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Heartland Brewery & Chophouse Dining Review

February 21, 2006 - by Richard Jay Scholem
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A restaurant called Heartland Brewery & Chophouse sounds as though it should be in Milwaukee or Chicago. Well, it’s not; but it is in the heartland: the heartland of New York City. In fact, the heartland of Manhattan...Midtown, to be exact, and doing very nicely, thank you.

Jon Bloostein is the City’s biggest brew-pub player. His flagship $3.5 million, 300-seat colossus is extremely popular with locals and tourists alike. It’s a straight-ahead, relaxed, no-pretense pub. Its exterior, gaslight-era globe lighting draws diners into a comfortable, open-collar kind of place with a mirrored, old-fashioned dark wood bar, candle lanterns, polished wood floors, a beamed ceiling, brick columns, woody walls, overhead fans, and 21 gleaming copper and steel brewing tanks.

Heartland’s handcrafted beers and no-nonsense contemporary American food are as familiar and reassuring as its environs. Homespun American heartland favorites abound. Whatever solid, traditional, conventional dishes you want they’ve got: from beer and booze to steaks and shrimp cocktails, to ribs and burgers as well as house specialties like buffalo chicken spring rolls and lobster and crabmeat ravioli. What’s more, prices here in the heart of the City are gentler than those at many a suburban steakhouse. A 16-ounce Romanian tenderloin skirt steak goes for a modest $16, a small filet mignon is $18.95, and no entree exceeds $30.

Don’t like steak? Don’t drink beer? No problem. Of the 20 nighttime main courses, 14 are in the chicken, fish, pasta and pork category, everything from ravioli, rigatoni and risotto to salmon, swordfish and mahi mahi—at prices that start at $14.95. (The 10-ounce burger with a batch of fries is $10.95.)

At the outset we opted for the six large, crusty, greaseless deep fried chicken wontons with a snappy scallion dipping sauce. The mountain of crisp cornmeal-crusted popcorn shrimp, with its spicy Cajun dip, two no-filler lump crab cakes the size of sea scallops napped in a soothing remoulade-like lobster sauce were delicious. Main events included three tender, full-of-flavor, grilled rib lamb chops, a mixed grill (actually a kebob of marinated hanger steak and lamb over rice pilaf), steak au poivre that wasn’t overwhelmed by its peppercorns or brandy reduction, and six rolled rounds of pink-centered pork tenderloin encircled by lively barbecue sauce and sturdy mashed potatoes.

Two traditional side dishes, creamed spinach and onion rings, were noteworthy. The rich spinach was half cream and half greens while the onion stack sported a sensible, rather than smothering batter. The obligatory steakhouse desserts like New York cheesecake and key lime pie more than hold their own, but the warm sour cream apple pie with cinnamon ice cream was hands down the best sweet. Better yet, drink your dessert with sinful throwbacks like milkshakes and root beer floats and orange creams.

127 W. 43rd St. btw. Broadway & Sixth Ave., 646-366-0235. Heartland Brewery also has locations at Empire State Building, South Street Seaport, Union Square, and across from Radio City Music Hall.

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