Suffolk Punch, the restaurant portion of the sprawling Hyde Brewing complex on Griffith Street, won’t have its grand opening until Aug. 26, but it actually is open already – and packed. I stopped in Wednesday night with a hungry friend and we worked our way through a chunk of the menu.
Verdict? Much better than what you might expect from a brew pub. The emphasis on beer hasn’t distracted them from paying attention to some upper-level plates here. The menu will continue to have a local focus, so expect some things to change, but a few dishes we tried are likely to remain regular features.
While Dan Hyde’s own beer won’t be on that impressive lineup of beer taps for a while yet, you can still choose from a long list of local, regional and national beers, sorted into categories on the menu (along with a handy list of alcohol levels, in case you want to keep it under control).
The food style is small plates, but they’re generously sized and meant for sharing. It’s the kind of menu where you can fill up a grazing table quickly, with prices that are reasonable, given the quality of ingredients. Most small plates range from $6 to $10, with a few things climbing to $15 or $20. Two of us went through six dishes -- three snacks or sides and three larger meat dishes -- and a beer for about $80. In Charlotte these days, $40 each isn’t out of line for dinner, and we left feeling like we’d had plenty to eat, which isn’t always the case in the small-plates world.
While the house burger is apparently already a hit, judging from the constant parade of them leaving the kitchen, there are a lot of interesting things to explore on the menu.
Mussels. These arrived still bubbling, with a single grilled slice of bread for dipping. You’ll want more: The saffron-chorizo sauce was fantastic, with a smoky-grilled flavor. When we ran out of bread and even mussels, we were still sticking spoons in to get one more sip.
Ceviche. Made with N.C. grouper, it hit all the right notes of spicy heat and citrus bite. It’s served with housemade tortilla chips.
House bacon. We got three generous slabs, each as thick as pork belly but chewy/crispy enough to need a knife and fork. They’re sticky with glaze and a chimichurri-like topping, but the best part is the pool of citrus barbecue sauce that’s more citrus than barbecue, with a little crema that melts in. Again: A spoon-worthy sauce. At $15, it’s the only thing that seemed a little pricey, but it’s a large serving. You can pay an extra $1 to get three fairly small corn tortillas. Too bad you can’t pay a buck for a slice of that grilled bread for sopping up that sauce.
Foie gras popcorn. For $6, it’s a nice bar snack while you’re waiting for a table, satisfyingly greasy and salty. It doesn’t have a lot of foie gras flavor, but at least it isn’t the pencil-eraser taste of truffle popcorn.
Smoked heirloom tomatoes with black olive oil. It’s hard to say what’s going on here. While you get a pretty selection of chunks of locally grown, heirloom tomatoes, there’s no smoke flavor. And they’re served on top of something that appears to be sludge, like someone stirred old charcoal into a paste with olive oil. It’s a shame to waste good tomatoes – and good olive oil – on that.