Tucked away in the brew haven known as Northern Liberties is a little piece of Belgique. Equal parts pub and restaurant, the Abbaye instantly makes you feel like a part of the neighborhood. Wooden tables and a copper-topped bar fill the rowdy front room, while the dim non-smoking section just around the bend provides more of a dining atmosphere. Classic pub posters, contemporary art pieces and simple furnishings create a cozy feel that allows you to focus on what really matters: food and beer.
Abbaye boasts a wide draft selection, with several Belgian and "Belgian-style" brews on tap nightly. Faced with everything from lighter than Corona ales, to medium red browns like the Omegang Hennepin Saison (which is worth ordering just so you can say its name), to deeper black-brown brews, the choice of what to drink may at first seem daunting. The obvious solution is to try some of everything. Light and sweet, Hoegaarden is always a safe place to start. Don't be afraid to try the Leffe Brown, which despite its dark-as-Guinness tint, goes down surprisingly easy and without any bitter aftertaste. A "Belgian-style" beer, the Ephemere Apple Ale is a perfect way to wash down your meal. Hints of apple cider in taste and smell emanate from this ale, delivering the double benefits of high alcohol content and delicious flavor.
Abbaye's affordable menu provides more than your average pub fare. There is something for everyone -- from comfort-food-like homemade Mac and Cheese ($3-5), to a smoked tofu sandwich ($8) and other vegan options. Entrees like the pork loin roast with apple cornbread stuffing and plum compote ($12) are offered up in generous portions. All entrees are served with butternut squash risotto and grilled asparagus, although sides and specials vary weekly.
For the true beverage connoisseur, however, what better to go along with good alcohol than food made with alcohol? The fresh mussels ($7) come in a tasty, less-sweet-than-your-typical white broth owing to a bit of fish stock added to the wine. For a heartier appetizer, try the Belgian Beer Chili ($8), made with garbanzos, kidney beans and ground beef. Absolutely essential to the Abbaye experience is the Belgian Beer Battered Fish and Chips ($12). The generous portion comes with a side of mixed greens and plenty of pomme frittes, just greasy enough and thinned to perfection. A dark crisp batter covers the two thick pieces of tender, white fish. Ketchup is always a dipping option, but for something special, alternate between the pub's own garlic mayo and bourbon sage mayo.
Top it all off with a little more indulgence. Both the walnut brownie -- balanced oh-so-well by a coconut chocolate sorbet -- and the chocolate caramelized bread pudding are ideal for chocolate lovers. Or, if you must abandon your Euro ways in the sake of an American classic, the sour cream apple pie with vanilla ice cream is always a solid choice (all $6).
The nonchalant but friendly service at this charming pub/restaurant makes first timers feel like regulars. The price is just right and the beer even better. A laid back drinking and dining destination, the Abbaye is sure to both intoxicate and satiate.