Thursday, October 23, 2014

Red Heat Tavern: The Food & Drinks (Part 2)

How does food taste cooked in the Josper Charcoal Broiler Oven?

Red Heat Tavern, located in Wilmington, opened in March 2014 and is owned and operated by the Burtons Grill restaurant group. It is easily accessed from Route 93, or you can get there via Route 129. The restaurant is open for both lunch and dinner, and on both times when I visited, the restaurant was very busy, and obviously is a popular dining destination for many.

The restaurant is moderately sized, with a large, thirty-two seat bar with six televisions, numerous booths, tables and high-tops. There is also an outdoor patio, where people were seated on both of my visits as the weather was pleasant. It has an open kitchen, which I always like, and it has a casual, homey vibe, what you desire from a tavern-style restaurant. It is the type of place to go for a drink and some food while you watch football, or a spot to hang out with a group of friends. On Tuesdays, they have a weekly trivia event, with tequila & tacos, and on Thursday evenings they have live music. In addition, they host other special events on a regular basis.

As for alcohol, beer is king, and they have an impressive list of about 50 selections, including Drafts, Bottles and Cans. The beer menu includes local craft brews as well as international selections, Draft beers are available in 14oz and 20oz pours. You can even find some beer cocktails available. The wine list is relatively small, with most wines by the glass costing $5.50-$10. It is not an exciting list, but will have many names familiar to the average consumer.

Their cocktail list, most ranging from $7-$10, includes a number of their own takes on some classic cocktails, such as the Fire House Iced Tea and the Wilmington Cranberry Gimlet. The Jack & the Giant Peach (pictured above) is made from Jack Daniel’s, peach puree, & agave. Both the bourbon and peach flavors were well balanced, and it had only a slight hint of sweetness to it. A very satisfying drink, one you could easily have a few over the course of an evening. The Spicy Strawberry Margarita is made with Tequila, Cointreau, strawberry puree, jalapeno, & agave, and again it was well balanced and with only a touch of sweetness to it. There was a nice spicy kick, and it too was a satisfying drink.

The kitchen cooks everything from scratch and they use seasonal, fresh ingredients. The menu has plenty of choices, including about 13 Appetizers ($4.95-$11.95, with 1 exception), 9 Salads ($9.95-$12.95), 14 Sandwiches & Burgers ($9.95-$12.95), 15 Entrees ($13.95-$16.95) and  12 Sides. There is a flame symbol next to some of the menu items, indicating that the dish was at least partially prepared using the Josper Charcoal Broiler Oven.  It is a menu that emphasizes comfort food, with plenty of hearty dishes and tavern fare, though you can find some lighter items too, from salads to seafood. Price wise, it is very affordable, especially considering the ample portion sizes of many dishes.    

At the beginning of your meal, at both lunch and dinner, you'll receive some moist cornbread with a sweet cinnamon & honey butter.

My favorite dish, and which is also indicative of the potential of the Josper, was the Mesquite Smoked Wings ($11.95, or a double order for $17.95). The wings can be ordered either with a buffalo-style sauce or a sweet Thai chili sauce, and I opted for the latter on both visits. The Thai wings comes with a sriracha mayo for dipping. The wings are slow cooked during the day in the Josper, and then later crisped up prior to being served.

Honestly, these were some of the best wings I've tasted in some time. There was a delightful crispiness to the outer skin, and plenty of tender meat inside. The sweet, and slightly spicy, taste was accompanied by a nice smokiness, all of the flavors blending together harmoniously. That smokiness is due to the Josper. I could easily eat these wings by the dozen and they receive my highest recommendation.

The RHT Nachos ($10.95) is a hearty appetizer of crispy corn tortilla chips, melted colby and monterey jack cheese, cherry peppers and diced tomatoes, all topped with fire roasted salsa verde and RHT sour cream. You can also add chicken or chili. The chips were a bit thicker than some, and made for a sturdy platform for the rest of the toppings/ I don't like when the chips are too thin and continually break when you load them up with toppings. There was plenty of gooey melted cheese, and the salsa verde added a pleasant smoky flavor to the dish. Very good comfort food to snack on while watching the Patriots.

Another hearty appetizer is the Smothered Wild Cat Fries ($7.95), a bowl of french fries covered by a five cheese sauce, BBQ gravy and applewood smoked bacon. What a delectable dish of comfort food, kind of a variation on poutine. The cheese sauce, savory gravy and bacon enhanced the crisp fries, providing a nice blend of taste and textures. This is a dish which you will be sure to finish.

The BBQ Burger ($11.95) is a half pound of Angus Beef topped by cheddar, applewood smoked bacon, honey BBQ sauce and onion strings on a toasted bun. Burgers come with a choice of Sweet Potato Wedges, French Fries, Onion Strings, Creole Potato Chips or Coleslaw. I opted for the Sweet Potato Wedges. This is a hearty burger, with a nice meaty taste enhanced by the toppings. A good-sized dish for the price. The rippled Wedges were excellent, with a nice crunchy exterior and plenty of tender sweet potato inside. As wedges, you get far more sweet potato taste than a skinny fry. A great alternative to the usual potato French fry.

The RHT Philly Wrap ($11.95) is made from their house roast beef with RHT steak sauce, onions, peppers, melted provolone and American cheese with crispy onion strings rolled in a chipotle wrap. Another hearty and tasty sandwich.

The Fresh Catch Basket ($14.95) contains plenty of lightly battered fresh cod with fries, crispy onion strings, fried pickles, coleslaw and tartar sauce. The crisp and thin batter covered very moist and flaky fish, and there were enough pieces to make any seafood lover happy. I have to give some kudos to the fried bread & butter pickles, which balanced the thin batter with the crisp pickle slices. I've had too many soggy fried pickles but these didn't disappoint. You can also get them as an appetizer.

For sides, you could try the Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Bacon, which combine smokiness and salt to these small, leafy veggies.

Or maybe you would prefer the Five Cheese Mac & Cheese, which is topped by an onion string crust. A compelling blend of cheese, and tender pasta make this tasty comfort food.

If you want lighter fare for your entree, order the Miso Glazed Salmon ($16.95), which has a sweet miso glaze and is served over lemongrass and edamame jasmine rice, and topped with a warm slaw of carrots, sugar peas and sesame seeds. The salmon, which sees time in the Josper, had a nice cruncht crust to its exterior, and plenty of moist, flaky meat inside, with a slightly smoky accent. The rice and slaw was a nice blend of flavors and textures, enhancing the dish. Highly recommended.

The Josper Roasted Sirloin Tips ($16.95) were the only disappointment of my two visits. These tips, cooked in the Josper, are in their signature RHT marinade and served with chimichurri sauce and herb parmesan fries. This was an ok dish, but didn't stand out as anything special, and seemed like a dish I might find at any tavern. As the kitchen did so well with all of the other dishes, it was a bit of a letdown to have such an average dish. Maybe their Tavern Chateau Steak would have been a better choice.

I didn't try any desserts as I was too full from the rest of the meals. Service on both visit was excellent, with the servers showing an excellent knowledge of the food and drinks menus. Everyone was very personable, and the servers seemed to be very attentive to all of their tables. Overall, I very much enjoyed Red Heat Tavern, and a couple of their dishes, like the Wings and Salmon, were top notch, as good as you find most anywhere. For a comfort food fix, or a reasonably priced lunch or dinner, or even just drinks and apps, this would be a good destination. I understand why it is so popular, and recommend that my readers check it out.

As for my original question, how does food taste cooked in the Josper Charcoal Broiler Oven, I think the answer depends on the preparation. The Wings are the perfect showcase of the great potential of the oven, and the Salmon indicated that it can do well with seafood too. The salsa verde on the Nachos were another good example of the flavors the oven can impart. However, the steak tips failed to live up to the potential, Overall, I am impressed with the Josper.

(Disclaimer: I received a media comp for dinner though I had lunch there on my own. Please be advised I was under no obligation to actually review this restaurant and if I chose to review it, I was under no obligation to say anything specific, whether positive or negative, about my experience. All of this content was solely at my discretion.)

1 comment:

donyfarc said...

Yeah I have been to Red Heat Tavern: The Food & Drinks and it’s a great place. I usually eat Miso Glazed Salmon there and it’s one of my favorite Boston restaurants . This is not that big restaurant but their services are awesome. The weekly trivia event at this restaurant is just wonderful.