SOLON— When one is connected to the community, it is hard not to like Big Grove Brewery. The city council invested a forgivable loan to get them to build at the corner of Main Street and Iowa Avenue, and unlike the last microbrewery in town, this one scaled to a size to brew lots of beer, accommodate large gatherings and employ a lot of people. They opened Aug. 29, 2013. On a Thursday night, the place was packed with a five minute wait for a table.
My connections to the restaurant are many. Last night, a neighbor greeted me upon entry, handing me a glass of house beer. The subject of one of my newspaper articles was having dinner with his wife and provided positive feedback on my story. I’ve been in the kitchen delivering herbs from the farm, and three of the farms where I worked last year are suppliers. Chef Ben Smart and I share an acquaintance who gave up a job in a Washington, D.C. public relations firm to become a chef. They met at the Herbfarm near Seattle, Wash., where Smart was executive sous chef.
I’m not sure how many jobs were created by this business, but more than 40 people were in their initial staff photograph. The managing partner of the business was busing tables last night and seems to have his fingers on the pulse of the community. It’s all good, but what else would I say?
The kitchen has a high temperature pizza oven, and we each had a 12 inch pizza and took some home. She had Pizza Margherita, topped with San Marzano tomato, fresh mozzarella, basil, olive oil and sea salt. I had the Ham and Egg with La Quercia prosciutto, arugula, pesto, soft cooked local eggs, confit potato and Parmigiano Reggiano. We had a side order of caramelized carrots made with red onion, Parmigiano Reggiano, pine nut, arugula pesto, endive and preserved lemon. For beverages camomile tea and the aforementioned beer. Check out their seasonal menu at www.biggrovebrewery.com.
The vegetarian dishes that were on the menu last year are no longer there. Some friends came from Stone City for the roasted Brussels sprouts, which are now out of season. The dynamic of this restaurant will be whether or not they follow commercial interests, or can develop enough of a market for local, seasonal dishes to continue to be offered, including ample offering of vegetarian fare. In Iowa we like to repeat our favorite meals and dishes and the seasonal menu could get sanded off in the workshop of what sells. I hope not because a vegetarian can live on salad, pizza, side dishes and beer only for so long.
Two pizzas, a side and one paid beverage cost $45.63 with gratuity. It’s a little high for frequent dining, but a competitive price for the quality.
Try Big Grove Brewery in Solon. It’s a great place to get together with friends and celebrate from time to time. The initial energy from the opening has not worn off. Hopefully it never will as the establishment becomes part of the community.