Review: Choose your adventure at Reed's Hollow
Once upon a time, in a neighborhood filled with quaint brick houses, stood a restaurant that colored far outside the lines. Think: One dish that took a week to conceptualize and prepare, cocktails that combined bourbon and beet juice sangria, and a chef who gained inspiration from everything from David Chang and Rene Redzepi to New Orleans and Austin.
The time: 2016. The place: Reed’s Hollow. It’s Beaverdale’s most buzzed-about restaurant, helmed by Eater Young Gun finalist, culinary rule-breaker and former Hole in the Wall creator Zach Gutweiler. Enter expecting chicken strips or a Caesar salad and you’ll leave disappointed. Step inside with an open mind (and pocketbook), a sense of adventure and patience to piece the puzzle together, and you’ll likely leave with a smile on your face. And immediately open up your calendar to see when you can visit the friendly, down-to-earth staff again.
Each of our three visits felt like a “Choose Your Own Adventure” tale.
Consider the Taco Tuesday menu, available every Wednesday (naturally). Do you:
1. Opt for the meat option, which on our visit included pleasantly spicy green chile turkey chorizo and tender sweet potatoes ($3.50);
2. Order the savory salt-roasted vegetarian carrot taco ($3.50); or
3. Ask for the catch-of-the-day seafood taco selection?
We went with the first two, and, while small, each packed enough flavor to make one a fitting dinner starter. The fact that the fillings change each and every week allows Gutweiler and his kitchen staff to keep experimenting — and allows patrons to always have new flavors to explore.
Come entree time, do you:
1. Go meatless and get one of the new offerings, the early bird ($14), a poached egg in a crunchy sweet potato “nest,” rested atop a rich, savory broth;
2. Choose something wild like the (safe-sounding but actually adventurous) smoked chicken ($23), a maple-smoked meal-by-mason jar that mixes chicken roulade, confit and skin, plus pickled apple slices and cornbread; or
3. Get appy with a combination of the onion-inspired Bloomin’ pickle ($8) and the beet curly fries ($6), with a rice vinegar mayonnaise dipping sauce?
The apps are where it’s at — and where it’s most consistent — at Reed’s, but with each visit, the consistency and quality of the mains improved. Single bites might taste a touch “off,” but dig into a slice of each component, and the method to Gutweiler’s madness will be evident. Extremely evident, in fact, in that early bird.
At dessert, do you:
1. Go up in smoke with the Scotch and Tobacco ($7) — a photo-worthy plate that looks more like spin art than a final course — and includes scotch-infused tobacco custard, chocolate sorbet, aronia jam and candied black walnuts;
2. Pick something a lot more corny, like Reed’s Hollow’s newest dessert ($7), an oh-so-Iowa blend of corn milk, grits custard, corn sorbet, cornbread, popcorn salt and lemon zest; or
3. Drink dessert via the Fire and Blood ($9), featuring bourbon, pear syrup, fresno peppers and lemon, or the Tequila Mockingbird ($9), a potent fusion of tequila, rum and a strawberry-brown sugar shrub?
All make for mind-bending experiences, but the limited-time corn offering exemplifies Gutweiler’s preference for all things local and seasonal. Plus, how often can you find a dessert that has so many diverse ingredients?
Too diverse, though, is the atmosphere. When you drop $50+ on a meal (which I’m happy to do for such a unique, locally sourced experience), you might expect a more upscale vibe. It makes sense, with Gutweiler’s earnest personality that the ambiance must remain none-too-stuffy, but the former Tally’s location feels a hint disjointed and dark. It’s decorated with everything from a bison head to trendy Edison light bulbs, and the blend doesn’t quite mesh.
Still, the ample patio space and the incredible originality make this an adventure worth taking. Beaverdale residents — and beyond — it’s time for a staycation.
After indulging in that corn concoction and a creative cocktail, you might just feel like you’re living your happily ever after.
Karla Walsh is a digital/social media manager at Meredith. Follow Walsh on Twitter at @DatebookDiner and on Instagram at @datebookdiner and email her at email@example.com.
Critic's rating: 3 stars
Food: 3 stars
Ambiance: 2 stars
Service: 3 stars
Address: 2712 Beaver Ave.
Atmosphere: The rooftop and street-level patios are made for mild early fall evenings. Decor ranging from 1970s (a retro booth in the back) to outdoorsy (a cattle head hanging on the wall) and sporty (game tables) to artsy (local paintings) make the dark, parceled-out indoor space feel even more diverse than the menu.
Recommended dishes: early bird, beet fries, fire and blood cocktail
Sound: Expect a new genre of tunes over the speakers nearly every time you visit. For a quieter seat, skip the lofty atrium and find a spot at an outdoor table or in the back of the room with the bar.
Drinks: Beer, ranging from local IPAs to PBR tallboys, and inventive cocktails are the forte of the bar program at Reed's Hollow.
Open: 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday for food; bar serves drinks until 2 a.m. Tuesday through Saturday
Wheelchair access: The dining room is accessible via a ramp from the street.
Reservations: Accepted by phone or online
What the stars mean
4 stars: (Extraordinary) Transcendent. A one-of-a-kind experience that sets the local standard.
3 stars: (Excellent) Superior. Memorable, high-quality food; exciting environs; savvy service; smart concept.
2 stars: (Good) Solid example of restaurant type.
1 star: (Fair) Just OK. A place not worth rushing back to. But, it might have something worth recommending: A view, a single dish, friendly service, lively scene.
No stars: (Poor) Below-average restaurant.