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I'd been entertaining the notion of dining at the Golden West Cafe for a while after seeing their eclectic menu and fantastic beer selection, two things I definitely look for in a restaurant. Tex-Mex breakfast all day and freshly baked seasonal desserts? Does it really get much better than that? So after an evening of x-mas shopping at Towson Town Center we headed down to Hampden and met up with a few friends for what would turn out to be one of the best dining experiences I've had in Baltimore.
Honestly after reading the reviews I was expecting this place to be wall-to-wall packed and I was also expecting a snooty hipster clientele and waitstaff. But I always go in with an open mind and in this case I was pleasantly surprised. The tables were mostly filled but there was still plenty of room to move around and the bar area in the back was practically empty. This may have been due to the fact that we came out in the middle of the first snowfall of the year so I will have to see how bad it is in nice weather. The patrons were a great mix of locals and hipsters and everything in-between. I felt very at home here. This isn't a place to come to be seen. It's a place to come to enjoy great food and drinks with friends. While most of the staff did have a hipster vibe to them they were all very nice and helpful. Again, I really felt at home here. If I were to open my own restaurant I would strive for a lot of the same atmospheric qualities that Golden West has. I'd say that's a pretty big compliment.
We put in our name for a table of 7 and were told the wait would be about 30 minutes and we couldn't be sat until our entire party arrived. We had no problems with that since they had a large bar in back and I was itching to dig into the beers on tap. The list is scrawled in chalk on the wall and the bartender gave a very friendly and informative run-down of the brews:
Even though I wanted soo many of the beers listed I decided to start light so I went with the Presque Pilsner.
This is what a pilsner should taste like. Light and with an astoundingly full body. Beeradvocate.com may not like it, but I certainly did. I can't believe most of the posters say its a bland beer. I guess I'm not in the know. This was probably one of the best light beers I've had to date. I'm pretty sure this was the same pilsner I had at Hamilton Tavern a while back so I'm glad I finally got the name of it because I loved it then but never caught the name.
After the bartender said "this beer is everything a Christmas ale should be" the second beer I had to try was the Anchor Steam Christmas Ale.
The first thing that I tasted was nutmeg. Then a multitude of spices hit my palette. This beer was good. Really good. One would expect a beer that dark in color to sit heavy and make one feel bloated, but this did neither. I really enjoyed drinking this beer. As with most beers like this, the spiciness may start to overwhelm the palatte after quaffing mass quantities of this brew, but I only had one so I can't say. Another fantastic beer.
Upon finishing our second round the rest of our party arrived (one couple flaked out, boooooo John!) and our group of 5 was sat. Upon seating I noticed two of my favorite table condiments: Cholula and Chipotle Tabasco. This was a very good sign. Elizabeth was equally excited about the chipotle tabasco. Here she can be seen posing with said hot sauce:
We ordered our next round of drinks and a few appetizers: the buffalo tofu, the sweet potato fries with rosemary salt, and the frito pie with black beans. Commence the cosmic gluttony.
The visual appeal of these fried tofu bites covered in buffalo sauce was enough to kick-start the salivatory glands. Unfortunately this dish didn't quite live up to my expectations. We dove into them as soon as they were placed upon the table and they were already soggy. They suffered from the lack of a textural contrast and ended up being uniformly mushy. If the fried coating had been ultra crunchy (you know I love crunchy) then these would've been great. I'm also a staunch advocate of blue cheese as opposed to ranch to accompany any buffalo laden dish, so I missed the tang of the blue cheese. The ranch was good, though.
The frito pie was another dish that got high marks for presentation. The frito bag was a great touch. I don't really have a whole lot of analytical input for this dish, it was just good. All of the ingredients were nice and fresh and the combination of flavors made it hard to stop wolfing it down. It was indescribably addicting. The City Paper was definitely spot on in their recommendation.
Sorry but this was the best shot I could get of the fries since they were all the way on the opposite side of the table. I'm a fan of sweet potato fries and these were good, although had it been up to me I would've ordered the garlic fries instead. I didn't taste any rosemary on the fries, nor salt for that matter. But the fries themselves were slightly crisp on the outside and fluffy on the inside. They could've used a dousing of chipotle tabasco though.
After all of the online menu perusing I did, I fell victim to the specials menu. Just look at it!!
The waiter informed us that they were out of the Duck Confit pie, so that was unfortunate. I was craving something sweet and savory and I found it in the Andouille Sausage and Sweet Potato Hash. I requested my eggs sunny side up and a side of their house-made hot sauce.
After placing our dinner orders it was time for me to use the facilities. The decor was great with all kinds of old album and comic book covers adorning the walls. At first I didn't notice, but after closer inspection I noticed some of them had been altered... and I honestly couldn't figure out if these were additions made by the proprietor or the patrons due to the sheer intricacy and time investment needed to pull something like this off. One in particular made me laugh out loud:
I'm just glad no one walked in while I whipped out my camera to get a shot of the wall behind the urinal. Just look at the delicate use of the razor knife, combined with the use of negative space. Impressive. And hilarious.
Moments later our food had arrived. My hash:
I dotted the plate with chipotle tabasco and their house-made hot sauce. The hot sauce wasn't exactly what I was expecting but good nonetheless. I figured it would have the consistency of a bottled hot sauce but it had a much thicker consistency almost like a chutney or salsa. Here's a close-up post toppings:
This dish hit all the notes. Sweet and savory, spicy from the sausage and the hot sauce, rich from the eggs. I tried to get a bit of egg, potato, and sausage in every bite because that's when the dish really sung. My only complaint was that the thicker pieces of potato were slightly overcooked, but with so much going on it was easily overlooked.
Here's a gallery of the other dishes ordered at our table. My wife ordered the dinner polenta with the waiter suggested carne adovada:
She said that the dish was good but it didn't satisfy a craving she was having. What that craving may have been, I have no idea. Amy ordered the tilapia tacos:
Considering the speed at which she inhaled the dish, she must've enjoyed it.
Brian ordered the Sopaipilla Enchiladas:
He said the pastry really made the dish and all of the other components were really bright and fresh. Elizabeth was the only member of our party who had eaten here before so she, being a vegetarian, ordered her staple BBQ un-chicken sandwich with garlic fries:
She said it was great as always. I tried this dish and I was reminded of a barbecue sandwich one could get at a state fair or tractor pull. In a good way. Although the bread to meat ratio was off. Brian concurred. Too much bread.
Time for the desserts.
We ordered (from left to right)a piece of heath bar cake, (vegan?) gingerbread cake with peppermint frosting, and chocolate cake with peanut butter frosting. Brian also ordered a banana cupcake but he took it with him to eat at a later date and time.
Damn you Brian. I would say my favorite was the gingerbread cake, followed by the peanut butter, then the heath bar last. Funny thing is the heath bar cake is the one I ordered... I loved the little flecks of peppermint candy in the peppermint frosting. Lovely.
Did someone say gluttony? Oh, we gots plenty of that don't you doubt! BAM:
Yeah, I'll admit I finished off the remainder of the gingerbread cake myself. I regret doing that. At the end of the meal along with the check they give you little York peppermint patties! Bonus! And what better way to round out another great post with a few pictures of our motley crew:
Leave it up to me to ruin a perfectly good picture after I've had a few drinks: