Winter storm Janus forced my boyfriend and I out of our apartment. Now I know what you might be thinking: "Shouldn't a snowstorm keep you inside, not force you out?" And normally it would, but Janus is different. There might be 10 inches of snow outside, but it isn't horribly cold and the powdery snow is (dare I say it) slightly magical.
So we took the opportunity to journey (three blocks) to Growlers, a "bar kitchen and living room" in Bella Vista at 8th and Fitzwater, for a semi-late-night comfort food feast.
As it turns out, we weren't the only ones who had the idea to venture out and grab a drink and some hot plates on this stormy winter night. We had to wait an hour to be seated in the dining room, but we weren't in a rush. We grabbed some drinks from the bar (I got an apple cider hot toddy and he got a whiskey and a PBR tallboy), and we planted ourselves at the front bar to relax and play some Yahtzee. The service, as always, was very friendly and attentive, and because of the game, the hour flew.
For dinner, we started with the arugula salad, replete with feta, bacon bits, dates, toasted almonds, pomegranate seeds and a pomegranate vinaigrette. Despite the bacon and the feta, it was a surprising light way to begin our meal.
For the main course, I ordered the Jameson BBQ shrimp and cheddar quinoa grits, and my boyfriend opted for the pulled pork mac & cheese with Vermont cheddar and smoked gouda. Unfortunately, I didn't enjoy the shrimp and grits as much as the salad. The menu description made the plate sound flavor-packed, but alas, I discovered the exact opposite. While the shrimp and quinoa were cooked perfectly, I found myself searching for the cheddar as well as the Jameson BBQ flavor. I finished the shrimp (6 pieces) and left some of the quinoa in the bowl.
The mac & cheese was a bit better. The cheeses came through and the penne was perfectly al dente, but again, the Jameson BBQ just wasn't there. And if it was, I didn't taste it.
For dessert, my boyfriend got the snickers mousse and I ordered the oatmeal cookie. The mousse was a nice fluffy texture and came in an adorable cast-iron pot with a core of caramel and peanut butter running through the middle of the chocolate. While he insisted it tasted exactly like a snickers, I just can't agree. I missed the peanut profile as well as the nougat, but it was a fine mousse.
The oatmeal cookie, on the other hand, was a huge surprise. It was more like an oatmeal chocolate chip cookie brownie, and it was accompanied by a hefty swipe of chocolate ganache in place of either ice cream or whipped cream. It was warm and gooey and exactly what I wanted before we ventured back out into the snow.
Overall, the meal was satisfying. This wasn't the first time we've been to Growlers; we've been a few times with friends for drinks. And as always, the food was a little lackluster. (I've had the home made potato chips, the baked cana de cabra, the beer can chicken sandwich, and the spinach and squash salad.
But we keep going back for the atmosphere. It's the perfect level of dark, there's a huge fireplace toward the front of the dining room, the bar is pretty roomy, and there's a downstairs section with an open sitting area and two dart boards. It's a great place to grab a drink with friends, and I'd suggest ordering some plates to share. However, if you're looking for a nice night out and you're hoping to splurge on some great local eats, there are better places to visit.