The Brewery Market seems like a natural place for a pub; after all, it’s a brewery and it’s downtown in a tourist city. But there have been a couple of pubs here that have not done well, the worst being Mugsy McCeol’s, which I found guilty of committing heinous crimes against the digestive tracts of tourists and locals alike.
But it’s the dawn of a new day for this space with the arrival of the Red Stag Tavern. Unlike its elaborately decorated predecessors, the Red Stag maintains the original atmosphere of the building (planked floors, comfortable wooden chairs) without appearing gimmicky.
The menu is large and varied, ranging from typical deep-fried pub fare to more refined main courses like citrus salmon and pecan chicken. There’s plenty to choose from, especially because on the night we visit appetizers are half-price (I’ve listed the regular prices here).
It’s early evening and our food arrives quickly. We love the roasted corn and potato chowder ($4.99), a thick, creamy broth with chunky potatoes, corn kernels and some heat, compliments of “a hint of smoked chipotle.” It’s a big portion, served with grilled bread.
We use the soup bread to sop up the sauce in the mussels ($8.99). There are four sauces on the menu and ours is a creamy garlic and Stella Artois bath—emphasis on the garlic, which is oh-so-prevalent in a good way.
The four shrimp spring rolls ($6.99) are presented nicely, arranged around mesclun greens and drizzled with sweet and spicy Thai sauce. The rolls are large, stuffed with vegetables and shrimp, and might fall on the bland side if not for the sauce. Louisiana crabcakes ($8.99) are really the only disappointment of the lot; the crab and crawfish meat is tasteless and the four small cakes have been over-fried. Chipotles make another appearance in the tartar sauce, which is really the only flavourful thing about them.
My sister-in-law believes you can’t go wrong with a clubhouse. I’m not sure I entirely agree, but this sandwich strongly supports her belief. The focaccia clubhouse ($9.99) is made on rustic bread with fresh turkey (very impressive), and the usual suspects of greens, bacon, tomato and—processed cheese slices. The menu says cheddar. No big deal, for our old friend the chipotle is here to liven things up, this time in the mayo.
The fish and chips ($10.99) is touted as being “the best in Halifax,” and when I see the plate, I gasp—it’s a massive platter of fries (once frozen) topped with three slabs of haddock. Our server explains that the fish weighs less than usual, hence three pieces instead of two. An incredibly good beer batter surrounds the fresh, flaky fish, but we end up leaving most of the fries. The fish is served with the same chipotle tartar sauce as the crabcakes.
I don’t know that these are the city’s best fish and chips, what with the frozen fries, but I would say the fish is spectacular.
There’s nothing on the rather short dessert menu that inspires us, and we’ve eaten much too much anyway. There are, however, some interesting liquid desserts on tap; along with the Keith’s, of course, there’s Budweiser, the heavy Boddington’s and the delightful Belgian Leffe, Stella and Hoegaarten.
The service is very good here; we don’t make too many demands on our server “Smiley Reilley,” but I hear her chatting away with the tourists at the table next to ours, giving suggestions and information and all the while keeping an eye on her tables.
Tourists need no longer be afraid in the Brewery Market.
Red Stag TavernBrewery Market1496 Lower Water Street422-0275Mon-Fri: 11: 30am-11pmSat: 10am-11pmSun: 11:30am-10pm
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