Oct 6, 2016

American Kitchen: A burger with egg, absinthe with laughter (but no hallucinations) and malts with booze

American Kitchen, downtown on Center
The hairy guy's report:

Among the 24 taps at American Kitchen downtown on Center is one for Stella Artois, the Belgian pilsner. Harry decided to skip it, like almost everyone in Belgium does ("Belgians Have a Term for People Who Drink Stella Artois — Tourists," the Wall Street Journal reported recently).

He also skipped Vander Mill Totally Roasted, a hard cider. "The medley of cinnamon, pecan and vanilla will dance on your palate," the description says. Harry got a bad mental image from that one.

He settled on Arcadia Jaw-Jacker, described as a celebration of autumn that doesn't include pumpkin. That sounded good on an autumnal afternoon. And it was.

But what finally caught the hairy guy's eye was a squat bottle of absinthe beckoning from the end of the bar.

After a closer look, it sounded even better. The effusive blurb on the bottle of Absinthe Ordinaire says the original absinthe "would end up gracing the lips of artists, musicians, writers and poets
The absinthe
alike, ultimately becoming the symbol of the free and easy bohemian spirit." Well, who wouldn't want to get in on that?

The rap on the bottle goes on to say that Absinthe Ordinaire "recalls one of the most legendary and commercially successful absinthe recipes..." It "recalls" it? OK, so it's not the same recipe. Close enough.

Pete, the knowledgeable and friendly daytime manager and bartender at American Kitchen, said the proper way to serve absinthe is by slowly dissolving a sugar cube with cold water dripping over the greenish liquid. That seems a bit fussy for a free and easy bohemian spirit, but who are we to argue?

Turned out, though, that the bar lacked a proper sugar cube (not to mention a proper absinthe spoon). Pete, ever the mixologist MacGyver, rigged up a solution by putting loose sugar into a salt shaker top, poking holes in a plastic cup and dripping iced water
Preparing the drink
onto the sugar, which then dripped into the absinthe -- turning the clear liquid to a milky color. It's probably not exactly how they did it back in (quoting the label again) "the glittering era of La Belle Epoque Paris." But we were in Bay City, after all, where a lesser bartender might have used duct tape. 

Pete finally slid the glass across the bar.

Legend (or maybe just rumor or good PR) has it that absinthe caused wild hallucinations or worse. It was long banned in many countries. The blurb on the Absinthe Ordinaire bottle avoids specifics but includes a polite warning to "please drink with extreme caution."

Harry nervously picked up the glass, sensing an ominous drum roll in the distance. He took a whiff. It was licorice. A sip. More licorice.

A minute later, Harry had no hallucinations but did notice that he was laughing more than usual. Was it the 92-proof absinthe? Maybe the alcohol he'd already downed (the absinthe followed a beer, a Manhattan, a sip of an Old Fashioned and maybe something else he forgot)? The absurdity of the situation? Who cares? Laughter is a good thing.

And American Kitchen is a good place.

The food is good. We're fond of the 50/50 burger -- with a meat patty made of half ground beef and half ground bacon, as well as a fried egg, crispy onions and cheese. Others might think of it
The scene inside American Kitchen
as the $10.99 cholesterol special but you only live once. And the macaroni and cheese (a side order is $3.99) is a winner. Pete said slider flights (a plate of three various small burgers) will be introduced soon.

The men's room is good. It has one of those high-velocity hand dryers that blasts the water away, saving precious seconds if you're worried about your drink getting warm.

And the bar selection is good. Besides the taps (which include Bud Light, along with all the craft brews) and bottled beers, an array of liquors are available -- everything from the absinthe to Arrow apricot brandy and a whole list of bourbons. The assorted drafts run $4.95 to $6.95 (except for the cheaper Bud Light); they're half off 4-6 p.m. Monday-Thursday.

The new house Manhattan is made with bourbon, a bit of simple syrup, both sweet and dry vermouth, black walnut bitters and muddled cherries; it's great. The liquor menu also lists
Manhattan, absinthe and Old Fashioned
assorted wines and cocktails. And "adult malts" include such concoctions as the Hawaiian Ape (99 Bananas, Malibu, butter shots, pina colada mix and coconut milk ice cream, at $6.25). Maybe another time.

Pete says the drink orders are mostly beer, but that "Old Fashioneds are really coming back."

AK, as the place likes to call itself, opens at 11 a.m. every day. Last call is at 10 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 9 p.m. Sunday. The place can get loud when there's a crowd. The outdoor seating (under bright red awnings) is still out for use.

There are no games, except for the usual sports on the big-screen TVs. If no sporting events are
Seann, AK's general manager
available, expect a food-related cable TV show. One afternoon, we were treated to someone
making horse heart sausage in high-definition.

And we'll let you in on a secret: American Kitchen has what must be the best bar seat in town.

Show up on a weekend night and grab a seat at the right end of the bar. Be a bit friendly with Seann, the night manager and bartender general manager and night bartender, and see what happens.

See Doc’s report: At American Kitchen, a bartender with the right stuff

  The particulars:
  American Kitchen
  207 Center Ave.

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