Entering Bandwagon Brewpub is like stepping into a funhouse: truly disorientating. A classy cocktail table and plump couches stand by the entrance. But throughout most of the dining area, rows of wobbly tables and rock-hard Chinese restaurant-style chairs create the atmosphere of a high-class cafeteria. Fluorescent tube lamps illuminate a row of three beer vats which are part of a mini-beer museum, while a soft light casts its shadow over the flashy bar. As if this wasn’t quite enough, the grey, brick façade on one side of this pub-restaurant shouted “Out of Place!” with as much vigor as shiny, amber walls opposite it.
It was equally hard to forgive all of Bandwagon Brewpub’s incongruities even in its food offerings. My dining companions and I scratched our heads over the “farfalle with pineapple, banana, (SPICY) habanero, orange, lime, cilantro and parmesan” ($13), a monstrosity which we agreed that we would eat once for the novelty of it but never again. Looking and tasting like the remnants of a culinary experiment-in-progress, its flavors pulled us in so many directions that we were almost glad that the outrageously spicy habanero numbed our tongues anyway. “A-plus” for effort, but definitely an “Incomplete” for taste.
However, as the night progressed, rounds of beer — which is the whole point of a pub anyway — began to peel off our culinary snobbishness, as we grew to appreciate Bandwagon for what it offered beyond its extraneous facades. Our favorite dishes turned out to be the simplest-sounding ones. Deep fried jack-cheese dunked in good old marinara sauce ($7) and washed down with cold beer was as wonderful as the restaurant interior was incoherent. The highlight of the night was definitely the crispy coconut shrimp doused with an orange marmalade dipping sauce. Fleshy and succulent, honest and delicious.
We also ordered two flights of four draft beer samplers, choosing from among Bandwagon’s fifteen craft and five house-made brews. It felt like a roller coaster through many yeasty, nutty, musty and even fruity notes, moving from the modest, cider-like “Commons Ale” ($4) to the dark, astringent “Victory Hop Devil” ($6). My favorite was the “C’est l’amour” ($6), a bold yet tangy Belgian strong ale. Talk about starting to fall in love! Rounding off the hearty meal was a bread pudding drizzled with whiskey vanilla sauce ($5). Although it looked like a bizarre cross between a mushroom terrine and an over-sized rice crispy bar, it tasted warm and fluffy amid tons of textures, ranging from crunchy pecans and mashed bananas to soft raisins and airy whipped cream.
Bandwagon’s menu is certainly an enterprising hodgepodge of offerings. Combining perennial favorites like buffalo chicken tenders, with a twist of Asian flair — won-tons and thai curries — and a dash of Italian finesse — pungent cheeses and pastas— Bandwagon Brewpub can be counted on to deliver a surprise to your taste buds. Every restaurant has its hits and misses, and Bandwagon certainly has its fair share of both. However, since Bandwagon changes its menu frequently, you can rest assured that only the favorites will stand the test of time. The beers are a must-try even for closet teetotalers — a flight of beer for five bucks is definitely some good value.
I won’t even go into the actually decent service, the run-down bathrooms and the awesome music, because frankly speaking, they don’t really matter when you’re walking out, full, satisfied and licking your fingers.
Original Author: Brandon Ho