I'm a lover of things that can’t be put in a box and escape all attempts to define them. This has included people, art, literature, cities and a variety of spiritual and political movements, but it hasn’t included bars — at least not until I went to Gordo’s Pub & Grill.
Smack in the middle of Norwood on Montgomery Road, Gordo’s looks like just another neighborhood bar with neon beer signs in the window. It could be Fries or Arlin’s. Or even Junker’s Tavern after an extreme makeover.
Inside, Gordo’s looks more like a movie set of a neighborhood bar than an actual neighborhood bar, gleaming with polished wood floors and tables. Perfectly shiny Michelob mirrors and Coors signs line the wall, and Hall & Oates plays softly in the background.
Then there’s the menu. Sure it has loaded cheese fries, but these have bacon, scallions, tomatoes and a “three cheese blend” with a side of ranch — more complex than your average bar cheese fry. And then there are the burgers, which include the Jean-Robert Burger named after Jean- Robert de Cavel, a friend of owner Raymond Gordo. Before opening Gordo’s a few months ago, Raymond was chef de cuisine for the Jean-Robert Restaurant Group. The burger, made with bacon, blue cheese and herbs and topped with goat cheese and a lovely grape compote (grapes stewed in syrup), has received rave reviews online.
Gordo’s manages to walk that fine line between serving foodies and Joe Six-Packs. While the beer menu offers Budweiser, it also offers an extensive international beer selection hard to find in your average bar, including the Belgian Chimay, brewed by Trappist monks who claim it “gladdens the heart of man,” as well as Strongbow Cider, a premium import from the UK that I must say gladdened my heart as much as a Chimay. Its sweet clarity was refreshing.
For our appetizer, my friend and I opted for the Baked Mixed Mushrooms ($5.75) (mushrooms with mixed herbs and parmesan cheese) served with thinly sliced baguettes. They far outshined any mushroom appetizer I’ve had in a long while, including my favorite, the Chart House’s Sizzling Mushrooms. The slightly rich Parmesan, balsamic and garlic sauce perfectly complemented the smoky tender shitakes and savory criminis.
I rationalized the indulgence, which was not low-fat, by telling myself that criminis are a wonderful source of iron and shitakes were once prescribed to boost chi (life force) during the Ming Dynasty. Having spent the last week Baracking the vote, I needed a little life force.
We quickly moved on to entrées. On our way to see W., we wanted to see how fast Gordo’s could serve us. We gave them an hour; they were faster than we expected, because we were out in 45 minutes, even with the minor food drama that ensued.
Here’s what happened: After careful consideration and calorie-counting, I ordered the Fried Fish Sandwich ($6.50). It seemed innocuous enough with lettuce, tomato and tartar sauce on a hoagie bun. Of course, its description did not do it justice. It was more beautiful in person. With a crispy, perfectly fried beer batter that, refreshingly, had a savory blend of spices and a filet that was remarkably fresh, it was the best fried fish sandwich I’d ever had.
Unfortunately, moments later, after I’d eaten half of it, I realized I was allergic to it. While I’d sent the Roasted Vegetable side back earlier because I’d tasted rosemary, which I’m allergic to, no one thought to tell me, and I didn’t think to ask them, if the fish I was eating also had rosemary. Generally, fried fish sandwiches don’t use this ingredient, but real chefs love rosemary — something I always have to remember.
Once he found out that I was allergic, Chef Raymond immediately came over, sat down at our table and apologized profusely. I have never seen a chef apologize so sincerely. I think he must have apologized 15 times; then he gave us my entrée free, and threw in a refreshingly light Chocolate Macadamia Tart, topped with thick, lemony cream. I think he is now my favorite chef.
Meanwhile, my friend loved his Black Bean burger ($6.50) with roasted vegetables and American cheese. Although the vegetables were missing, we had ordered some on the side, as well as Gordo’s wonderfully crispy and peppery green beans and creamy Parmesan gratin potatoes. Rarely can you find such sides at a pub.
Gordo’s is one of the most laid-back, reasonably priced, friendly and creative bars I’ve been to in a long time. Plus, the food is downright delicious. To not like it would just be un-American.
GORDO'S PUB & GRILL
Go: 4328 Montgomery Road, Norwood
Hours: Kitchen is open 4-11 p.m. Monday-Froday, 11:30 a.m.-11 p.m. Saturday and 11:30 a.m.-10 p.m. Sunday
Entree Prices: $4.50-$14.50
Payment: All major credit cards
Red Meat Alternatives: Seafood and vegetarian
Accessibility: Fully accessible