Gravy train

Depot co-owner Justin Stafford toasts a “Therefore I Yam” cocktail to a spread of poutine, pork belly tacos, and a flight of beers.

Depot co-owner Justin Stafford toasts a “Therefore I Yam” cocktail to a spread of poutine, pork belly tacos, and a flight of beers.

Photo/Allison Young

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The Depot Craft Brewery Distillery—in a two-story brick and stone building that began as the Nevada-California-Oregon Railroad Depot over 100 years ago—incorporates modern design while retaining a lot of vintage flavor. The menu combines pub and comfort food staples with creative housemade and “foodie” ingredients. There are a variety of salads, sandwiches and dinner entrees ranging in price from $8 to $30, but our foursome chose items from the “snacks” menu to share among the table.

Of course, one can’t visit a brewery and distillery without ordering flights of beer ($8) and spirits ($12). Favorites among beers sampled include a cocoa milk stout and very nice saison, though all were pretty decent. Less successful were the spirits. I try to give craft distillers extra leeway, but the vodka had an unpleasant, sugary flavor and the gin was pretty harsh on the back end. Best was an award-winning silver corn whiskey, good enough to indicate there’s a chance for improvement on its cousins.

Four complimentary cornbread fritters ($7 on the menu) were served in a small, antique-style saucepan with a copper handle. Little pillows of jalapeño and garlic cornbread were lighted drizzled in a honey and housemade bourbon glaze. Not too spicy, not too sweet—a great beginning to our nosh.

Next up, a small jar stuffed with house-pickled green beans ($4). Sweet and crisp with a touch of garlic, these were a surprise hit around the table. The green stuff was followed by an order of poutine ($8.50), a decent pile of fries covered in oxtail gravy and cheese curds. The gravy was pretty tasty—reminiscent of grandma’s pot roast—but the dish was a bit sparse on the curd front. Definitely less cheese than traditional poutine, not nearly enough to go with the amount of fries served.

Joining the growing number of dishes on our table, pork belly tacos (4 for $14) were described as “street tacos” made with pickled slaw, cilantro, cotija cheese and lime crema. Although possibly the most expensive street taco I’ve had, the flavor combination was quite good. Even better, an order of duck confit sliders (3 for $14) served with pickled carrot slaw and sriracha aioli on a grilled, locally-baked bun, was spicy, sweet and delicious.

For $8, we received a small pot of macaroni and a blend of four cheeses, topped with house bacon bits. Literally a pint-sized serving, we each had a spoonful of what turned out to be a mediocre experience. A good cheese sauce should be smooth. The gritty texture of this batch indicates either impatience or inattention while building the sauce. It’s the sort of kitchen error we home cooks can commiserate with, but I’d expect better at this price.

Also $8 and served in the same size pot, Brussels sprouts flash-fried with bacon, maple and sherry vinaigrette were so good even the sprout-hater at the table had three bites. The sprouts were just-tender with just enough bite, and the flavor was tremendous. They were totally worth every penny.

We ordered chicken wings because I was curious about the house barbecue sauce, and the menu indicates a three-pound order for $12 (an outstanding deal if true). What we received was a plate of perhaps 12-14 medium-size wings cooked just right, coated in a sweet sauce that made me wish there was more spice to it. The house ranch dipping sauce was a bit bland, yet with a hint of good buttermilk acidity. Though priced average to market and not a bad deal, the only way this was three pounds is if you included the plate.

The ladies ended the evening by sharing a beet salad ($10), featuring chunks of cooked red and golden beetroot, arugula, orange segments, goat cheese, walnuts, and sherry vinaigrette. They were both really pleased with the dish, and the serving was ample. In general we had a pretty enjoyable evening, and all things considered I’d say the Depot is on the right track.