Review: The Mint Gastropub

by theelvee_w2oe3m

The Mint had a lot of promise even before it put up a sign:  an economic development liquor license granted to them for a fraction of the cost they might otherwise have paid, an interesting concept of turning a dumpy-looking bank into an upscale restaurant, and then there’s that vault they spoke of converting into wine storage.   Then they went and did something stupid, they threw the word “gastropub” on the end of the name.

The Mint Gastropub, as it’s now deemed, has quite a ways to go to get up to par.  The décor is there, and it’s pretty.  Refreshingly modern in a way few places in the valley are, the molecular lights spread throughout the dining area and the green cubist ones in the bar/lounge section dimly light a smart interior.  Al fresco dining along an unsightly stretch of Broad Street is refreshing, but still ugly.  It’s not too loud and indeed seems to be a fairly relaxing atmosphere.  It’s smaller than I thought it would be, but it’s spread out enough that it’s not a bother.  Just be prepared to wait if you don’t have a reservation.  Although it seemed a bit odd, it was nice having five flat screen TVs behind the bar to gaze at.

The service here, to put it lightly, is immature and faulty.  On the first visit our server forgot silverware, dropped the food on the still slightly-damp outdoor table, and placed it right back on the plate.  For unknown reasons our water was poured from a pretty, large frosted water bottle.  The bottle was then whisked away instead of leaving it to refresh our glasses (for which we needed to ask to be done).  On a subsequent visit I was met with more apologies and aloofness: repeated apologies that my order was taking so long, again with the silverware, and a bartender trying (and failing) at hitting on customers.  There’s also the gem that I heard a waitress lay chipperly on a table behind me, “Yeah, it seems we’re always out of something good!”

So the food, how was the food?  It was good, if mediocre.  The corn dogs were perhaps the highlight of the food here.  The delicious faux-Kobe beef hot dogs were surrounded in batter fried just right, giving a slightly crispy, soft-on-the-inside texture topped off by just the lightest hint of salt.  They were accented well by a particularly pungent truffled mustard.  The Muscovy duck confit was run-of-the-mill, if perhaps a little too well done.  The skin was crispy and delicious but the meat didn’t pair well with the perfectly cooked, but tasteless, potatoes and blackberry gastrique.  The potato chips failed to impress and it seemed as though half were too well done and the other half were limp and dismal.  A Spring Chicken sandwich, which was supposed to have bacon, was mysteriously devoid of it.  On another visit a dessert of PBJ Bread Puddin’ proved to be the biggest bomb of all:  Titanic in size, cavity-inducing in sweetness.  The peanut butter infused bread piled in an enormous mound on the plate was topped by, what seemed like, reduced Smucker’s concord jelly.  Add to that a glob boring strawberry whip on the side and you’ve got the makings for a gut-busting affair that is hard to choke down.

The one place they go right here, but oh-so-wrong is the drinks.  The beer list is great.  Bringing in an old staffer from the deceased Tap & Table, they’ve taken what should have been a great wine and cocktail joint and somehow forced it into being a faux-beer establishment.  They’ve been touting that they’re the only place to have the, admittedly great, Victory Donnybrook Stout.  It’s a stupidly tasty Guinness replacement that amazingly clocks in only at 3.7%, allowing you to down a few and not get too drunk.   The draft lift consists mainly of Victory brews, which as good as they are and as much as I love Victory, is a bit of a downer.

The wine list is OK, a bit unvaried.  It relies mainly on Californian fruit bombs.  The cocktail list here looks pretty good.  I was quite excited to give it a try because it doesn’t seem to be your typical sugary messes.  It looks like some thought actually went into these and it’s a shame that not more thought goes into making them.  I watched as, cocktail-after-cocktail, the bartender freepoured drinks and measured nary a drop of alcohol.  I had a Charthusian, a blend of Green Chartreuse, gin, lemon juice, and rosemary.  It was so unbalanced and messy it took me an eternity to finish it.  I also heard the bartender dropping such gems as, “I’ve never used a strainer in my life…it’s a personal preference and it’s not like it changes the taste of the drink anyways!”  Sir, the men down at The Bookstore would like to speak with you.

What I’m mainly trying to get at here is that they’ve fouled up in their focus.  Somehow they switched from “hey we’re going to have this awesome wine cellar in our vault” to “look at all of our different beers!  We’ve also got cocktails and wine!”  I admire that places want to stock good beer, and the more good beer to go around the better.  The atmosphere, décor, and the food would indicate that they’d be better off getting some real mixologists, not bartenders leftover from The Firehouse and Tally Ho, and making their inventive drinks the right way.  They’d also do good to beef up the wine list, vary it, and have someone in-house at all times who knows exactly what the hell he’s talking about.  Keep some good beer, pare down the list, and put it on the backburner.

If they want to really get on the “gastropub” kick they’re going to need to get a lot more bottles (which, according to LVCraftBeer, they’re doing) and get more taps.  For the love of god, they need proper glassware.  Dumping a Sam Adams into the same glass that you’re putting a Liefmans Goudenband in simply won’t do.  Do more to attract the beer geeks.  They’ve done one dinner with Victory so far, but Victory is an easy get and all the beer nerds have had their stuff before.  I’m positive if you’d take a look at their sales that liquor and wine make up the majority of it, not craft beer.  With a the middle-aged and up crowd I observed, they’re not exactly attracting the “beer geek” clientele.  Once they start bringing in casks, getting some seriously out-there breweries, bringing some beer that you’re not going to find next door at Abe’s, and getting some proper vessels to dump it all in, then maybe I’ll respect their “gastropub” add-on.  To call it that now would be a joke.

The service needs some serious, serious work.  In my two visits I saw very few older people in the restaurant working.  A young, smart, sexy staff is great, but you need to have someone well-seasoned to run something like this.  I watched as a team of no less than five people cleared a table.  In two visits I was told “sorry” by the wait staff no less than five times.  I don’t want to hear sorry, I want the service to not suck so bad.  They’d do well to enact a far more rigorous training program and teach the do’s and don’ts of what people want to hear and see when dining at an expensive restaurant.  And the food?  I’m sure the food will get there.  This is one of the first iterations of their menu, but for a place that’s been open for weeks the food should be more consistent than it is and be, well, better.  The atmosphere here seems pretty great.  So to sum it all up we’ve got terrible service, mediocre food, great beer list, eh wine list, and bad drinks.  Hopefully they seriously step things up in the future because it’s a nice place that has potential and they’re not even close to reaching critical mass right now.

Final Rating:

The Mint Gastropub
1223 W. Broad St
Bethlehem, PA 18018

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Joseph Kola July 11, 2011 - 7:45 am

and their website is still under construction….

Missy July 11, 2011 - 2:38 pm

I appreciate the fact that you put together multiple visits before compiling your review. It wouldn’t be fair or accurate to base your review on a single visit. That being said, I’m not sure how feasible it is for new concepts to excel when it appears they are currently dabbling in many different niches. Are they gonna be a beer bar or upscale dining with a well thought out wine list? Tap and Table-esque or the Level 3 annex? Actual gastropub or another watered-down fake?

I think when they determine their most financially feasible niche, this is when they can trim the fat and get good in a specific format. I’m just not sure how it will mesh with this Economic Development license, which incidentally caps liquor sales at 30% of gross income. That isn’t gonna bode well if they wanna focus on the small plate, late night concept, or even the cocktail crowd.

The El Vee July 11, 2011 - 3:17 pm

Agreed on they need to find their niche, I think that was touched upon well in the review. I actually wasn’t aware of that 30% rule but that’s going to be a killer on them. Trying to make 70% of profits as food/non-alcoholic drinks, I would wage, is going to be difficult when you’re selling upscale drinks for $8 and lots of wine/beer.

Also, if time/funds allow I try to visit a place more than once, however the site is entirely self-funded so sometimes it simply can’t be done. If I do end up just making one visit I try to be as attentive as possible to not only my service but that of those around me to get an accurate assessment.

Jason July 11, 2011 - 9:14 pm

Not only was this a fair and accurate review, it showed the faults and potential clean-up that would be needed to make this establishment it’s own identity in the “whatever” dining profile they are going for. Just by the ambience alone, forget about the food or beverage offerings, this should never be labeled a “gastropub”… neons, pastels, and that 70’s modern “bring back” feel could be directed in a more precise direction. In my opinion, out of place for the demographic… but would rock as a gastro-diner. Not something being done here in the Valley yet… great comfort food cleaned up with a twist, beers and wine to boot. The whole feel of the place would support it.

West Ender July 12, 2011 - 5:42 pm

i wish The Mint good luck. I think it’s a great place and well over-due for the residents of beautiful West Bethlehem.
However, I do agree with your review, especially about the use of the word “gastropub.” It is a trite word in any Metropolis, and used in the Lehigh Valley as a vague, buzz word — and more pretentiously as a sub-title. Thanks to the short-lived contribution of Tap and Table, the word here is now also associated with a bible-sized beer menu. if anything at all, “gastropub” should describe a watering hole that specializes in the Ecclectic: Beer, Wine, Spirits, Cocktails, and Pub Fare. i have yet to see a place in the Valley that accurately accomplishes that criteria.

Sam July 25, 2011 - 8:06 am

I could not agree more with your review. I am one of those “beer geeks” and I to say that I was disappointed is an understatement. I ran into the same problem with the lack of knowledge behind the bar. Their glassware is suffering big time. Then were to I go with their tap lines and beer selection. All the beer is Victory or Sam Adams. Also what gastropub has PBR on their beer list? And to make it worse they attempt to make it sound like it should be their with a description, “Corn, golden”. That is a joke along with themselves calling a gastropub. I will not be returning.

RJ August 2, 2011 - 8:58 am

The location is fantastic, right across from ABEs it should make a happy stop for the beer lover. I drove right by the place when looking for it, they could work on the outside a little to make it look less like a bank. My meal was just okay, at $10-20 for an entree the food needs to be better. If they’re in buisness in 6 months I’ll give them another try.

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Tired September 4, 2011 - 10:44 pm

Gastropub simply means a bar or traditionally an English style pub with food you would see in a michelin star restaurant in London. Check out the spotted pig in NYC that is a gastropub and guess what the had Budweiser and guiness on tap the last time I was there. Sure they had nice wine, cocktails and beers but the place is a food first bar and guess what they have a Michelin star. I’m so tired of hearing people slap gastropub on every beer bar or restaurant with a bar. When the valley truly gets a neighborhood bar with outstanding fine dinning food we can see our first gastropub.liberty st tavern in Allentown has good beers and when tap and table opened up and threw out the name gastropub guess what they added the name to their sign too. Liberty st. Tavern and gastropub but let’s be real it’s a pizza and college joint with nice beers. And to the mint your not a gastropub, You are trying to jump on the ban wagon of a fading trend in the culinary world. Valley restaurants need to ketch up to the times and stop throwing meaningless names and ideas out there years after they were popular in big cities. We have cocktails, micro brews, great wine list, Al fresco dining, rooftop bar, local food, organic (hahaha sounds like the valleys next big 6 month hit how about throwing in world cuisine or cosmopolitan food in a 6 floor giant compound). For you el vee spot on with your review of the food maybe they should have kept making pizza at stafanos, but do some research before you throw out terms like you need cask beer and something better then what abe’s has to call yourself a gastropub because guess what abe’s has pusa cafe great beer for and beer geek. This place is also looks like continental gone wrong.


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