Why: Next month will mark the 1-year anniversary of Low Bar in downtown Vancouver. The restaurant is owned and operated by three partners, each of whom is well-versed in the workings of the restaurant business, including start-ups, bartending, management and food preparation.
The menu reflects comfort food at its finest and most items are made from scratch, right down to the candied cherries used in the hand-crafted cocktails. Sauerkraut, corned beef, and hamburger buns are among some of the other offerings made on site.
Atmosphere: The vibe is casual, comfortable, and unhurried. Light fixtures produce a minimal amount of illumination, leaving the natural light that enters — or lack thereof — from the streetside windows. Several large-screen TVs, artwork and an odd selection of trinkets create a potpourri of focal interest.
What I tried: I tried the Waffle with Fried Chicken, and my dining companions had the Low Bar Burger and the Reuben sandwich. We also sampled the Pickled Veggie Plate selection from the happy hour menu, and for dessert we had the Berry Cranberry Pie and the Apple Ginger Lemon Pie.
The waffle reminded me of my homemade waffles, nothing better than that. It was accompanied by two pieces of fried chicken that were meaty, tender and savory.
My dining companion said his Reuben was quite possibly the best he's had. The corned beef was salty and tender, and generously added to the sandwich. The marbled rye bread was toasted perfectly and was not excessively greasy.
The Low Bar Burger, a favorite of diners, is made with the house ground beef, cheese, house-made pickles, onions, garlic aioli, lettuce and tomato. My dining companion chose cheddar over bleu and goat cheese and found the burger very satisfying.
Both the sandwich and the burger were served with jojos, which had a crisp exterior and soft, baked potato-like interior. Instead of a highly seasoned crust, the jojos were lightly breaded.
The Pickled Veggie Plate includes carrots, onions, asparagus, green beans and pineapple. Each veggie and fruit had its own distinct character and possessed a spicy, holiday type of flavor profile that tasted of spice and cinnamon.
The pies were scrumptious. Pie crusts at Low Bar are crafted with real butter instead of shortening, which renders a flaky pastry that tastes every bit like homemade. If you prefer a thick, hearty amount of crust, you will be impressed. Both of the pie fillings were pleasant -- the berry cranberry was both sweet and tart, and the apple ginger lemon was sweet with a hint of citrus.
Menu highlights beyond what I tried: The Mac and Cheese, made with a creamy vodka and sharp cheddar sauce and crispy onions (you may add bacon as well) has become a favorite of regular diners. Low Bar offers house-made falafel for the Falafel sandwich on pita bread and a delicious-sounding French toast made out of bread pudding. The breakfast sandwich is made with either bacon or house-made ground sausage, cheese and egg on a fresh-baked buttermilk biscuit.
Other observations: Orders are placed at the counter and delivered to tables. I found this convenient to be able to immediately order additional items instead of waiting for wait staff to stop by the table.
Our meal took a bit longer to arrive than anticipated but everything was worth the wait and the quality of made-from-scratch food offerings surpassed the typical restaurant fare.
I am a purist regarding maple syrup, so I was thrilled to discover Low Bar only serves real maple syrup. In my opinion, this speaks volumes.
If you are used to giant, unhealthful portions, I recommend you adjust your expectations. Think healthful quality and the prices will be right in line with what you are served.
The single downside of my visit was the table top. It presented a tacky texture that I don't find particularly appealing and detracts from the appearance of cleanliness.
Cost: Menu selections start at $3 and top out at $10.50, other than the fried chicken, which ranges from two pieces for $9 up to 10 pieces for $33.
Hours: 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. daily. The bar menu is served 3 p.m. to 11 p.m.
Where: 809 Washington St., Vancouver.
Health score: Low Bar received a score of 5 on July 17. Zero is a perfect score, and Clark County Public Health closes restaurants with a score of 100 or higher. For information, call 360-397-8428.