It's not surprising that Brother Jon's finger was on the pulse. It is the venture of Downtowner and Deschutes Brewery veterans Stephen Barnette and John Machell with wife Kristen, proprietors who are distinctly qualified to give the people what they want. Brother Jon's combines choice parts of the institutions at their roots - the Deschutes Brewery's lively pub atmosphere suitable for family lunch or a boozy night watching the game and the Downtowner's unpretentious menu of hearty soups, salads and sandwiches and casual, grab-a snack-in-your-jammies attitude - all done on a smaller, friendlier scale befitting the neighborhood it serves. Being that it is my neighborhood, my expectations were particularly high.
But with all the well-chosen pieces in place, a hopeful patron can only wait and see how the seemingly perfect scenario will play out in practice. I've been disappointed before. Fortunately, my first few visits upheld my vision for Brother Jon's in many respects. The back patio is an excellent spot for an afternoon drink in warmer weather and you can also huddle around the fire when it's cold. The cottage interior is cozy and welcoming. A full bar and a selection of tap beers that includes PBR and Rainer tall boys and other domestics allow you to enjoy a pub atmosphere without being trapped into drinking microbrews exclusively. And the omnipresent owners and other cheerful staff make you feel like you're a regular on your first visit.
The food, though, caused me a little concern in the beginning. Slowly rolling out their menu, working in a sub-restaurant-quality kitchen, on each visit I could actually see the kinks being worked out. Luckily, they seem to have found their way through. The menu contains a few appetizers like quesadillas ($7-$8) and dips ($4-$7) and a handful of entrees including the crowd favorite Buffalo Mac ($10), ground buffalo, onions, jalapenos, tomatoes, peas, and of course mac and cheese. But the bulk of the offerings are salads and sandwiches along with a couple of soups du jour.
Salads are pretty straightforward: a house, a spinach, a cobb and a Caesar. My favorite is probably the Caesar, flavorful but not too thick in the dressing department and giant for $8 ($5 for half). Sandwiches (all $8.50), which come with chips or veggies or a variety of soup and side salad upgrades, are the heart of the menu. From deli/diner standards like the enormous club sandwich and the chicken BLT to original creations like the Jack Sparrow (pulled pork, ham, pineapple, and onion simmered in pineapple rum-sauce topped with melted pepperjack), combinations are tasty and portions are impressive. On a recent visit, I tried the Rachel, grilled pastrami (or turkey, but why would you do that?) with melted Swiss, coleslaw, 1,000 island dressing and stone ground mustard on a Kaiser roll, basically a reuben with coleslaw instead of sauerkraut. It was a nice variation.
A recent special entree leads me to believe that the kitchen may be hitting its stride. What could possibly be a better home-style meal than bacon-wrapped meat loaf smothered in a mushroom demi-glace with a heap of roasted garlic mashed potatoes and Brussels sprouts and squash sautéed with onions and bacon? And for $10! Add that to the regular menu, and I'll unplug my oven for good.
Brother Jon's Public House
1227 NW Galveston Ave., 306-3321
Mon. - Sat., 11 a.m. - 11 p.m.