The Crow’s Nest, the latest project from the folks behind the Bleeding Deacon Public House, opened late last year in downtown Maplewood. We’re not crazy about the term ‘gastro-pub,’ but the menu at The Crow’s Nest definitely was a notch or two above what usually passes for pub grub around town.

The interior of The Crow’s Nest was what we consider to be a take on the traditional dive bar. While there was a jukebox, pinball machines and hefty bar, the walls were adorned with posters of cutting-edge musicians of years past (we sat by Robert Smith of the Cure) and a vintage foreign thriller was projected, sans sound, on the wall by the bar. The place abounded with smart, humorous details, like the menus tucked into album covers.

We immediately loved the space and hoped the food was just as entertaining. The menu was broken down into Starters, Sandwiches, and Knife and Fork, and we sampled from each. To kick things off we ordered the Hummus ($6) and the Meat Loaf Sliders ($10). The hummus came with a generous dollop of honey in the middle, which was the perfect complement to the creamy chickpeas and garlic. According to the menu, it also had peanut butter in the mix, though that ingredient wasn’t overly apparent. The sliders came four to a plate, and were a meal in themselves. They were served on sweet Hawaiian rolls, augmented with housemade bacon ketchup, and each was garnished with a couple of green beans. Just like Wednesday night supper at Mom’s—on a bun.

All of the sandwiches looked enticing, but we were immediately intrigued with the Southside Special ($9), which featured tempura-fried calf brains, chili paste and a fried egg, served on Companion bread. Of course, the brains caught our attention, and we immediately wondered if they were on the menu merely as a gimmick. One bite, and we were convinced that wasn’t the case. The sandwich reminded us of a NOLA po’ boy, with the crusty roll and batter-fried bits inside, and the brains had a similar texture to oysters, but more of a pronounced flavor. Of course, a fried egg makes any sandwich that much better! For those who have shied away from tasting brains previously, this dish could prove to be your gateway.

The Chicken-Fried Fish ‘N Chips ($10), consisted of two pieces of pollock, fries and a smoked remoulade. Very simple and straight-forward, and very tasty. The batter stayed crispy and didn’t get mushy and sodden as we’ve experienced with other versions of this dish.

We capped off our visit with an order of Donuts ($6), delicious little fried balls of sugar-covered dough served with a coffee sauce.

The Crow’s Nest also offers lunch and plenty of beer options, as well as some pretty enticing happy-hour prices, making it a full-service joint–a good place to tip back a brew or two or have a quality meal. It’s a fine addition to what is fast becoming one of the area’s go-to culinary neighborhoods.

The Crow’s Nest • 7336 Manchester Road • 781-0989

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