Hubby and I had an opportunity to go back to Pioneer the other night. We were walking around Fountain Square trying to decide where to go. We were going to try Thunderbird again, but they were full, so we walked across the street to Pioneer. The nice thing about this place, while it was doing a good business, because it’s so big, they could seat us right away. We asked to be in the bar, because it’s cozier, and they happily obliged.
We wanted to try different things this time from the last time so we started with the pork rillettes ($11) and the frisee and endive salad ($12). Man, they know how to do salads here. They may only do one on each menu, but so far, they’ve been totally worth ordering. Last time we had the butter lettuce salad and loved it. This time it was the frisee and endive lettuces topped with some shaved fennel, hearty chunks of blue cheese, toasted pumpkin seeds and “Austrian” ranch. Really good. The lettuces certainly have a touch of bitterness to them, but they were so nicely balanced with the creamy cheese and dressing. Loved the salty, crunchy kick from the pumpkin seeds as well. I would try any salad they offer. I find well-balanced, properly dressed, interesting, salads to be a struggle to find at many places.
The rillettes were not bad—they certainly know how to toast a piece of (Amelia’s) bread with a bit of oil just perfectly, but the pork itself was a little bland for me. I longed for the stronger flavor of the chicken liver mousse we had the first time. We did get the proportions of meat and the whole grain mustard served alongside just perfect though. The key was to spread a little mustard on the bread and then put the meat on top so you didn’t taste the mustard first---otherwise it tended to overwhelm the pork a bit.
For the main part of our meal, we had two more small plates, the pork belly ($14) and the potato pancakes (Kartoffelpuffer) ($10) and then the spatzle ($13). The pork belly was very good—two nice pieces of pork belly that weren’t too fatty, sitting on top of purple cabbage puree, pink oyster mushrooms and garnished with curry pickled mustard seeds. This was a lovely and tasty dish—although it was small, it was extremely rich. The spatzle was probably our favorite thing of the evening—the little spirals of hand cut pasta were so tender and cooked just perfectly. The creamy Comte Mornay sauce was so rich and cheesy. And the bits of spinach in there were a nice variation. This would definitely be a recommended order, and I know when we go back, hubby will insist on it.
The potato pancakes were good—but so large and filling and not as interesting as the other things—they were basically like chunky mashed potatoes that were pan-fried and served with a bit of bacon jam, mustard crème fraiche and chives. That bacon jam was delicious for sure. Every bit of it got eaten, even if all the potato part did not. I recommend this as a good share for more than two people.
You definitely see certain themes on this menu—a lot of pork and a lot of mustard. Luckily we like both of those things a lot. Your vegetarian options are more limited, but the two we had (the salad and the spatzle) were actually the best two dishes of the night. So there you go.
I feel like this place flies under the radar a bit with everything that’s opening up right now, but it’s totally worth a visit. I can’t wait to see what the next salad is.
1110 Shelby Street