Austin Mackin 11 a.m., March 7
Craft Beer at Half Price…What the Pho?
To quote author and travel journalist Anthony Bourdain, food writers regularly “kill what we love.” Most often, we do this by penning prose that turns people on to exceptional restaurants that, despite serving up delicious food, have somehow managed to remain best kept secrets where people can get a fix without making reservations weeks out or jockeying for position among hordes of hungry patrons.
It’s rewarding to help build the reputation and visibility for restaurateurs and chefs that are doing things right, but food writers are just like any other avid diner. It pains us to rob people (ourselves included) of cozy, quiet dining experiences by ushering people to the places providing them like some overenthusiastic intersection novelty arrow spinner. Still, to do our jobs properly, we have to break out the poison pen and lay waste to some of the best things in life for the greater good.
Today, the experience I’ll be wrecking for long-time regulars is happy hour at OB Noodle House. As evidenced by the droves of those in-the-know who come rolling in each afternoon, this noodle house, its formidable craft beer selection, and its awesome half-off all beers happy hour rates (3 to 6 p.m., daily) are hardly secrets. Still, right now, it’s at least possible to get in there and get one of the best beer bargains in the county. After this post, that may no longer be the case, but I simply have to tell you all about one of my favorite local spots.
Tender noodles and a well balanced broth provide the perfect back-drop for any combination of proteins and flavorful mix-ins.
The beer board always lists 30 quality beers ranging from everyday varieties up to seasonals and one-offs. Last time I was there, I started off with the rather common St. Bernardus Abt 12 Belgian quad and, by night’s end, was sipping on a rare and piney Dogfish Head 120-Minute IPA. Had I so desired, I could have partaken of Sapporo at a price point so low ($1 pints, $4 pitchers), it would make every sushi bar owner in America shed tears in their sake. Speaking of sake, with a varied selection and cost-effective prices, this is a nice place to familiarize one’s self with rice wine’s wide range of flavors.
A good indicator of quality craft beer offerings - Dogfish Head 120-Minute IPA...and plenty of it. Average and subpar bars never even see this beer.
But it’s not all about adult beverages at OB Noodle House. Their pho is outstanding and chock full of proteins including steak (cooked to the doneness you’re comfortable with, though I’d recommend rare), brisket, tripe, and meatballs. The broth is earthy and, most importantly, not oversalted, making it a base that’s great for customizing with hoisin sauce, sriracha, lime juice, jalapeños, or fresh Thai basil leaves.
OB Noodle House's piping hot build-your-own chicken lettuce wrap set-up goes nicely with a spicy Belgian strong ale.
Appetizers like lettuce wraps stuffed with a steamy sweet-and-spicy mix of chicken, mushrooms and water chestnuts; plump, garlicky chicken wings; and simple, clean, fresh shrimp and vegetable spring rolls served with a sweet, viscous peanut dipping sauce make for tasty Asian-style pub grub.
Delicate and flaky, the sizzling skillet of bassa makes for a nice alternative to (or go-with for) a bowl of pho.
An entrée standout is a bassa, a Vietnamese freshwater fish, served piping hot and partially soldered to a sizzling cast-iron skillet. Topped with spicy caramelized ginger and palate-cleansing cilantro, it’s one of the few good reasons to ever pass up a belly-warming bowl of pho.
As juicy and garlicky as they are technicolor, OB Noodle House's wings are a nice foil for a hop-forward ale.
So there you have it, the rare marriage of quality American and European craft beers with delicious, authentic Asian cuisine, all at prices that make this combination foodie and tightwad count the minutes to 3 p.m. Go forth and enjoy. Just maybe save me a seat if you see me sulking on a bench outside waiting for a table, OK? OB Noodle House is located at 2218 Cable Street.