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Summer ale, winter grub

By Dr. Ink

The warm, cozy ambiance left behind by the Farm House Café a couple years ago is upheld at Circa. It’s actually been enhanced with additional antique appointments that include an old record player spinning out bluesy jazz — a perfect come-on to a relaxing happy hour.

Next to it on the bar is a vintage typewriter and a vat of house-made sangria. In the backdrop are four taps featuring a rotating selection of craft beer, any of which are dispensed in glass jars for $5 during happy hour.

Circa exteriorCirca beerOberon Ale by Bell’s Brewery was in the lineup on my recent visit. Produced in Michigan, the beer in that state represents the passage into summer due to its soft wheat flavor and lemon undertones. After feeling as though I’d been looking at life through a gray curtain, common during our gloomy months of May and June, I ordered it as a gesture of hope for clearer skies.

The sun never poked out that day, or the next. But the ale delivered the refreshing bang it promises while offering a much-needed departure from the scores of hoppy brands that have saturated my palate lately.

Circa poutineFive dollars also buys you a nosh from a small list of appetizers, which oddly includes wintry fare like oven-roasted bone marrow; house-made bratwurst with sauerkraut and ale mustard; and skillet potatoes.

There’s also poutine, a French-Canadian dish of french fries tossed in gravy and cheese curds that feels like a fuzzy sweater on chilly days. And it pairs swimmingly to beer of any style because of its high salt content.

Circa’s version struck a close match to versions I’ve had in Montreal, not to mention the classic recipe captured at Mess Royale in Hillcrest before it shuttered. The difference here is that a soft farmer’s cheese is used opposed to the traditional, squeaky curds preferred by Canadians. I actually liked Circa’s construct much better.

In addition to the beer and food deals, wines by the glass are $1 off their regular prices, which range from $7.50 for Chateau Haut Rian Bordeaux to $12.50 for a Napa merlot blend from Hill Estate.

The happy-hour bargains can be savored anywhere throughout the restaurant, although the experience is socially more intimate, like that of a pub, when landing a seat at the bar.

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