The Taste Food Tour :: Forage Public House Apr11

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The Taste Food Tour :: Forage Public House

I have many reasons why I love Forage Public House — local food, creative cocktails and the simple fact it’s less than a 5-minute walk from our house.

Opening in December 2014, Forage has brought a new level of dining to the Lakewood Center North space that formerly housed longtime wing, ribs and beer joint, Pacers. Forage diverges quite decidedly from from its predecessor’s wings, ribs, burgers and beer tradition.

Founding chef Demetrios Athenos, formerly of another Lakewood staple, Deagan’s, built the gastropub’s menu on a simple farm-to-table premise. The “Greener Fields Certified” restaurant offers 100 percent sustainable, farm-specific items and local artisan foods in its small plates, cheese boards and charcuterie, salads, sandwiches and entrees. Athenos lists local farms, growers and producers alongside each menu item, so diners know exactly where the restaurant gets its food.

I’ll confess: I’m a burger junkie, so it’s no surprise that’s the first thing I ever tried at Forage and something I keep revisiting. I love the fact you start with a bare-bones burger — with beef from New Creation Farm in Chardon, Ohio — and then customize it with different a la carte cheeses and toppings.

I also add a side of the highly addictive pomme frites, garnished with rosemary and garlic (with the option of white truffle oil and/or a fried egg) and served with aioli. The bowl of frites is large enough to share, if you want to. You might not.

That’s not to say I’ve fallen completely into a burger rut. On a recent visit, I tried the Amish Country Farm Chicken out of Kidron, Ohio. Forage serves this exceptional moist and flavorful entree with house-made country sausage, crisp potatoes and mustard greens in a roasted chicken stock reduction. I would order it again.

If you’re looking for something simpler or want to do a tasting as a table, check out the small plates. On one outing with friends (who have since moved away, yet still pine for Forage) they encouraged us to try the cheese curds.

“Our favorite,” they said. They didn’t steer us wrong. Made from Northeast Ohio’s own Lake Erie Creamery curds, these lightly fried treats come with an assortment of pickled vegetables and tangy white cremeux for dipping, I still fantasize about them.

On another visit, our server also didn’t steer us wrong. We asked her which small plate she recommended as a starter. She pointed us in the direction of the Devils on Horseback. Think rumaki with a twist: house-made chorizo and medjool dates, wrapped in Forage’s own maple-syrup-cured pork belly. Presentation features an emulsion verde and sriracha drizzled plate with micro greens and garlic chives. I was skeptical at first and then couldn’t get enough. But then again, I probably could live on appetizers alone.

Lest you think Forage caters only to carnivores, its menu also offers many vegetarian and vegan selections, including a vegan Israeli couscous salad, asparagus power salad, vegan mac and cheese and vegan potato dumplings, among other options.

Forage’s creative cocktail, wine and beer menu offers nice options. Some of the cocktails, including an Old Fashioned, come with a ice sphere for a nice twist on “on the rocks.” Perhaps it’s a metaphor for how Forage’s chef serves up local food, a bit out of the ordinary.

–Robin Suttell, 2016 Taste of Lakewood blogger