Review: Five Horses Tavern

Familiar favorites with a craft-beer chaser
By ROBERT NADEAU  |  October 5, 2011
2.0 2.0 Stars

GOOD GAME The Kentucky fried Cornish game hen entrée — “k.f.c.g.h.” here — was better suited for grazing, but well fried and tasty nonetheless.

I don't get Five Horses Tavern's name, but I get the concept. With a chef fresh from Bukowski Tavern, it's all about poetry that doesn't rhyme. No, just joking — it's really about 36 taps of craft beers, a bunch of TV sets showing sports, and food to go along, which means a fair ration of salt and pepper, but some neat surprises as well.

On the pub side of this gastropub thing, you might find something like Rogue Brutal IPA ($7), or Oskar Blues Mama's Little Yella Pils ($6), Colorado's answer to Bohemia — the Czech kind, not the Bukowski kind. The former is dark amber with plenty of bitterness and a hint of grapefruit one gets with enough American hops, but a balance of winey, complex malt in the base. It's a beer to sip. The latter is just as bitter, with a nice head on a long glass of pale-straw lager, but not as much stuffing. It's a beer to gulp dangerously.

The "starters" are more like bar snacks, or likely to be used that way by the young crowd that has already taken to Five Horses. These could be as simple as white-bean hummus ($6) with nice thin toasts of French bread, and a nasty kick of hot pepper. Or you could go with "elote loco" ($5), an overloaded version of the grilled corn-on-the-cob at Toro. These two sections have so much chili, cheese, and hotted-up mayonnaise you can't taste the char of the grill. But they are swell with beer. For something truly bland, one has to go to bread and butter ($4, paying for bread again). The bread was a finger of focaccia, and some slices of crusty sourdough. But the butter was goat-milk butter, white and mild with just hint of goaty tang, worth taking home. Another trick for the mild of palate would be papas fritas ($5) — a small pile of sliced fingerling potatoes — so long as you avoid the hot red mayonnaise dip. Spice lovers will insist on keeping that dip as a condiment for later dishes.

Salads were quite strong relative to expectations. (It's normally pretty hard to get your roughage around plasma TVs.) The "pea diddy" ($10) may be a bad pun, but the combination of fresh peas, field greens, a real dressing, tiny bits of avocado, and larger morsels of fresh mozzarella is delightful. An "heirloom tomato salad" ($10) in early September, however, was half beefsteak and half cubes of toasted sourdough bread, more like panzanella. I liked the bread, but I picked out all the tomatoes.

There are a few entrées, but my venture, "k.f.c.g.h." ($16), was more for grazing. The letters stand for "Kentucky fried Cornish game hen," but the portion was half a micro-chicken in two pieces, with great frying, but not much more meat than an order of wings. The sides were "jalapeño cheddar mashed potatoes" — I think the jalapeños ran out — and "pork-belly-spiked mac and cheese," which was the dry, cheesy style with cubes of salt pork in there, less "spiked" than "infiltrated."

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Related: Review: Porter Cafe, Review: The Haven, Review: The Gallows, More more >
  Topics: Restaurant Reviews , fried chicken, gastropub, craft beer
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