Update: we have been back a few times since our review and we have had mixed results. At times we have good service, at other times service is spotty and slow. During our last visit, the food wasn’t as good as it used to be. The burger, in particular, was bland, mushy, and disappointing while the chicken sandwich was also bland and uninteresting.
Last year when we heard that Heartland Brewery was opening up a new brewery in Port Chester, we darn near jumped for joy. First off, we live just a few minutes away. Secondly, we think that Port Chester is the most underrated place in our area and were psyched for people to show it some love. And thirdly, mmmm, beeeeeeer.
Now, a few months back we got a little worried and upset when we learned that it wasn’t actually going to be a brewery, but our frown got turned upside down when we learned that it would become a beer hall and a beer garden with beer pumped in from Heartland Brewery. So, when the weather this past Saturday turned out to be beautiful, we knew what we had to do…
Location and Parking
Port Chester Hall and Beer Garden is located adjacent to the Port Chester train station and just about 300 feet from the Capitol Theatre. While there is metered parking on the streets (make sure to pay because you will get a ticket), you can park in the commuter lot under most circumstances. If you have a permit, you’re all set, but you could also park there for free on weekends and holidays or after 6 pm during the week. That means the only time you’ll have to park in the street is when you come by to get some beer, drinks, and food for lunchtime when they expand their lunch times from just the weekends.
In terms of where you can eat and get some drinks, there are three distinct spots. The first is completely indoors, in the nicely decorated Port Chester Hall that’s a fun throwback to the classic railroad station style. Inside there are plenty of tables, a bar, and a side dining room that’s a great spot for a private party…just sayin’. But, it’s a major sin to eat inside when it’s beautiful out, especially with the next two areas: the Beer Garden and the outside seating. Let’s start off with the outside tables and benches. They stretch around the Beer Garden and are completely al fresco, so if it’s a sunny day and you want to soak up the sun while getting some drinks, this is the spot to be. Or, if you prefer to keep things a bit cooler, check out the open air huge beer garden where you can sit, let a server get you some drinks and food, and just spend hour after hour relaxing. There are individual tables as well as communal tables, all made of what appears to be repurposed wood with metal hardware. Even the lighting is perfect, with huge, circular, metal chandeliers in the beer garden, and white string lights outside. It makes for the PERFECT chillin’ atmosphere.
The menu is fun and echos some of the menus at Heartland Brewery a bit with new items added. It’s safe to say that whatever kind of mood you’re in or level of hunger you’re at, there’s something(s) on the menu for ya. Broken down, they have smaller dishes like pretzels, fried pickle spears, crispy tater tots, shared table platters, sandwiches like the smoked rib eye, a few options for burgers, a good variety of salads like the Pavillion Steak Salad, and a few entrees like the grilled petite filet to pick from. More on the food later…
As you know, man does not live on bread alone…man needeth liquid refreshment. And refresh you they will with some affordable wine choices by glass or bottle, 12 taps for beer and ciders, and even a nice cocktail menu. Well, let’s dig in.
Because half of the name of this new Port Chester spot implies good beer, we thought we’d start there. The beer is made in Greenpoint, Brooklyn by Brewmaster Kelly Taylor of Greenpoint Beer Works. This is one of their sister restaurants of Heartland Brewery including Houston and Flatiron Halls in Manhattan. As of now there are 10 brews (12 taps total) on tap with the ales and lagers coming right from Brooklyn. Depending on your thirst you can order a small (10 oz.), medium (16 oz.), or a large at 32 ounces. Prices, accordingly, are generally $6, $8, and $12 so the real value is with the big boy.
To start things off, Dan had the Wheat which comes in at 5% ABV, is light, and is pretty sessionable if you spend four hours at the Beer Garden like we did. There was very little hoppiness to the Wheat with only a slight bitter finish at the end. While it is easy to drink, it tasted a bit too light and one dimensional. This would have benefitted from a more exotic yeast strain that would bring more flavor in and create a layered taste. Dan also had the Single Hop Pale Ale which constantly changes and features one particular variety of hops. When we went, the beer was made with Sterling. This is, perhaps, one of the lighter pale ales that we’ve had with the hoppiness being very subdued. Like the Wheat, the end was slightly bitter and was (unfortunately) also one dimensional. Not bad, not amazing…just kind of somewhere in between.
Walking away from beer for a minute, Kristien went right for the cocktails…specifically the Detox, which was made from everything she loves: Bulleit Bourbon, cayenne pepper, lemon juice, and maple syrup. This cocktail had the perfect balance of sweetness, spiciness, and tartness. Of all the drinks that we tried, this was definitely the spiciest/hottest but it was still quite manageable. And, if bourbon makes you afraid, you can rest easy knowing that you can taste it but it’s not overwhelming. After that, Kristien had the Sawpit Struggle which was cool and refreshing with more of a subtle spice. The light cucumber came through nicely and balanced well with the gin. The pear vodka added flavor and fruitiness to the drink, but didn’t add that vodka punch. She finished up the night with a classic: the Mark Twain. This was definitely the strongest of all the drinks, but if you love Scotch, you’ll love this. That peaty taste really comes through, so if you love that, this is your jam.
Feeling a bit disappointed with the beer (there are more to try, so we can’t make any final judgements until we come back), Dan ended the night with the Pepper Raspberry Mojito. Because this was made with Ginger Ale, it added a distinct flavor and was extra fizzy. The mint and bubbles made it refreshing, but Dan felt the black pepper was too overpowering. Kristien, on the other hand, didn’t think it was too much…it was just a unique twist on a classic Mojito.
Because the menu was so varied and featured some classic beer garden fare and some modern American, we were unsure about what to order. Yeah, there are much worse things to be unsure about in the world, #whitewhine, #firstworldproblems. Well, we decided to start up with three apps. Our nice server, Luigi, even asked if we wanted them all at once or staggered. Staggered. Always get them staggered so they stay warm and so you can enjoy your time, especially with a day like Saturday.
While the dishes did end up coming all at once anyway (doh!), we managed to survive because the portions are just right. First up were the Sashimi Tuna Tacos in a crispy wonton taco shell that had freshly diced fish, a mango cucumber salsa, and a wasabi cream on top. This was fresh, light, refreshing, and pretty flavorful for being so simple.
Kristien dug into the Pastrami Reuben Spring Rolls that had nice bug chunks of pastrami in it that were highlighted with a perfect amount of kraut, and a slightly spicy dressing. Yup, they like to keep things a little spicy here and we really love that. This was a very nicely balanced dish because no flavors were overpowering such as the Gruyere inside that just peeked through enough and the crispy skin of the spring rolls wasn’t too thick or oil-soaked.
And, then Dan had to think strategically. If he sees a burger on the menu, Dan must order said burger. It’s an unwritten rule…well, actually now it’s a written rule. Darn blog! So, the Kobe Sliders were a nice compromise: three very simple burgers with sliced red onions, McClure’s Pickles, and ketchup on the side. But, Luigi threw a wrench in and said Dan could order his sliders with cheese (American, Cheddar, and Gruyere) and bacon, too. Yes, yes. They assume you want it Medium Rare, so if you desire a different temp, make sure to ask. When Dan got his, it was just a tad over MR, but was bursting with juicy flavor. The American cheese added a good fattiness that built up with the bacon that actually was crispy as hell. Next time, he’s getting the burger because he really enjoyed these little guys.
Well, we were still hungry: surprise! So, we thought a bit about the Grilled Bratwurst with Sauerkraut, the Sesame Seared Ahi Tuna, the Maui Fish Tacos, and the Steak Frites, but we decided to go with “Our Own Shepard’s Pie” and the Bacon & Chicken Mac N’ Cheese. Dan greedily took the Shephard’s Pie because it kind of fit his mood for a warm comfort food as the nighttime set in. It arrived warm, hot, and ready to go in a boat with a nice thick layer of cheddar covered mashed potato. As he dug in, he found delicate chunks of beef that they braised themselves, mushrooms, peas, and carrots. The sauce itself was earthy and hearty, working very well when you scooped up some mashed potato. The only problem that we had with the dish is that the taste of rosemary in the sauce was very overwhelming, overtaking a good portion of the flavors. If that flavor is dialed down, this would be an excellent choice.
And, surprise surprise, Kristien couldn’t control her Mac N’ Cheese addiction (we’ve heard there’s a 10 step program for this). The menu states that it’s made up of three cheese, though we discovered it’s kinda four with Yellow and an Aged White Cheddar, Cream Cheese, and a sharp Parmesan. The cheese was mixed very nicely and had a creamy consistency. On top, as you scooped down, you got nice bits of crispy “breadcrumbs” with a familiar taste that, we discovered from Luigi, are Goldfish. The chunks of bacon were savory, smoky, and crispy while the chicken was actually very juicy…a feat that we have yet to have a restaurant master when using chicken in Mac N’ Cheese. Now, while the Shepard’s Pie had too much rosemary, this dish needed just a little more of the chicken and the bacon in it because it disappeared pretty quickly after a few bites. But, regardless of that, this dish was delicious!
By this time, over three hours had already gone by, but we weren’t counting. The day just floated by with some good drinks and some great food, so we figured we’d stretch it out a bit more and check out their desserts (all $5.95). The options were a NY Style Cheesecake, Cinnamon Apple Brown Sugar Crumb Pie, and the Chocolate Mousse with Salted Peanut Caramel Crunch (which is what we went with). We dug this (literally) because the mousse wasn’t too sweet or chocolately like they tend to be. The consistency was light and fluffy…a delight to eat. Adding some contrast to that was the salted caramel peanut crunch which were little cubes of awesomeness that burst with salty and nutty flavor. There were just a few of those nice crunchies on top, though, so we wished there were more. We were thinking that if they put some in each layer that’d be a nice surprise and something to look forward to as you get deeper down to the bottom.
For a restaurant of this size who had the entire beer garden full of people on only their first weekend of service, we were happy for the most part with the food that came out and the service. While Luigi was definitely busy and was stretched thin from table to table all while still trying to figure out the ropes, he was kind, courteous, helpful, and knew about the menu. Yes, we did have to wait between ordering for a bit (as did some other tables around us), but when our orders were taken the drinks came within minutes and the food didn’t take much longer. That’s because the Vice President of Food + Beverage of Heartland Brewery, Chef Richard Pietromonaco, and Corporate Executive Chef Luis Santos, are starting out in the kitchen to get things going with Head Chef Adan Lopez.
So, let’s lay it all on the beer garden table. This is one beautiful spot where we’ve already decided to come back time and time again. The food was good, simple, approachable, and not that expensive… plus, it’s nice to know that if you’re gluten-free, they have a ton of options available to you. When the sun goes down, poof, they turn on their two fireplaces so you could always warm up right at the hearth. The cocktails are so refreshing and won’t bleed your bank account dry, and the beer is a great deal, although we rightfully remain a bit skeptical.
Plain and simple, we’ll be back….like Ahhnald says!
3.75 (but we’ll revisit once we’ve eaten there a couple times)
Cost: $$-$$$ (depending on what you order)
Address: 3 Broad Street
Port Chester, NY 10573
Telephone: (914) 305-8383
- Monday-Thursday, 4:00 pm – 12:00 am
- Friday, 4:00 pm – 2:00 am
- Saturday, 11:30 am – 2:00 am
- Sunday, 11:30 am – 12:00 am
- Coffee service 6-11 am Monday-Friday