In three years, as many restaurants have occupied the familiar space along the back stretch of SW Century. Two years, Players, a longtime dark and dingy bar, closed its doors. A year, Blue Pine cleaned the space up, let some sunlight in and optimistically opened a gastropub, with an impressive menu and specials like a locally-sourced burger, bourbon and beer trifecta. But that combination, unfortunately, did not calculate to success, and last month, Cabin 22 reopened the space as a restaurant somewhere between the sensibilities of its two previous owners (although certainly on the brighter and better-smelling side of the spectrum than Players).
The newly remodeled space has a casual, blue-collar ambiance. The exterior patio is noticeably revamped, with two massive fire pits, each with inviting surround seating on the edge of the fire itself. From the outside-in, Cabin 22 looks much less like the cigarette-riddled parking lot and stiff lowbrow drinks of the now defunct Player's Bar and Grill, and much more like its upscale westside cohorts, including a distinct similarity to 10 Barrel's outdoor patio. The prime Century Drive location was begging for an upgrade, and owner Mitch Cole has delivered, at least in concept and construction.
"It was a great opportunity for a good bar with food, a little more of a step up from Cascade West across the street," said Cole. "But we're not Ariana," he added.
For most of the last decade, Cole was part owner of the Elk Lake Resort and not only did he bring the restaurant name from his former endeavor—Cabin 22 was the number of his cabin at the lake, informed our (adorable) waitress after some discussion as to whether the 22 was the number of taps on hand, or a reference to a gun's caliber. Along with him, Cole brought chef Sage Schiffman, who worked with him at Elk Lake for the past five years.
"We want to have really good pub food. There are a lot of places that do a great job with menu. We're not quite so sandwich dependent. We have lots of appetizers and pizzas, a full bar, 22 beer handles and 22-ounce beers."
The interior has retained much of Blue Pine's casual sophistication, but brought in a dozen big-screen TVs to make the place more like a sports bar than gastropub.
The menu is filled with pizzas, burgers and sandwiches.
The Dijon, bacon brie burger sounded like a powerful flavor combination that would knock the socks off any beef-loving American. The bacon was wonderful and smoky, but salt overwhelmed the more subtle melted brie cheese. The Dijon added a needed bit of moisture to the burger, a sweet and savory combination.
The pizzas are single-servings, and with the Cardinals playing the Mets on screens around the bar, editor Phil Busse was in the mood for the Ball Park, a clever combination of bratwurst and pickles on pizza.
While short on vegetarian options (many items were just a sprinkling of bacon shy of hitting the mark), our staff writer Erin Rook did find a house-made veggie patty. As most vegetarians will tell you, the veggie burger is often the only option on a pub-style menu, and finding out that it's a thawed out version of something you'd find in the grocer's freezer section can be disheartening. But Rook reported Cabin 22's house version is one of the better ones he has tasted. The rice-based burger is just the right balance of crispy, chewy, and moist. Lightly seasoned, it held up well underneath a generous helping of cheese, lettuce, onion and tomato. While the patty itself didn't suffer from the all-too-frequent dryness seen in veggie options, the burger overall could have benefitted from some mayo or sauce. The side of lightly salted house fries were crisp on the outside, and rather plentiful.
On our recent Monday night trip, the place was packed. No waiting line yet, but nearly every table top was filled, promising, in fact, that the third time may be the charm.