Most of us aren't going to a bar for some culinary epiphany. The fare is usually predictable, packaged, processed or just plain bad. But occasionally, someone gets the idea that, just because an environment might render you temporarily senseless, your taste buds don't necessarily die, and snacking need not be a mere afterthought.
That most recent "someone" is The Grey Goose, the bar with a wildly popular patio scene on Jefferson Street — Lexington's corridor that is proof positive of successful urban reincarnation. (A second Goose location, in Midway, opened in the summer.)
Its justified claim to food fame is its pizza: super-size, cracker-crisp, thin-crust pies that, even lacking an interesting pizzaiola sauce, vastly improve on the soggy rafts of sticky bread served at other places. With toppings ranging from vegetables (fresh and pickled) to fried eggs to the components of a hot Brown, they deserve their reputation.
But The Goose also offers starters, salads and sandwiches that, along with the pizza, will forever banish the idea that pub grub has to be greasy and gross.
That said, a little greasy and gross, such as a basket of deep-fried mini corn dogs although not good for you, can be good. The corn dogs are much better than the menu's similar deep-fried broccoli and cheddar bites, which need salt and something more resembling real cheese.
My preferences live further down the menu.
For example, a grilled salad using iceberg lettuce was a successful surprise. Why waste, as do many restaurants, the flavor and texture of romaine that could be used in a Caesar when it is iceberg that really needs the help? Just a light touch on the grill adds a pleasant smoked flavor that distracts from its watery blandness. Together with baby tomatoes, paper-thin slices of red onion and chunky blue cheese dressing, this was, counterintuitively, among the better pub salads I've had.
The spinach salad, although generous, was ordinary and really couldn't compare with the other. Apart from its virtue as a healthy choice, its best attribute was the quartered wedges of perfectly cooked hard-boiled eggs; its greatest deficit was the virtual absence of bacon.
Sandwiches hold their own against the pizzas. The Gooseburger is tender, juicy and apparently never frozen, and the beer-battered cod arrives piping hot and almost sweet; both are served on white bread, of course. And it came as no surprise that, according to the restaurant, the tomatoes on the burger were locally grown and organic, given how brilliantly red and delicious they were.
Even the addictive crinkle-cut fries were far above average, probably because there was not one whiff of freezer burn about them. Or maybe that's overthinking the matter and, as with the appetizers, anything deep-fried automatically resonates with our primal food instincts.
Share something sweet if time and company warrants it (my formula is three or four friends over for a few hours if you're watching the Cats beat South Carolina).
For reviews, I always order desserts made in-house, because outsourced food doesn't really give any hint of a kitchen's abilities. On this evening, the only choice was the Bailey's cappuccino cheesecake. It was chilly, mocha- chocolatey and fine. It was a teeny slice, only a couple bites per person, but that was just enough after the extended noshing on everything else.
It's shameless, silly, and self-indulgent to say — bad pun alert — but when it comes to pub grub, The Grey Goose is definitely raising the bar.
Wendy Miller is a Lexington-based food and spirits writer and critic.