Bank Street Brewhouse finds its food stride

BSB guac platter

Hoptimus Guacamole Platter | Photo by Kevin Gibson

When Bank Street Brewhouse opened in 2009 as part of New Albanian Brewing Company, it featured a French-inspired menu to go with its diverse craft beer offerings.

Food service at the downtown New Albany brewery was discontinued in 2014 and replaced by various pop-up concepts as well as a brief run wherein Taco Punk was sort of a pseudo-permanent pop-up. Since then, co-founder Roger Baylor announced he was selling his part of the business to co-owners Kate Lewison and Amy Baylor, and the latter two hooked up with an old friend to bring a whole new menu to Bank Street.

And it’s working. Baylor and Lewison teamed up with Earth Friends Café owner Stacie Bale last year, installing a vegan-friendly menu that also features New Albanian beers in its recipes. The result is an offering that could please carnivores, vegetarians, vegans and even the gluten-averse pretty equally.

Signature burgers and sandwiches, flatbread pizzas, salads, intriguing sides and appetizers, and brown basmati rice bowls all fall into a concept Bank Street refers to as “Culinary Anarchy.”

My girlfriend Cynthia and I went for lunch recently and hardly knew where to begin. Thankfully, our eyes fell on the Hoptimus Guacamole Platter: A plate of fairly basic corn tortilla chips found welcome homes in fresh pico de gallo salsa, house-made guacamole and a smoky jalapeno sauce that was a hit.

The pico was hand-cut and fresh, with just a bit of a spicy kick; the guac was loaded with chunks of tomato, red onion and avocado, making for a cool, mild addition; and the jalapeno sauce was creamy with a hint of smoke and a nicely balanced jalapeno flavor and bite. Cynthia especially loved the jalapeno sauce, which reminded me vaguely of the tasty jalapeno salsa served at Mexican chain Chuy’s.

“I just want a straw,” Cynthia said.

Pimento grilled cheese with roasted red pepper pesto and organic spinach. Photos by Kevin Gibson.

Pimento grilled cheese with roasted red pepper pesto and organic spinach, with kale chips | Photo by Kevin Gibson

For lunch, she ordered a grilled cheese sandwich made with house-made pimento cheese, roasted red pepper pesto and organic spinach on sourdough bread. With that, she ordered a side of kale chips. Meanwhile, I went for the build-your-own burger option that, for me, meant a local beef patty medium rare, cheddar cheese, whole grain beer mustard, pickled red onions, fresh jalapenos, and house-made Hoptimus Pickles.

Cynthia’s grilled cheese was perfectly grilled so that the sourdough was crispy at the edges with softness in the center. The cheese and pesto blended nicely and made for a gooey counter to the bread. It was a light but tasty option for her lunch. But the kale chips might have won — crispy and salty, the kale flavor was there in full, unlike pre-packaged versions we’d had.

“I could eat a wheelbarrow full of these,” she said. I concurred. Next time I go, I might just get five orders of those for lunch, with a side of smoky jalapeno sauce.

Bank Street Brewhouse has a variety of hearty burger options.

Bank Street Brewhouse has a variety of hearty burger options.

My burger was cooked medium leaning toward medium well, but didn’t lose any juiciness, so I was plenty happy. The Hoptimus Pickles were lightly spicy, and the onions were mild (in contrast to the sharp, fresh red onions in the guac and salsa). The crisp slices of jalapeno pepper brought the whole thing together quite nicely. My only complaint was about the bun, which is house-made and heavily seeded with local flour, and is so dense that it muted many of the ingredients of the burger and toppings.

In fact, we both agreed a bun like that could be a meal in itself — just add butter and a cup of coffee, and you’ve got a nice breakfast. It wasn’t a deal-breaker by any stretch, but I’d have preferred if the bun were a tad less thick. On the upside, my side of beer mac and cheese was a total winner — imagine putting plump elbow macaroni into a tangy, lightly spicy beer cheese, and you’ve got the idea. It’s like mac and cheese for grown-ups. Delicious.

If you want to avoid meat, check out the many flatbreads, from portabello and local goat cheese to buffalo-roasted cauliflower to a gourmet flatbread with fig jam, brie and goat cheese, among other ingredients. (There are also a couple of chicken flatbreads.)

Sandwiches include a chicken panini, a BLT with avocado, and even a chickpea salad sandwich. The rice bowls come in either black bean and corn or veggie, featuring cauliflower, red bell peppers, broccoli, carrots and sweet orange ginger sauce. There’s also a spinach salad and a garden salad.

Probably the most fun to be had, however, is building your own burger with the insane variety of available add-ons, including nine different sauces, 11 standard toppings and 11 premium toppings. In short, I’m guessing that pimento cheese would be delicious on a Bank Street Burger. You also can top a burger with the smoky jalapeno, which intrigues.

Burgers and sandwiches are priced between $8 and $14, with more economical lunch combos available. Bar bites start at a reasonable $6, while flatbread pizzas range from $6 to $10.

Cynthia finished off her meal with a 10-ounce pour of Community Dark, a New Albanian signature mild brown ale, with a shot of espresso in it. (Yes, you can get coffee and other beverages if craft beer isn’t your thing.)

This is a well-kept secret and gives us yet one more reason to make the short trip west on I-64 to New Albany. You won’t be sorry.