the primal importance of the alehouse lies in its role as a social center. It’s a place where the locals can meet up for an evening, talk, make friends, and wind down after a hard day’s work, and that’s exactly what the Ale House at Rail City is all about.