St. Pete's Westy Grille and Pub: Fine fare or pub grub?

Neither. And both.

click to enlarge GOOEY CHEWY: The Westy's bacon-wrapped dates. - Chip Weiner Photography
Chip Weiner Photography
GOOEY CHEWY: The Westy's bacon-wrapped dates.

"Grille and pub" has become an almost meaningless phrase tacked onto everything from the most low-down neighborhood watering holes to fancy upscale eateries. And what the hell is that "e" at the end of "grille" supposed to mean? Is that "e" for "extra"? At its simplest, however, all those words really mean is you can drink and eat in one convenient spot — with the emphasis on drink.

At The Westy, a new grille and pub at the Pasadena end of St. Pete's Central Ave., the basics are there: food and drink, together forever. And there are just enough flourishes — in the taps and on the menu — that the extra "e" might be justified.

Although The Westy has a basic look and layout reminiscent of a typical neighborhood bar, the beer selection may draw a few thirsty folks from outside Pasadena. There are a dozen or so on draught, thoughtfully chosen craft brews mostly, including two winners from Bell's, the thankfully ubiquitous Cigar City Jai Alai, and some more mainstream choices that elevate The Westy's pints well above the usual.

The menu also seems smarter than the average fare, including dainty apps like bacon-wrapped dates and serious salads with plenty of options, along with fine-dining seafood choices like soft-shell crab and flank steak with bearnaise. It all seems a bit of a stretch considering the look of the place, but The Westy just about manages to pull it off.

Almost. It seems that the fancier the fare gets, the more like a bar The Westy feels. Seafood is prepared in a workmanlike manner, a little overcooked and underseasoned, while roast chicken comes with a tasty homemade barbecue sauce covering flaccid and rubbery skin. The constant side dish of "Dauphinoise" potatoes is a bit dry and a bit undercooked. Those bacon and date starters alternate between gooey and chewy, all on the same plate.

So maybe The Westy reaches a touch too far on some dishes — the grille largely nails it on the simpler stuff.

Like a massive meatloaf sandwich with slabs of meat covered in a crisp griddled crust. This meat is almost more reminiscent of a burger, the inside a pink medium rare, as if it was cooked to order instead of sliced off a loaf and heated on the stove. It's held in check by a fresh but hefty foccacia bun and accented with the grille's signature chipotle mayo, spicy and sweet and rich.

Other sandwiches keep it simple, from sliced ham and cheese to old fashioned BLT, and all are excellent companions to a frosty mug of something cold and crafty, excepting the marinated pork sandwich. Seasoned with dried spices to the point of grittiness, The Westy makes its marinated pork into more of a salt lick than a sandwich.

The grille's chicken wings are typical but tasty, the fish spread is smoky and rich and the french fries are perfectly crisp. Best thing on The Westy's menu, however, are the house-made meat pies: a sweet and spicy ground beef mixture wrapped in more than enough flaky puff pastry and doused in a Caribbean sauce that amps up the fat and spice quotient to 11. Eat two of these and you'll need red wine more than beer. You know, to unclog those arteries. It'll be worth it.

Maybe The Westy would do better to forgo the fancier fare in favor of more down-home pub grub. I doubt that most people are heading to the place for a fine-dining experience, a good thing since the quality isn't there in spite of the fact that the menu promises a bit of that.

Just like with the taps, The Westy has to drill down to the essentials and present the best of what's available. In this case, that means more homemade meat pies and grilled meatloaf, fewer fork-and-knife entrees.