February 18, 2008
Discovering the Dirty Truth
The Dirty Truth features 40 taps and a satisfying menu.
Lately, I've been disappointed in Old Man Winter's offerings to our corner of New England: rain, sleet, and temperatures in the 40's. I've been eager to log some hours on my new snowboard, but the weather has not been favorable for that activity. However, it turns out that conditions are just right for relaxing on a bar stool at a cozy establishment, with an entertaining companion and an intriguing beverage close at hand.
My wonderful husband being the perfect date, I looked to The Dirty Truth to supply the rest. I had heard raves about the beer hall from friends, and finally figured out that I've unknowingly passed it a dozen times. The storefront on Main Street in Northampton, MA, is understated; that is, it displays no sign, only a folding chalkboard on the sidewalk listing menu specials. However, the interior is bold, with deep red walls, an oversized, metalwork clock, and a row of forty (40) taps.
From the wall-mounted chalkboard, we chose our first beers: Maudite and Trois Pistoles, both Belgian-style brews from Unibroue in Quebec. I love the richness and complexity of their beers, and this was the first time I'd tasted them from a keg. You can find Unibroue bottles in four-packs at better beer retailers.
We then turned our attention to the printed menu, which included the list of bottled beer, wines by the glass, and menu items. There was some controversy over who would order the Cuban pork sandwich; I graciously allowed Charles that privilege, reserving the right to share. I chose the chicken pot pie, and we called out a request for onion rings at the last minute.
A small mountain of onion rings was delivered shortly: hot, crispy, sweet, fantastic! The beer batter and sweetness of the onions were irresistible, perfectly complemented by the mellow heat of Cajun mayonnaise (I don't know what exactly was in it, I was too busy enjoying it to analyze).
The best was yet to come, in the form of a soft bun densely layered with succulent, flavorful shaved ham, moist pork roast, and melted gruyere. My first bite of (Charles's) sandwich surprised me with a kick of horseradish and a kiss of sweet pickle. Normally, I'm not a fan of either, but this combination was heavenly. The thin, sweet potato frites occupying the other half of the plate provided a simple, satisfying counterpoint to the unrestrained flavors of the sandwich.
What? Oh right, the chicken pot pie. It was satisfactory. Nicely browned puff pastry crown, full of tender white meat, peas, and onions... and copious amounts of thyme. It was a good dish for the season, but is not the same caliber as its menu mates. Next visit, I'll try the Dirty Reuben or the catfish sandwich, which I hear are excellent.
We chose a liquid dessert: a Czech lager for Charles, who was itching to grip a stein, and a half-pint of Brooklyn Brewery Black Chocolate Stout. Remember when Violet Beauregard experienced a multi-course meal by chewing Mr. Wonka's gum in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory? Well, I felt like I was eating a slice of chocolate torte and washing it down with an espresso by drinking that stout. It was so rich, deep, and complex, I wondered who could drink a full pint!
If you are near Northampton and like beer, scan the Main Street sidewalk for a lonely chalkboard, and stride boldly into The Dirty Truth. The barkeep will point you toward something lovely, and you may yet find yourself feeling friendly toward Old Man Winter.