SoWe Bar and Kitchen, the new gay-owned eatery at 918 S. 22nd St., is on a mission to specialize in refined comfort food. So far, it’s successful on many fronts.
For the most part, everything we tried at SoWe was good or great. We found that the dishes that made a vigorous stab at our more primal culinary urges weren’t as satisfying as the dishes that took a more subtle, elegant route.
The loaded bacon tots ($9) screamed for attention. And oh, they got it. Tater tots stuffed with bacon would have been enough to pull our attention, but the smothering of said tots in lack cheese, chili and pickled jalapenos really made the dish drop its pants and demand an audience. The chili and jalapenos gave the dish a nice kick and we couldn’t deny the charm, even though it felt like overkill. The SoWe burger ($12) was good as well, but also tried a bit too hard. Subtract one or two of the toppings (fried peppers, onions, cheddar, bacon and horseradish mayo) and you’re closer to perfection. The grilled seafood Caesar salad ($17) brought the welcome addition of crabmeat and shrimp to the familiar dish and was beautifully presented. Some might find the grilling of the lettuce a bit excessive, but the dish is tasty and unique for those who appreciate its distinct roasted flavor.
The best dishes at SoWe are a bit more coy, but addictive. The chickpea fritters ($7) were crispy on the outside, moist on the inside and bursting with great herby flavor. The vegan Reuben ($10) was a pleasant detour for both fans and newbies to the traditional sandwich. By subbing seitan, beet and carrot slaw and vegan Russian dressing for the regular ingredients, the flavors and the textures come together so well that even the staunchest meat eater won’t miss the corned beef and sauerkraut. Back on the meat front, the special of the day, pulled pork tacos with melon salsa and pickled okra, hit the right spots, tasting familiar and exotic at the same time.
The taco tartare ($11) was a delightful surprise. The tuna, avocado and crème fraiche on tortilla chips did a wonderful job of approximating the silky texture of nachos, while at the same time delivering lighter and brighter flavors that make you easily forget about the meats and cheeses of the traditional dish. Dessert was equally understated and pleasant, as the berry tartlet ($6) was velvety-smooth and bright, topped with seasonal berries.
SoWe Bar and Kitchen definitely has the right ideas when it comes to creative twists on comfort food. It will be interesting to see what their imaginations come up with each season.