Beantown Pub South
3 out of 5 stars
29 Third St. N., St. Petersburg. Appetizers: $5-$11; entrees: $8-$18; dessert: $6; beer, cocktails & wine: $4-$9. 727-685-0722, beantownpubsouth.com.
Watching New England football icon Tom Brady at Boston-based Beantown Pub must’ve been wicked cool. Even as a rabid Redskins fan from my decades in our nation’s capital, I have to admit, reluctantly, the Patriots’ No. 12 can conclusively claim the title of GOAT. Despite the fact that Super Bowl LIII was a bit of a snooze, I imagine there was quite the buzz from pulsating energy, sports-watching grub and a veritable river of Sam Adams.
Well, Beantown Pub South may not be 500 feet from Boston Common, but it does bring authentic New England bar fare to downtown St. Pete. There are Fenway Park jumbo pretzels, hot dog twins and nine flavors of wings. And, with 10 big-screen TVs, you can catch the local, Boston and national sports action.
We decide to begin with some classics. The fried pickles are delightful. Although I haven’t downed tons of these in all of their permutations, I seem to remember that almost always I’ve had them as batter-dipped spears. Beantown’s version cuts across the cucumber into rounds. The batter is crisp and tempura-esque, which nicely balances the natural tartness of the pickles. A dip into the side of ranch dressing happily gilds the lily. Our generous basket is quickly gobbled up; I could just keep eating them. Fried food is, indeed, a slippery slope.
The same is true of the crock of baked beans. This old Boston recipe, offering a touch of sweetness, is served with steamed brown bread to strike a nice equilibrium. The pub delivers simple, old-fashioned items that’re supremely satisfying, especially with a pint of Guinness or the surprising house specialty. Beantown Pub Ale is a lovely American amber with a distinct reddish tint, notes of caramel and well-integrated hoppiness to provide happiness. After a glowing start, the table is excited to see what delicious surprises our main courses will hold.
But they’re a bit of a mixed bag.
The lobster roll is a real treat. Chunks of tender, sweet crustacean are tossed lightly in mayo, then presented with lettuce on a perfectly toasted buttered roll. At $18, the sandwich is as good, if not better, than some recent ones I’ve enjoyed at $23. It’s hard to believe lobster was once a cheap trash food served to prisoners.
The pub’s signature burger is a half-pound combination of fresh filet, short rib and chuck topped with bacon, cheese and fixings on a garlic butter roll. It’s grilled a tad more than optimal, and my taster — who chose it from the menu highlight boxes beckoning “pick me, pick me” — found it to be a bit salty. Perhaps that’s from the bad influence of the beef patty’s porky bacon friend. As cliched parents remind us, be careful of the company you keep.
Fish tacos offer a twist. Instead of tortillas, they arrive on caramelized onion naan. It’s not quite an Indian-Mexican mashup, but the pico de gallo and shredded cabbage provide texture and a burst of welcome acidity to really make things pop. While the lack of corn tortillas is a bit a of shock for my tablemate from New Mexico, the combo gets a hearty thumbs-up.
A thumbs-down is saved for the fish and chips, which are odd. The coating isn’t crisp, and the fish is slightly gray and chewy. It’s billed as “fresh northern haddock,” but it seems indistinguishable from a frozen product that doesn’t pass muster. The fish looks to be the same as what’s showcased on the tacos. However, this batch is off.
The same is true for the ubiquitous crinkle-cut fries accompanying each of our entrees. Regular readers know my rants against bad fry technique, and fries are widely available across the region — even if they’re often not cooked properly. Beantown Pub in Boston promises “famous steak fries,” yet these St. Pete spuds never reach a gastronomic high. In fact, crinkle-cut fries are almost an anachronism. The good news is they’re hot and crisp; the bad news is this means there’s not much creamy potato center. Then there’s the super creamy coleslaw that seems to have forgotten texture and balance from acidity. My advice is to skip ahead, unless you’re trying to sneak veggies past a picky kid.
The only dessert on the menu is classic Boston cream pie. I thought it was a fine example of the traditional dessert. It’s really a soft cake split, filled with vanilla-tinged pastry cream and glazed with dark chocolate. Strangely, my companions are bummed. I’m not sure why exactly, but the treat doesn’t strike me as having big technical flaws. The pub also features a dessert special, which I can’t resist. The root beer float carries no surprises, though if you’re a fan like I am, you’ll leave satisfied.
Beantown Pub South doesn’t aim to be a gourmet haunt. It’s a lovely sports bar, and the prices are certainly most reasonable, but the appetizers and lobster roll are so tasty that the anomalies are disappointing.