Healthy Dine Finds

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Brewery Emperial and Tom’s Town Distilling Co.

Photos courtesy of Tom’s Town Distilling Co.

I wanted to do something a little different for this month’s article, so I sought out food – Real Food – at some of the area’s micro-breweries and distilleries. I found two local producers with a keen eye and deft touch for cuisine along with their main businesses of suds and spirits. They are my two stops for this month’s Healthy Dine Finds.

First up, Brewery Emperial at 1829 Oak in The Crossroads. “To me, when you go out you want to eat as well as drink. When you go to a tasting room, it’s two beers and you’re out. We wanted to get people in here for the whole experience,” Brewery Emperial’s Keith Thompson said. Thompson, whose card lists him as “Proprietor and Head Kegwasher,” pointed to the open fireplace at the brewery, which serves as the focal point for the menu, and the room, for that matter. “Most everything on the menu moves through that fireplace,” Thompson noted.

With Room 39’s Ted Habinger as one of the partners, I guess it’s no surprise that Brewery Emperial highlights its food along with its brews. The Wood Fired Half Chicken, served with tortillas, roasted jalapeno, a cilantro-onion-radish salad, lime, salsa, and crema is a menu standout and a healthy choice, especially if you pass on the tortillas. You could also opt for the Farmer Vegetable Salad or the Veggie Hash, a couple of other great healthy picks. Nearly everything at Brewery Emperial is local and nothing is processed – two more important factors.

The beer, the food, and the room get equal emphasis at Brewery Emperial, and it all works. “You can have an enjoyable dining experience in a funky, comfortable room. My mom is in her 70’s, and she brings people in for lunch all of the time. I love the dynamics of little kids with elderly folks and everything in between. There’s no real age to this place,” smiled Thompson.

Not five minutes away, you’ll find Tom’s Town Distilling Co. Known for its collection of excellent small-batch spirits and terrific cocktail bar, Tom’s Town is also serious about its food, though with a slightly different take. “Spirits are always going to be the headliner here because we’re a distillery. The whole reason we have this place is so that people try our stuff. We want them to experience the brand in a physical setting,” Tom’s Town Co-Founder Steve Revare told me during a recent visit.

But Revare says Executive Chef Curtis Zahniser gives people a second reason to visit Tom’s Town through his creative and delicious dishes. Zahniser’s small plates are targeted to pair with specific Tom’s Town cocktail creations. For example, the shrimp ceviche with a spicy habanero-influenced salsa is a nice complement to the Rival Rabbit, Ransom Note, and Angry Goat cocktails. And even if the cocktails aren’t easy on your waistline, the ceviche is!

Zahniser says people are generally surprised by his dishes. First by how well they complement the cocktails, and second by how balanced and just plain tasty they are. “We don’t really promote the food very much since we’re a distillery first, so they’re surprised that we have food at all, then really pleased that it tastes so good,” Zahniser said.

Good tasting and good for you. Now, that’s a great healthy dine find!

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