Diners today are spoiled. We want menus that change with the time of year and flavors that push the limits of our dining expectations. It will be no surprise, then, if Deagan's Kitchen & Bar turns us into brats.
Although the staple dishes on the Lakewood gastropub's menu may not change a lot, you'll notice that dish accents, ingredients and 16 of the 28 craft brews on tap rotate with the seasons.
In doing this, Deagan's chef Demetrios Atheneos has created a menu that's perfectly in tune with what's coming out of the pub's taps. Take the bangers and mash ($15), a hearty meat and potatoes combo with house-crafted sausage, lumpy mashed potatoes and seasonal vegetables. It sounds familiar until you try the brothlike glaze that's sweet with a hint of mocha — a flavor Atheneos achieves by crafting the sauce from Founder's Porter.
This level of care is behind each dish and elevates Deagan's above the corner-bar stereotype of basic pub grub and a good beer selection (although the latter is definitely true with 75 craft bottles available).
"I didn't want to be a run-of-the-mill gastropub," Atheneos says. "It's definitely comfort food in a way, but it's keeping in line with what's trendy."
From a dining standpoint, that means a couple things. First, dishes are presented in a way familiar to how people are eating now. So, the menu is a near equal division of bar snacks, small plates made to share and entrees big enough for leftovers.
Next, it means Atheneos chooses ingredients found on fine-dining menus and works those upscale touches into familiar dishes. On the bar snack menu, deviled eggs ($3) come filled with mild goat cheese flavored with English mustard. Atheneos finishes pommes frites ($6) with high-grade white truffle oil and seasons them with black truffle sea salt.
He adds these touches while keeping dishes affordable. With most entrees less than $20, small plates under $10 and craft beer pours around $5, Deagan's prices are its most approachable feature.
Although you may want to skip right to the entrees, stop. Take your time, sip on a beer cocktail such as the Black Raspberry ($5.50), a mix of Guinness and Framboise Lambic, and try a few light bites first.
From the bar snacks menu, which you can sample no matter where you sit, opt for angels on horseback ($9): diver sea scallops with an extra layer of saltiness from a bacon wrapping. It's a pairing that could prove too potent if not for the chimichurri drizzle and pea tendrils that add a savory layer.
Diners would also be remiss to skip the small plates, as here is where Atheneos' creativity shines. Crisp chicken livers ($7) with shallots and pork belly larden rest atop cheesy polenta whipped to a mashed potato thinness. Mild mahon makes the mac-and-cheese crock ($8) more like a casserole. The creamy and lemony cheese and English peas lighten the shreds of Peking duck confit and keep the dish from being overly rich.
On the spicier side, a soy chile jam that's a cross between barbecue sauce and a glaze gives a serving of eight Amish chicken wings ($8) lip-tingling bite. Spicy shrimp tacos have a milder kick but are the clear standout of the menu's 11 small plates. It's a serving of two soft-shell tacos and baby shrimp with mashed avocado, corn and shredded white cheddar topped with micro cilantro.
With a beer list heavy on flavor — IPAs, stouts and Belgian-style brews — Atheneos knows his entrees have to stand out as well. They are hearty without being heavy.
Take the chicken and waffles ($17), two crispy fried pieces of chicken over a large waffle, doused in powdered sugar with a side of sweet blackberry maple syrup. It looks more like dessert than dinner, but the touch of cayenne butter helps bridge the gap between the sweet dish and bitter beers.
You'll find the same bold touches in the dipping sauces that come with the hangar steak in the steak frites ($20). The house-made steak sauce is sweet with a hint of cinnamon while the chimichurri is savory.
Even the lone entree salad boasts big flavors. Pecan-crusted chicken, baby lettuce, sliced grapes, dates and goat cheese crumbles ($14) are tossed in a semisweet and tangy miso-plum vinaigrette.
To prove that beer is worked through the entire menu, even the desserts get some love in the form of a Lion Stout brownie sundae ($7). It uses one of the chef's favorite available drafts. "We wanted to use that somewhere on the menu," Atheneos says.