Dining review: Aiming for the Edge, landing somewhere in the middle

The Treasure Valley's growing brewery scene gets a new restaurant entry - with a fondness for pork



    Address: 525 North Steelhead Way, Boise

    Phone: (208) 995-2979

    Online: edgebrew.com

    Hours: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday–Thursday; 11 a.m.-midnight Friday and Saturday; 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday

    Menu price range: $6-$13

    Libation situation: beer and wine

    Kid friendly? Yes

    Wheelchair accessible? Yes, all ground level

    Opened: February 2014

You have to set out to find Edge Brewing Co., which quietly opened in early February in the otherwise untapped commercial district near Emerald Street and Maple Grove Road.

The converted industrial space does not draw you in from the street. Inside, the dining room feels spanking new, with an open field of cherry tables buffed to high gloss, a small bar off to the left and the gleaming brewery at the back. High tables and TVs ring the perimeter, walls airbrushed to look like exposed gray brick and vines, with a mural of beer kegs extending into the imaginary distance.

The menu is built around food for beer, with contemporary takes on requisite pub fare and Edge beer among the ingredients: wings with beer in the sauce, burgers with spent grains in the specially made Zeppole challah buns, even an iceberg wedge salad with hops infused in the ranch dressing. The menu is heavily slanted toward pork, with bacon everywhere from inside a gyro to shards on the sticky, balsamic-zig-zagged french fries (a $2 upgrade with most items).

On a recent visit, my wife and I liked the ginger-habanero wings ($8 for six wings), which were hot and juicy, crisp and spicy — by all measures, good wings. But we didn't pick up a whiff of ginger or habanero flavor, nor any of the Edge stout as described.

Similarly, the stuffed jalapeno appetizers ($8), though tasty, seemed to be missing something. These were halved peppers filled with cream cheese, bacon, sausage and roasted garlic — a lineup full of strong personalities that all struggled for the spotlight.

Looking for perhaps the perfect beer food? Another appetizer, the Scotch egg ($6; called "Scottish Edge" on the menu) is a hard-cooked egg, cased in sausage, breaded and fried. This version, dipped in creamy Dijon or the grainy stout mustard, is as good as I've had.

We chomped through the appetizers and sipped from an array of beer samples ($1 for a 4-ounce pour). Edge exclusively serves its own in-house brews, and has about 14 beers on tap as they build to the full 20 taps possible. While the core offerings will be available all the time, single kegs are crafted in a pilot program by the restaurant's investors, a group of avid homebrewers, which means the variety changes often. (Everything that makes its way to the public is approved by master brewer Kerry Caldwell.)

On our first visit, we tried a not-too-spicy habanero cream ale, a raspberry wheat beer, and a Berliner Weiss served with a bright green melon syrup. Each was esoteric and interesting at first taste, but not robust from beginning to end. By the next trip, these were gone, replaced by a double Belgian and a completely different batch of Berliner Weiss, sans melon, advertised as a German sour. During a couple of visits, we also sampled a pale ale, an IPA, a lager and a single Belgian.

Except for that very good, potent "Bodunk-a-Monk" single-Belgian beer — $5.75 for a 12-ounce globe and notably smooth despite its 10-plus percent alcohol by volume — the others we sampled were a little flat, literally lacking bubbles and froth. Like food, taste in beer is a personal preference, but most of the beers didn't have the sort of finish I craved to stand up to a meal.

A "food beer" should linger. What you want is the tumble of flavors when the sweet, sour bloom of beer is still on your lips and you chase that with a bite of something crispy, salty and greasy. (Edge will bring you a basket of complimentary barbecue kettle chips, and they're exactly what I'm talking about.)

A big beer is needed to counter all of the richness. Among the most extravagant dishes is the mac and poutine ($13), a huge boat of creamy pasta, topped with cheese curds and ladled with gravy. In the end, I wanted mac and cheese or poutine; the comfort food mash-up lacked contrast, neutralizing itself and satisfied neither craving.

But the beer-cheese soup ($4 for a cup; $6 for a bowl) was terrific. This had sharpness and depth, lush not just from cream but pureed potato. The soup was flecked with herbs and red pepper, and had an intense ale flavor. Here, the bacon played a minor but welcome role.

Most of what sounds edgy on the rest of the menu is more traditional when it arrives at the table, and some details need refining. Among the many bacon-themed burgers, the peanut butter bacon burger ($10) sounded interesting, as our server described the peanut component as an Asian-style sauce. But what we found was a straightforward, scant peanut spread, and the burger itself was hastily composed. A Southern fried chicken sandwich ($10) was juicy and well-seasoned, a single patty instead of the battered strips described on the menu. But the herb aioli was slapdash, applied to about a third of the sandwich. And while we liked the sweet and salty beef in the Korean street tacos ($10), neither the pickled vegetables nor the spicy mayo cut across the flavors to make something more.

Edge, which will hold its official grand opening March 7, definitely is still feeling things out. By our second visit just over a week after the first, the menu had changed, and it also was different from the one posted on Facebook at the time.

Though there are flashes of what it might become - and you could do worse than to plan a business around beer and pig - Edge has a few rough spots yet to smooth out.

Email Alex Kiesig: scene@idahostatesman.com

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