When “gastro” means great food

Centerville’s Lock 27 takes the suds

By Paula Johnson

Photo: Lock 27’s Poutine appetizer

Breweries, gastropubs and craft beer establishments are springing up everywhere. While I really like this trend, I am always a little suspicious of the food being treated as an “also” if the focus is more heavily weighted on the beer end of things. Happily, Lock 27 Brewing Co. in Centerville strikes just the right balance, giving equal attention to the food and the brew. Located in a shopping plaza on Centerville’s South Main Street, the space is small and intimate with a casual comfortable informality. It’s seat yourself dining with booths and tables and a nice sized bar.

I was meeting my dining companion Mad Skillz, restaurant industry professional of the highest caliber, on a recent Thursday evening for dinner and drinks. I settled into a table near the back and began perusing the menu as I waited for the arrival of Ms. Skillz. My server asked if I’d been there before, and upon learning I hadn’t, she began outlining the evening’s beer selections. She had me with Sprech’s spiked root beer. It was sweet and spicy with a kick. (A little too sweet with food as it turned out, but it was utterly perfect with dessert, as I later learned).

Mad Skillz arrived and started out with bottle of Ommegang Hennepin porter ($6) which she deemed a little mild and without a lot of character. Lock 27’s beer selection is extensive with a focus on IPAs. Menu classifications such as Extra Hoppy, Malty and Benelux will be helpful to craft beer novices. Also offered is a small selection of wines. I went with a nice Joel Gott red blend ($10) to better pair with the food.

We began discussing the menu and the specials written on a chalkboard beside the bar. Dishes with influences as far ranging as Cuba, Belgium, Thailand, Poland and Quebec? A long way indeed from the standard wings and onion rings I was expecting.

Dumpling dilemma

Every culture has a dumpling, but the one I have missed and craved since moving to Dayton is the pierogi. In my Slavic hometown of Pittsburgh, the pierogi is ubiquitous. People dress up as giant pierogies and have races as entertainment at Pittsburgh Pirates games. Obviously, we take our pierogies seriously, so when I saw them listed under Lock 27’s appetizers ($7.50) I squealed with delight. But I was hesitant, afraid that these might not live up to my expectations. My squeals turned to sighs as I tasted the soft doughy pillows stuffed with cheesy potatoes, presented with buttery browned bits of onions and served with sour cream. The chef finished them with a smattering of scallions. I asked the manager about them, and he told me they are brought in from a neighborhood place near Cleveland, another hotbed of pierogi consumption. I just knew a babushka-wearing grandma had a hand in making them. I could taste it.

Hot mess

Mad Skillz and I both squealed at the Poutine appetizer ($10). Poutine, for the uninitiated, is Canada’s gift to the world. Originating in the 1950s in Quebec, poutine is made with French fries and bite sized cheese curds topped with thin brown gravy. The origin of the word is not clear. The explanation I like best is from a restaurateur, when asked by a patron to put curds and gravy on fries, was said to exclaim, “ça va faire une maudite poutine!” (it will make a damn mess!)

In the poutine, the frites were crisp and tasty, heaped with tender shreds of stout braised beef. The gravy was thin and savory – here, thick is not what you want. The mild curds were warmed through, not melted, and slightly firm, almost “squeaky” against the teeth. I exercised the untraditional option of adding a fried egg on top ($1), a perfect enhancement.

Don’t render unto Caesar

So far so – really – good. Next up was my salad choice – a Caesar ($5.50). My husband refers to the Caesar as the Samuel L. Jackson of salads, saying “It should be aggressive. It should punch you in the @%$&!%ing face.” No punches were delivered here. Lock 27’s forgettably bland version more closely resembled Don Knotts.

However, the kitchen recovered nicely with the arrival of our entrées. Mad Skillz and I both selected sandwiches from the daily specials. Her Cuban Sandwich ($12) is soon to be on the regular menu, and after tasting it, we knew why. The Cuban sandwich’s roots are from Cuba, but the version we now know was the lunch food eaten by the Cubans who worked in Key West’s cigar factories. A classic Cuban comes on thin bread brushed with olive oil and toasted in a sandwich press. Roast pork, sliced ham, cheese, yellow mustard and dill pickles are the fillings.

The first bite through the crispy bread yielded a surprisingly tender thick slice of roast pork topped with swiss cheese and a thin shaving of ham, punctuated with a crisp pickle. The mustard (same as served with the frites) was spicy and pungent.

There were a lot of things on menu I wanted to try, and I usually wouldn’t pick a cheesesteak when there are other options, but I saw it being served to a nearby table and I was sold.

The Dayton Cheesesteak ($12) featured sliced hunks of beef topped with provolone and sweet grilled red peppers.

The sandwiches we ordered came with fries, but since we ordered the poutine I asked our server if we could substitute the macaroni and cheese which was listed on the menu as an entrée. For an additional charge ($2) they were happy to accommodate our request. Cavatappi pasta with smoked gouda and cheddar are used, and though the sauce was slightly grainy, this mac and cheese had a nice depth of flavor.

We finished with the Stout Brownie topped with Jeni’s Salted Caramel ice cream ($6.50), and a scoop of Jeni’s Cherry Goat Cheese ice cream on the side, (an all-time favorite). Not usually a brownie lover, I was swayed by our server’s claim that it was beyond the standard brownie. The flat thin wedge shape was unusual for a brownie, and indeed it was crunchy and chocolately-chewy at the same time. And it was perfect with that Sprecher’s hard root beer I saved. An Adult Root Beer Float ($6.50) featuring the Sprecher’s is one of the dessert options I’d like to try on my next visit.

Reach DCP freelance writer Paula Johnson at PaulaJohnson@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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Dayton City Paper Dining Critic Paula Johnson would like every meal to start with a champagne cocktail and end with chocolate soufflé. As long as there’s a greasy burger and fries somewhere in the middle. Talk food with Paula at PaulaJohnson@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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