Arts & Culture

Growlers, newest installment off Thayer, heats up the palate

Newest addition to Thayer cuisine brings variety of American, Latin spicy dishes, sauces

Senior Staff Writer
Thursday, April 21, 2016

Growlers Wing Bar spices up Thayer’s food scene with an assorted menu of American and Latin dishes, highlighting wings and homemade sauces.

Growlers Wing Bar, the newest addition to the amalgam that is the Thayer food scene, opened April 4 above English Cellar Alehouse on Angell Street. Owners Umberto Sorbo and Sean Hannon create an ambiance that fuses a sports-bar atmosphere with certain diner-style decorations and an authentic New England feel.

Growlers is styled with light wood furniture and dark wood furnishings and bar. Black-and-white tiled floors and copper-toned ceilings are paired with New England-themed decorations, jerseys of local sports teams and craft beer-related  signs. The bar has a mellow character, enhanced by its amicable waitstaff and a playlist of classic tunes, ranging from the Eagles’ “Hotel California” to assorted Beatles songs to recent hits from country music star Chris Stapleton.

The menu itself captures the all-American feel with potato skins, various burgers and bacon-fried Oreos. It also incorporates  dishes with Latin influences such as blackened chicken quesadillas, chili con carne, mahi-mahi tacos and carnitas. Growlers also emphasizes locally produced beers, according to bar manager Nate Burgoyne.  With respect to food options, “we aren’t completely local yet,” Hannon said. “But we’re crawling.”

The main attraction of Growlers Wing Bar, as indicated by its name, is its selection of wings, listed before starters at the top of the front page of the menu. With both boneless and on-the-bone options, wing connoisseurs choose their preferred wing and then the sauce in which the wings are tossed. The wings on the bone, called “dry wings,” are smoked at Brutopia, Growlers’ sister restaurant,  and later flash fried before they are served, Hannon said. “But it’s not a heavy smoke. We’ve been working on finding the sweet spot for two years.”

Without any sauces or dips, the “naked” wings on the bone did not disappoint. The product of the smoky “sweet spot,” the wings on the bone had crunchy, thin skins that were complemented and elevated by the distinct but subtle smoky taste of the meat itself. The boneless wings, though they could be likened to chicken tenders, still maintained appealing flavor and texture.

To accompany the wings, the bar provides a selection of sauces. Upon request, wings can be tossed in the sauces or served with sauces on the side. Growlers prepares four house-made sauces. Burgoyne said “Carolina Style” is a mixture of “red wine and cider vinegar, red pepper, black pepper, white pepper and cayenne pepper” that also functions as the rub for dry meats at Brutopia. “Honey BBQ” is a sauce that  “doesn’t really have heat but goes well with the Carolina.” “Fire Starter” consists of  a “honey barbecue base, scotch bonnets and other peppers.”  “Golden Edition” is a “mustard pepper sauce with a white balsamic reduction,” Burgoyne added.

The “Fire Starter” began with a slightly sweet taste reminiscent of molasses and followed with a kick that sparked the taste buds. As soon as the spices overwhelmed the senses, the sensation was gone. 

The “Golden Edition” was spot on — the mustard pepper sauce was complemented by the balsamic reduction and brought out the flavors of smokiness in the wings while maintaining the added mustard elements.

“Honey Barbecue” also began with a sweet taste, though it lacked the kick of the “Fire Starter.” Its thick consistency added to its flavor and substantially influenced the taste of the meat of the wing.

In contrast,  “Carolina Style” had bold vinegar and pepper flavors, but its watery viscosity did not lend itself to the same level of flavor.

With a simple menu, likeable sauces and fair pricing, Growlers appeals to the college student palate on a budget and should fare well as the newest addition to Thayer cuisine.