Our Gourmet: A winter hot spot, with good reason

February 13. 2018 11:51PM

Woodstock Inn Station & Brewery
135 Main St., N. Woodstock; 745-3951; woodstockinnnh.com

Restaurant: Sunday-Thursday 11:30 a.m.-9 p.m.; Friday and Saturday until 10. Bar: serving food until 10 p.m. nightly.

Cuisine: American pub style.

Pricing: Appetizers $7.99-$10.99; salads $9.99-$15.99; entrees $14.99-$22.99; sandwiches and burgers $9.99-$14.99.

Handicapped access: Some steps and winding corridors.

Scores for Woodstock Station:
Atmosphere: 18/20
Menu: 18/20
Food: 18/20
Service: 15/20
Value: 18/20
TOTAL: 87/100

We followed the crowds to the Ice Castle in Lincoln recently, finally getting our chance to check out the walk-through pile of frozen magic that has been drawing sellout crowds for the past five winters.

We also took advantage of the opportunity to check out the Woodstock Inn Station & Brewery, a restaurant that’s been on our radar for at least as long as the Ice Castle has.

Apparently we aren’t the only couple to come up with the same idea. We had a 5:30 to 6 p.m. entry window at the Ice Castle on a recent Sunday night, so we got to the Woodstock Inn a little after 4 p.m., thinking that would give us plenty of time for a relaxed dinner before heading over to the Ice Castle, a mile or so away.

When we arrived, the place was packed with apres-skiers and pre- and post-Ice Castlers, all drawn to the fun, relaxed setting and the menu’s extensive selection of pub-style food, and house-brewed beer.

There are multiple eating and drinking areas, which the website helps to explain. Being first-timers, we parked on the street and entered through the front door, which, we discovered, is about as far from the check-in spot as you can get. We followed the signs and eventually found ourselves at the hostess station, near the back of the building (and close to the door where we should have entered, near the side-street parking area that we didn’t know about.) Once we got there, we were told we could wait for a dining room table or go seat ourselves in one of the several bar areas.

We decided not to wait, so we wandered around the main bar — which was full — and then headed upstairs to the Tap Room, a cozy balcony space with a long bar, a big granite fireplace with nook tables on either side, and more tables along the rail overlooking the main bar.

With seating so hard to come by, we grabbed the first table we could find, which had just been vacated. We sat for a few minutes before one of the multi-tasking bartender/waiters came over and cleared and reset it. We ordered drinks and started studying the menu, which is just about as extensive as the restaurant itself, with a well rounded list of appetizers, entrees, burgers, sandwiches and personal pizzas. There’s also a large gluten-free selection.

Mrs. Gourmet started with an order of Calamari Rings ($10.99), which was actually a nice mix of rings and tentacles. The breading was a little heavy, and while there were a few peppers in the mix, they didn’t add much zing, but the accompanying garlic chive aioli helped make things interesting.

The See-Food Cake ($7.99) caught my eye with its promised mix of crab, scallops and shrimp, and it didn’t disappoint. The hand-sized cake was breaded rather heavily, prompting Mrs. G. to say “lots of filler” after her first bite, but really there was very little filler. Topped with red pepper remoulade, it was mostly seafood, and it was a great variation on the typical crab cake.

We decided in the interest of time to go with sandwiches instead of entrees as our main course.

Mrs. G. ordered a Pastrami Reubenski ($10.99). Between two thick slices of wonderful spent-grain bread, buttered and grilled, were a generous portion of peppery pastrami, Swiss cheese and sauerkraut, finished with Thousand Island dressing. (Spent grain, by the way, is the malt and grains leftover from the brewing process. It’s a frequent and tasty ingredient in breads and other goods found at many brew pubs.)

Mrs. G said the Reubenski was one of her all-time favorites, and it was such a substantial serving that she could only manage to finish half.

Just as good as Mrs. G’s sandwich was my Plebian Burger ($13.49). The burger section of the menu lets you build your own on your choice of a 9-ounce locally sourced beef burger, a grilled chicken breast, a bison burger or a spent-grain veggie burger, or choose from 15 specific burger creations.

The Plebian is topped with Buffalo mozzarella cheese, roasted garlic and sauteed onions, and served on a ciabatta-style bun. It was gooey, loaded with wonderful flavors, and perfectly cooked with an excellent char, all coming together to make it one of the best burgers I’ve ever had.

As befits a brew pub, the beer selection is extensive, with at least a dozen house brews on tap. We picked the Pig’s Ear Brown Ale, a good, mild dinner companion.

The bartender/waiters were hopping, so we asked for our check as soon as our food was delivered to avoid having to wait for him to come back later. We did make our reservation time at the Ice Castle, but it was a closer call than we would have liked.

After sampling the food and drink, we can understand why the Woodstock Station & Brewery would be busy on a winter Sunday afternoon. We’d definitely go back, and we’re happy we decided to pair it up with our Ice Castle visit. But if you’re going to do the same thing on a weekend afternoon/evening, we’d recommend giving yourself a two-hour dining window, just to be on the safe side.

Our GourmetNorth Woodstock

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