Bar food, am I right? Just an endless parade of the same burgers, nachos, and wings that you’d get at the local Chili’s or Applebee’s to soak up whatever mass-market lager you’re drinking. Berry Street Ice House, a new establishment at the corner of Berry Street and 8th Avenue where the reopened Moon Bar used to be, would seem to promise more of the same, but it has a few twists on its menu that distinguish it from the crowd of TCU hangouts. If only it had more.
The roomy interior has TVs on which you can watch the big game, but if (like me) you’re not comfortable with inside dining just yet, the establishment also has plentiful outside seating on unvarnished wood tables and benches, with cornhole boards and other outdoor bar entertainment. The traffic noise from the street didn’t bother me — what did was the extensive amount of bro country playing over the speakers. You could seriously sit through an entire meal without hearing a single female voice. That’ll wear your ears out.
Among the appetizers, the quesadillas were mostly forgettable, while Mama G’s nachos were made with Doritos, which came with so much melted pepper jack cheese and pickled jalapeños on top that the Doritos taste got lost. They might as well have been made with regular tortilla chips. Speaking of which, the kitchen’s house-made chips are the best app it has to offer, because of the accompanying sauces. The standard fire-roasted salsa was unusually heavy on the lime juice, which I found I quite liked. For an additional $3, you can order their guacamole or queso with the chips, though my favorite was the addictive Prairie Fire bean dip, so named because habaneros give it a kick without melting your face. I don’t usually go in for bean dip, but I’d eagerly order this again.
Salads are often just pro forma in places like these, and the Berry Street Caesar I ordered was no exception to that. (Might have been better if there had been actual berries in it.) The wings came in the flavors you’d expect, but I received a welcome curveball from the Cajun coffee-rub variety. Typically, you find coffee rubs on steak, but the rub’s earthy notes worked on the wings, introducing a new twist to the overly familiar Cajun mix.
The sandwiches could use a similar tweak. I ordered one of the kitchen’s highlighted entrees, the Frog burger, and found that the use of duck fat and white cheddar cheese didn’t do all that much to make this stand out from the herd of burgers. The dish came with a toothpick that went through the top sesame and poppy seed bun and the two patties, but it wasn’t long enough to reach the bottom bun. What’s the point of a toothpick if it can’t hold the sandwich together so you can pick it up? Accompanying the burger were waffle fries that were so heavily seasoned with paprika that I initially thought the server had brought me sweet potato fries by mistake. They were still fried up crispy the way I like them.
It really was a mistake when I was initially served the restaurant’s Chicago dog, which stood on my table just long enough for me to notice the artful presentation of the pickles, peppers, and relish atop the meat. I actually ordered the Michigan Coney Island dog, which I’m told is a tribute to the chef’s Detroit roots. I’m ashamed to say I was previously unaware of the extensive variety of hot dogs created inside the borders of the Wolverine State. The kitchen’s version of the Michigan Coney is closest to the Motor City’s, with a Coney Island “sauce” that’s a layer of dry chili meat topped with yellow mustard and finely grated onion. Served inside thick toasted bread instead of a bun, this is a different take on the hot dog experience that you’ll be hard pressed to find elsewhere in our parts.
The bar has a decent selection of rotating craft beer on tap, and out back is the Berry Street Dessert Trailer, which is technically a separate business but is located on the property and keeps the bar’s hours. To compensate for the kitchen’s lack of desserts, you can go back to the trailer and order soft-serve ice cream as well as Sno-Cones and milkshakes that can be spiked with liquor for a more adult sweet. All this makes Berry Street Ice House a nice place to gather, with prices that college students can easily afford. A little more innovation would make it a great place.
House-made tortilla chips & fire roasted salsa $5
Berry Street Caesar $7
Wings (5) $8
Frog burger $11
Michigan Coney Island dog $11