Sunday, March 15, 2015

Restaurant Review: Fenton Fire Hall

Brought to you by the fine restauranteurs that created the Union Woodshop


I don't get out near Fenton very often so when we had a to go on a road trip yesterday to get some firewood up north, I thought a detour for dinner on the way home would be an excellent opportunity to try the Fenton Fire Hall.

There were a lot of similarities to the Union Woodshop that made it feel very comfortable and not really a new place. The decor is that same funky, vintage reused assemble, but this time for a repurposed fire house. The floors in the downstairs bathrooms were tiles with nickels, similar to the bathrooms at Vinsetta Garage in Berkley, another restaurant in this same group.

There were also some similarities in the menus. While Woodshop really focuses on barbecue, there was brisket and pulled pork on this menu as well. Memphis mayo (my favorite thing to dip fries in hands down, and honestly I really don't like fries that much but this is a way to eat the mayo) is replaced with "Fire Hall Mayo" which is only slightly different. Three of the Woodshop BBQ sauces are also here, but there is also a new Korean one that was really very good. There are a few more salads to pick from and choices of hot links but only one burger on the menu. Their famous mac and cheese comes in many new varieties with toppings and mix ins.

If you are up for a libation, there is plenty to choose from. There are wines of course and a beer list that is pretty long as this was originally supposed to be a brewery and there are many taps that span the whole length of the bar. To keep the patron up to date, the beer list includes stamps for what has been "extinguished". Like the woodshop, there are a few choice cocktails to pick from including a margarita with orange juice, their own version of a bloody Mary and a new twist on a mojito. I chose a Manhattan that had hard cider in the list of ingredients. It was quite powerful and had a generous amount of whisky in it that packed a punch.

We started off with an appetizer of sticky wings, grilled chicken wings with the new Korean BBQ sauce. They were smoky and moist and while I'm not a really chicken fan, I have to say that they were quite good. My family does consider themselves connoisseurs of wings and they all gave them a thumbs up as well. The slaw that came on the side was really just for garnish and did not add anything to the dish but I supposed they didn't want to just dump the wings on a plate. Five wings came in the dish and were quickly polished off by the gang.

I ordered a Brussels salad that was interesting but I'm not sure I would order it again. Next time I think I will stick with the Caesar that I love at Woodshop, however they do not offer smoked shrimp on top at the Fire Hall. The Brussels salad is served warm and has sauteed red onions, goat cheese, dates and toasted walnuts, tossed with a warm mustard vinaigrette. Honestly I did not taste the dates and the cheese was in a clump in the middle so it was wasted. This really did not seem like a salad but more of a side dish of warm Brussels sprouts. As much as I love Brussels sprouts in this consistency, which was quite mushy, I wasn't that impressed.

For the mains we ordered three of The Hunter burgers. The menu offers them a burgers made of ground brisket, short rib and chuck, with smoked cheddar, grilled red onion and Fire Hall Mayo but our family ordered them with just burger and cheese, with bacon added. They were okay but not wonderful. It should be noted that the grill was down and these were made in the oven but they were missing something. I would much prefer a Macon Bacon at the Woodshop and like that there are other choices at that restaurant.

I ordered the brisket which came with fries and Fire Hall Mayo, along with a side of coleslaw and a scratch biscuit. The brisket was good, but not as good as Woodshop. The pieces seemed thicker and not as moist. A good helping of BBQ sauce to dip was helpful but the portion also did not seem as generous. The coleslaw as creamy and good, as far as coleslaw goes, but I would have preferred a choice of side dishes. I really missed the green bean casserole offered at Woodshop. The biscuit was very very good but did not come with any butter or honey?

Desserts were really good. The kids chose a favorite from Vinsetta visits, each picking Faygo Redpop ice cream with Pop Rocks. Both kids commented on the generous portion. We also ordered a Peanut Butter Ice Box Pie (after all it was Pie Day 3/14) which came in a mason jar with a chocolate cookie crust on the bottom, layered with peanut butter cream cheese filling, bitter chocolate, whipped cream and peanut brittle. We also ordered a Tres Leche with orange buttermilk cake, dulche des leche, pastry cream and orange cardamon creme alglais that was really superb.

So the verdict? I suppose if I went to this restaurant without ever having been at Union Woodshop, I might have been more impressed, but I could not help comparing. If we had driven just another 30 minutes south, we would have been in Clarkson and had eaten there instead. I just like the menu and offerings better at Woodshop and if you want BBQ instead of links or tacos, it make sense to visit the Union instead. I should also note that Vinsetta Garage is in walking distance from my home but I also choose to drive 45 minutes and wait three hours (strategically) to go to the Woodshop instead. The Woodshop is BBQ heaven, this just doesn't reach that level.

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