By Steve Alcazari
12:15 PM EDT, October 23, 2013
It's probably wrong, way off base, and totally not even fair, to say that — to some people — Plainville hasn't been a destination spot for dining. After all, there's J Timothy's, and right near that intersection at Main Street there's El Paso, a little Mexican eatery, and Bolo, a fine spot for lunch where you can get a massive selection of fresh donuts and other treats. And diners and burger stands abound, too. Adding to the evidence in support of Plainville's food scene is 50 West, a new higher-end bistro on West Main Street that prides itself on using regionally grown produce, and locally sourced products, whenever possible. The menu explains that 50 West is a "scratch kitchen," meaning they make as much as they can in house.
The interior is cool and mellow. Umber tones dominate. And the light fixtures make innovative use of repurposed glass containers and vessels. In the keep-it-local spirit, my companion and I ordered glasses of beer from Plainville's own Relic Brewing, an excellent "nanobrewery" (one order of magnitude smaller than a microbrewery.) This was Relic's Thrice, a Belgian Tripel, which has lots of yeasty flavor, but a mellow rounded taste that doesn't spike with the alcoholic heat that one sometimes finds in those ales. This was good.
We started with a plate of house-smoked meats and house-made pickles. Pieces of duck, chicken and trout were stacked around a central core of cucumbers and onions with a little dill sprig planted like a flag on a mountaintop, with a ramekin of tangy mustard at its side. A plate of smoked meats is naturally something that only fans of smoky flavors will gravitate toward. And the prominence of that woody, campfire taste may even be a little stronger than some lovers of smoke might expect. I found that a little salt was needed to help ground the flavors, and the bright eye-opening zing of the mustard served to bring all the elements together. The pickles were slightly sweet, producing a pleasant pucker. The trout was the standout, attaining a kind of bacon-like heft and body, particularly at the thinner, more smoked ends of the fish.
Despite the sunny Indian summer weather last week, an order of chicken and leek pot pie ($14) hit the comfort-food pleasure points of autumn, even if Mother Nature was still acting all last-season. The pot pie arrived in a shallow casserole dish with flaky crust and character-filled blisters on its baked surface. Beneath that pastry crust exterior was an herby thyme-flavored mix of shredded chicken, leeks, bits of carrots and chunks of potato. The interplay between the liquid of the filling and the crust created a sort of dumpling-ish third texture.
A 50 West "farmer's burger" ($11) is in fact a vegetarian burger made with quinoa and chickpeas. The quinoa gives the burger a pleasant tiny popping crunch, and roasted red peppers imparted a sweet earthy flavor that dominated. The burger was also topped with an overspilling slab of Vermont white cheddar, the sides of which had been melted and grilled (think Shady Glen). And on top of all that were baby spinach and tomato and thin sliced onion. On the whole, a nice twist on veggie burgerhood, though one that might leave those who crave firm burgerness in their faux meats craving some more solid density. A little more liberal application of the garlic aioli wouldn't have been a problem. But not everyone shares the same fondness for such things. This came with a side of truffle fries -- which were thin french fries finished in truffle oil, the kind of subtle thing you can taste generally only when you know it's there.
The menu at 50 West has a mix of comfort food classics — burgers, and a mac and cheese made with sausage and roasted apple — and slightly fusion-y rethinkings of other familiar dishes, like a ravioli made with an apricot and ginger-soy marmalade.
The wine and beer lists are similarly inspired, touched with a nice suggestion of quirkiness. To get a full sense of what's happening at 50 West, stop in for a drink and poke around the menu. It might sound unlikely to some, but Plainville could become a restaurant destination like Middletown with a few more local gems like Relic Brewery and 50 West drawing adventurous eaters and drinkers there.
50 West Main St., Plainville, (860), 351-5066, 50westct.com, closed Mondays
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