Sunday, May 9, 2010
The Crows Nest
2221 Bandywood Drive
A guy named Farokhmanesh steps up and takes a shot. It’s in for three. A few seconds later the University of Northern Iowa has just beat Kansas for a huge NCAA basketball upset and the bar is going nuts. Oh, and by the way the fisherman’s stew has arrived and the tomato based broth looks light and spicy.
It’s rare that a sports bar really steps up to the plate in the food department. We’re not just talking burgers, but hitting it on everything from soups and salads to entrees. The Crows Nest in Green Hills manages to pull it off.
It certainly looks like a big Southern sports bar: roll-up garage door windows and ample deck space opens the place up for a breezy, summery feel. There are flat screens everywhere and a loud, festive din, especially during peak times, which can find dozens of tables packed with folks on both levels. The beer selection is solid with about a dozen tap choices and twice as many bottles. A decent wine by the glass and liquor line-up ensures a good time can be had by all.
The kitchen holds its own and the wait staff keeps things moving, even when the game is on the line. We had a large group on one visit and the drinks kept flowing and the food kept coming. The aforementioned fisherman’s stew is a nice start to the meal, with chunks of fish and shrimp. There is one hiccup: a burger ordered medium rare comes out well. This was the case up and down the table. Still, it has a nice char and jalapenos, pepper jack cheese and barbecue sauce give the thick patty some extra spirit. A friend down the way has gone crazy. His double bacon cheeseburger is at least eight inches high. He puts up a good fight and enjoys the battle. Fries are typical crinkle cut and crispy.
Another visit brings out the grouper sandwich for review. It can come fried, grilled or blackened. It’s a thick, fresh piece of fish and luckily the blackened is more a spicy browning, which doesn’t overwhelm the delicate flavor. The spicy remoulade does add a kick. The grilled buns and fresh veggie toppings graced every sandwich we tried. A side of cheddar hash browns proves to be light and peppy thanks to some peppers thrown into the mix.
The Crows Nest has a pretty expansive menu, covering just about every imaginable bar food offering and ranging into seafood, pasta and salads. It’s the quality of ingredients and the care they take and preparation that really stands out.
Veggie Eater: I am happy to report that the most important course of the meal, salad, is well treated here. The dressings appear to be homemade and the greens are crisp and fresh. The house salad is adorned with blue cheese, pecans, cherries and grape tomatoes. On the next visit, to shake things up a bit, we opted for the Spinach and Egg salad and substituted the miso dressing for the standard hot bacon vinaigrette. The miso was delicately flavored with toasted sesame oil. The salad itself was chock full of spinach, red onions, chopped hardboiled egg, grated parmesan, and tomatoes. Our substitution must have caused some confusion, as the touted bleu cheese crumbles were MIA. I brought this to the server’s attention and an apology was made, but no attempt at reparations. The first time around, I opted for the Ricotta-Portabella ravioli and found the ravioli to be well cooked and the sauce, consisting of Mascarpone cheese and sundried tomatoes, was light and satisfying. On the second visit, feeling more bar-foody, I opted for the black bean burger with provolone cheese. It’s your standard black bean Harvest Burger, but the freshly toasted buns and all the toppings (lettuce, tomato, pickles, and onions) made it really good. I’m a skinny fry girl and unfortunately found the crinkle cuts did not change my bias. Sandwiches and salads are not cheap, but they’re not terribly expensive either. They have great beer specials ($3.50 per pint on the beer of the week). We have found the service to be attentive and quick, even when the place is bonkers busy and with a large group of people (10+).
Meat Eater: It tones down a notch or two in the party atmosphere for lunch. Saturday nights during big games can be quite busy. Sunday brunch has been warmly received by friends and may bring us back soon to try for ourselves. The biggest downside here is parking. There are just a couple of spots out front and about 20 in the back. They have a fast valet service during peak times, solving the problem efficiently.
You’ll find Green Hills prices at the Crows Nest, perhaps a buck or two more per item than you might pay elsewhere. Beer prices are reasonable. We paid $38 for food with tax and tip on one visit. For a lunch stop we paid $50 with two beers.