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THE TELL-TALE REVIEW: Poe’s Tavern exhibits poetry on a plate

Edgar Allan Poe once said, “All that we see or seem is but a dream within a dream.” I think what he meant was: Enjoy his restaurant while WB’s off-season is in full force.

“Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there, wondering, fearing, doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before…”

VEGGIE BURGERS WITH A PUNCH: Poe’s Tavern is known for their handmade veggie burgers, which don’t disappoint. Photo by Kyle Peeler

VEGGIE BURGERS WITH A PUNCH: Poe’s Tavern is known for their handmade veggie burgers, which don’t disappoint. Photo by Kyle Peeler

And then I ordered nachos.

Let’s back up.

Months ago I was driving toward downtown after a chilly walk on the beach. Out of the corner of my eye, I spotted a gleaming white sign hanging from a building with a vacant parking lot. I squinted. “Poe’s,” I whispered to myself.

A few weeks later I drove by the same location, apparently now open to the public, to find a heaping crowd of people on an outdoor patio. They laughed and sipped sudsy golden brews, as they lowered thin shoestring onion strands into their mouths.

“OK,” I said. “I’m in.”

After weeks of politely harassing my editor about reviewing this mysterious tavern, she finally announced an adequate amount of time had passed for them to work out any kinks of opening a new restaurant. I prepared my stretchy pants and began my search for Poe’s online menu. While I wasn’t able to find a clear list of items, I did find on the Poe’s Yelp page the owner himself had replied to many—if not all—of the not-so-enthusiastic posts. With pure politeness and professionalism, he tactfully responded to each one, with an apology and explanation the establishment had just opened and was still finding its bearings. Before I even stepped foot inside of this restaurant’s doors, I was impressed already.

And then I ordered nachos.

Sure, my cat could sprinkle triangle chips with cheese, throw them into a microwave, and call them “nachos.” In other words, it’s pretty hard to screw up nachos. It’s equally challenging to create memorable nachos. Poe’s: Ya done did it! Edgar’s Nachos are a mound of multicolored tortilla chips, layered with a generous amount of creamy Jack cheese, savory homemade chili, pico de gallo, tangy guacamole, and spicy jalapeños. I’m not saying Poe’s reinvented the wheel on this one, but they certainly dished out a solid app. The generous starter is made for sharing but could easily be a meal for one. The “drunken chili” (deeply colored and slightly sweet) came with finely ground meat, for slightly less spillage, and a hint of hoppy tang.

Speaking of hops, diners will want to post-beach it at Poe’s, even if it’s a liquid dinner they’re after. We all know the man of the hour had a soft spot for booze, so I’d like to take a moment to say, “Bless you, Edgar.” Thanks to his fondness for frothy libations (plus, a recent eruption of Wilmy’s craft beer business) Poe’s Tavern mans up to the challenge with a solid lineup of brews and a hip, modern ambiance to boot. A handful of their taps are familiar favorites (Stella, Goose Island IPA, Yuengling), but they have big league players, like Ballast Point’s always-perfect Sculpin, Founder’s All Day IPA and Stone’s Ruination (which trust me, on an empty stomach, a “ruination” it will be).

The tavern prides themselves on being a gourmet burger and fries bar. Game on, Poe! At the suggestion of my friendly server, I ordered the Black Cat Burger, hand-cut fries and a side of their homemade ranch to dip my face into. When the massive sandwich arrived, I lifted the smothered burger to my mouth and fully committed to its glory. By the time I set the puffy bun back down on its plate, there was a streak of pimiento cheese from the corners of my mouth to my ears—and chili in my hair. It was totally worth it. The patty itself offered a gleaming half-pound of meat (ground in-house) and expertly was cooked to a rosy medium-rare. The fattiness of the salty bacon and buttery grilled onions was cut with crisp, briny dill-pickle slices. The ranch tasted garlicky, herby, and thick. In short, paired with a chilly, citra-hopped IPA, this meal was off to a slam-drunk.

Highlighted on the menu was Edgar’s veggie burger. Seeing as Poe’s beef burgers obviously were show stealers, I decided to take on the meatless masterpiece. The burger mixed black beans, red peppers, sweet red onions, basil, and garlic into a patty with an excellent crisp exterior and fluffy, flavor-packed insides. I ordered mine “Amontillado style”: guacamole, jalapeños, Jack cheese, pico de gallo, and chipotle sour cream. The sting of the raw onions and oozy velvety cheese enhanced every bite. Vegetarian or not, anyone would be satisfied. I opted for a side salad with housemade basil dressing. The salad itself was simple (crunchy greens, sliced bell peppers and red onions), and the creamy green dressing was sweet, floral and light.

Through the magic of social-media stalking, it pleased me to find Poe’s Tavern gets their fresh catch straight from Mott’s down the road. That being said, I knew fish tacos were a must-try for the meal. I sampled two out of three: the citrus marinated mahi-mahi and spiced yellowfin tuna. Both were prepared with a crunch from shredded cabbage and a creamy smear of chipotle sour cream. The tuna taco had the upper hand, thanks to an extra zip of pineapple relish. Overall, both fish were skillfully cooked and fresh as could be. The mahi was moist and the tuna was seared to an A+ rare. For those who like it hot, the Buffalo shrimp taco with marinated bacon-blue cheese cole slaw is supposedly also a fan favorite.

Edgar Allan Poe once said, “All that we see or seem is but a dream within a dream.” I think what he meant was: Enjoy his restaurant while WB’s off-season is in full force. With inspired pub grub and an outdoor patio screaming “day drinking,” Poe’s is about to be everybody’s new jam.

DETAILS:
Poe’s Tavern
212 Causeway Dr.
(910) 509-2739
Mon.-Sun.: 11 a.m.-12 a.m.
www.poestavern.com

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Encore Magazine regularly covers topics pertaining to news, arts, entertainment, food, and city life in Wilmington. It also maintains schedules and listings of local events like concerts, festivals, live performance art and think-tank events. Encore Magazine is an entity of H&P Media, which also powers Wilmington’s local ticketing platform, 910tix.com. Print and online editions are updated every Wednesday.

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