Monday, January 4, 2010

Bully's & Beer - a winning combination!

One of my favorite places to visit in Philadelphia is Monk’s Belgian Café on 16th and Spruce. It’s a charming little joint that has decent food, but more invitingly, no less than 20 of some of the world’s best beers on tap at any one time. If none of the 20 tickles your fancy, then there’s a Beer Bible of more than a hundred bottled beers from which you can make a cheerful choice.

So imagine my grateful surprise when I found a Beer Bible at Bully’s Restaurant & Pub, right here in Columbia, PA. Bully’s Bible has about 150 beers listed, and includes how beer is made, how it should be enjoyed, and a glossary of beer terms. Beer connoisseurs, a visit should not be missed. Of the 10 draught beers that evening, they had the Ommegang Abbey Ale ($5), which is hard for me to pass up.

Oh, you say you’re not into beer? That’s okay because Bully’s also has a rather extensive drinks menu for everything else. And ultimately, the food and amiable atmosphere are worth the visit, regardless of whether there’s an accompanying libation.

That evening, we ordered the Duck Sausage Fromage Special ($21) and the Southwestern New York Strip Steak ($22.95) from their well-rounded and interesting menu. Each came with a Garden Salad.

The Duck Sausage Fromage dish was a lightly creamy sauce with artichokes, wild mushrooms and roasted red peppers, served over gemili pasta, topped with a white cheese, then finished off with a stint in the oven to create that melty ooziness that’s hard to beat. The duck sausage was sliced in the casing and had a clean, distinctive duck flavor to it. Duh… But hear me out. Sausages can sometimes be overwhelmed by the spices that are mixed into it. Here, it was more like a simple country sausage, where the flavor of the meat takes center stage. Paired with the rustic chunkiness of the other ingredients, the dish had a slight sweetness that was delightful.

The Southwestern Steak is definitely for spice lovers… and for those who like a lot of sauce on their steak. The 12 oz New York Strip was a nice cut, grilled to medium rare, only I could see it gasping for air as it drowned in its sea of chipotle mango salsa. Now, the chipotle salsa itself, while bordering on cloyingly sweet, was a good juxtaposition between spicy and sweet. Used in moderation, it resulted in a slow, mild, and not unpleasant burn in my mouth that lasted throughout the rest of the dish. Used in moderation, it would have been a first-rate dish. Unfortunately, though, it was a case of too much of a good thing, and the sauce seemed to insidiously take over everything that was on the plate. Ask for it on the side.

Lastly, I’ll make mention of the side vegetables - Sugar Snap Peas and Curried Cauliflower. I love Sugar Snap Peas. I buy them fresh from the farmer’s market and eat them like candy. But before I pop them into my mouth, I peel away the thready spine because I don’t like to end up with what is akin to dental floss in my mouth. At Bully’s, while they tasted fine, they didn’t peel the thread and I ended up having to do the discreet spit-out at the table. Then there’s the Curried Cauliflower. Love it. Cauliflower has been making a comeback in gourmet circles, and Bully’s has its own cleverly delectable spin on it.

All in all, I’m thankful there’s a place that has great beer, some really solid food, and that I don’t have to go all the way to Philadelphia for it.

Bully’s Restaurant & Pub

647 Union Street, Columbia

(717) 684-2854

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