Wikipedia informs that a "Gastropub or gastrolounge refers to a bar and restaurant that serves high-end beer and food." Isn't that roughly half the bars in Cincinnati? Including every place on Vine Street? As far as we can tell BrewRiver and Nicholson's are the only local places that don this term. In practice, the term just seems to denote an upscale pub (which BrewRiver certainly is). Seems mildly pretentious... Oh well--let us not judge a restaurant by its marketing but rather judge it by the dishes it produces. So, let's just dive into the review!
We started our meal with a small order of Belgian Farmhouse Ale-Steamed Mussels. The menu suggests (correctly) that this pairs well with a saison (According to BeerAdvocate, Saisons are sturdy farmhouse ale. Many are very fruity in the aroma and flavor. Look for earthy yeast tones, mild to moderate tartness. Lots of spice and with a medium bitterness. They tend to be semi-dry with many only having touch of sweetness). The mussels and saison was indeed a tasty combo.
Make way for the entrees! BrewRiver Burger - House-made pickle, portabello crisps, tomato, lettuce, Irish cheddar cheese on a local challah bun and hand-cut fries. This was a very tasty, juicy burger. I don't know what's so Irish about the cheese, but it was a hit with my taste buds. Also, the "challah" bun was a delicious piece of bread, almost so it could have been eaten on its own.
The accompanying fries were solid, but fairly standard. One quibble: the house made ketchup needed work. Since BrewRiver is known as a 'gastropub' it would be fitting that they made their own ketchup--don't be fooled! It was too sweet and light on ketchup flavor (Avant-garde cooking is one thing, but let's not forget that good taste never goes out of style.) After an initial taste, we pretty much ignored the ketchup.
"Decatur Street Muffaletta - A N’awlins tradition! Genoa salami, Mortadella, Ham, Provolone cheese with house-made olive salad on local bread and hand-cut fries." A muffaletta is essentially a round Italian sandwich. $12 is a little much for a French Quarter delicacy, but we did find this one quite tasty. The meats were fresh and flavorful.
Overall, BrewRiver is a little pricey, but very good. For us, the highlight was certainly the the BrewRiver Burger. With that particular item, they perhaps earned the right to call themselves a "GastroPub". We listed it as one of the top 5 burgers in Cincinnati (we like to make lists!). If you're looking for a great burger and drinks (and aren't overly price sensitive), Brew River is a great option.