Northwood brewpub tastefully combines old, new

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Why: Portland-based Laurelwood Brewing Co.’s Battle Ground location recently sold to Eric and Paula Starr. The Starrs have changed the name to Northwood Public House & Brewery and have repurposed the restaurant as a community-focused place to enjoy food and craft brews in a relaxing, social gathering place. The transition took place at the beginning of the month without any downtime, which has allowed business as usual for diners. Eric Starr has almost 35 years experience in the food and hospitality industry, and he has directed and managed several successful establishments.

Atmosphere: The main design elements and layout remain, but the decor takes on a slightly different personality with old-time logging photos. Upon entering the restaurant, a large photo mural of surface water instantly connects diners to the new nature theme. In the center of the dining space sits a large stammtisch table which, by definition and German tradition, is a table reserved for regular guests. The table is made of a single slab of wood and is hugely impressive in size and appearance. Seating options include booth, table and bar seating. A private room accommodates up to 45 people, and a loft has couch seating for up to 10. Seasonal patio dining is available as well. An activity area is provided for kids to busy themselves if eating is not at the top of their priorities.

What I tried: I settled on the fish tacos, substituting halibut for cod in the tacos. My dining companion had the barbecue pork sandwich with a salad instead of fries. For dessert, we tried the Kentucky bourbon pecan pie.

The halibut in the tacos was battered and deep-fried and the tacos, made with two white corn tortillas each, contained a small amount of sriracha sauce-coleslaw and a generous amount of onion-laden guacamole and pico de gallo. The portion of fish in each taco was balanced. The flavor of the deep-fried filet competed with the onions. A bit more coleslaw and fewer onions would likely have made the tacos more appetizing. A portion of slightly spicy black beans and Spanish rice were served alongside.

My dining companion enjoyed the pulled pork sandwich made on a Kaiser bun. The pork was doused in free-range red barbecue sauce, which has a sweet barbecue character that is absent a smoke flavor. Atop the pork were French fried onions, and a small amount of coleslaw was added to the sandwich. The meat was very lean, tender and juicy. The accompanying salad was made up mostly of dark greens, cucumber slices and grape tomatoes with croutons on top.

The pecan pie, drizzled with caramel, was scrumptiously sweet, and each bite had a hint of bourbon in it, which gave a delicious new flavor twist to this classic.

Other menu highlights beyond what I tried: In addition to the holdovers from Laurelwood, which are presently on the menu, new items will be added within the next 30 to 60 days to include additional seafood options and more local, seasonal and health-conscious choices. The slow-cooked St. Louis ribs served with coleslaw and beer-battered fries sounded delicious, as did the French dip sandwich made with roast beef and Tillamook white cheddar (you may add caramelized onions and portobello mushroom for $2).

Prime rib is served on Saturday after 4 p.m. for $17.95 – a $2 savings from Laurelwood’s prices.

Sushi options are available Friday.

Other observations: The same familiar faces of the former Laurelwood wait staff are employed at Northwood, delivering friendly service with the efficiency of experience.

Cost: Appetizers are $4.25 to $10.50. Salads start at $4.25 and top out at $15.75. Some salads are available in half as well as whole portions. Soup comes in a cup for $4.25, a bowl for $6.25 and a bread bowl for $8.25. A soup and salad combo costs $7.95. Entrees are $10.50 to $15.95. Sandwiches are $10.50 to $13.25. Burgers range from $9.95 to $14.95. Most desserts are $6, but cookies cost $1.50 each.

Hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday; 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

Where: 1401 S.E. Rasmussen Blvd., Battle Ground.

Telephone: 360-723-0937.

Web:www.northwoodpublichouse.com. Northwood also is on Facebook.

Health score: Northwood has received a pre-opening inspection, which isn’t scored, and is scheduled to receive a routine, scored inspection in the near future. 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.