Food & Drink » Restaurant Review

Local Legend

Legend skillfully walks the tricky line between restaurant and brewery.

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Before going to spend a few evenings at Legend, I called my buddy Ed Herrmann. Ed is the brewmaster at Upland Brewing Company in Bloomington, Ind. Ed is a beer guru. He has an understanding and love of beer and its production that borders on mystical. His enthusiasm is contagious. He gave me some tips on what to look and taste for. One thing we both agree on, it's all about the beer.

THE BEER

Legend's beers are unpasteurized, craft-brewed products made in small batches and meticulously monitored by head brewer Brad Mortensen and his crew. They are robust and potent, averaging about 6 percent alcohol by volume. I'm particularly enamored of the porter and Golden IPA (India Pale Ale.)

The porter is a thick, dark ale in the English tradition. Ed explained that people are often turned off by the drying effect that this beer has on the palate. To mitigate this, he explained, brewers use more sugar and don't roast the grain as long. Legend's porter abounds with chocolate and coffee flavors. It is a meal in itself. The Golden IPA offers a lighter-than-normal tint of this elixir. I'm a sucker for IPAs. Heavily hopped and very crisp, this bitter ale is a bit tamer than some, but still packs a wallop at 7 percent alcohol. It's a good example of Ed's assertion that part of the fun of brewing is finding different approaches to traditional styles. Legend also offers a Pilsener, brown ale and a lager as well as seasonal brews. Pints will set you back $3.25 and a one liter growler runs $8.95.

THE PLACE

Legend is a big place. The taproom is massive with a long bar and tables done in blond woods. It offers a mug-club, Tuesday night movies, free Saturday tours and a host of other special events that build the community spirit so essential to a brewpub. Ed believes that the key to a successful brewpub is making people feel that they are part of it, not just customers. Legend does this. You can feel it in the room and hear it in the banter between the patrons and staff. Legend is well-known for the patio overlooking downtown Richmond. I got a little freaked out, though, by those huge silver exhaust pipes at the factory next door. What was I breathing?

Most importantly, I saw beer guys. If you see everyday Joes sitting at a bar spending three or four dollars per pint, you know that the beer's got clout. I was comforted to see burly guys in painter's pants and shirts with name-patches. If you go to a brewpub at 6 p.m. on a Tuesday and see nothing but polo shirts and khakis, beware.

THE FOOD

It's fine. Nothing blew me away, but nothing needed to. The jambalaya ($9.99) was plentiful and spicy (more beer!). I liked the crab dip at first($7.49), but my lord it was salty (more beer!). It was good to see plenty of pretzels, brats, sausages, cheeses, fruity vinaigrettes and chutneys on the menu (more beer!). These are the flavors that play to beer. I would like to see beer recommendations on the menu for each entree. I agree with Ed that this is an absolute must. Overall, the food did what it should have done, filled my stomach and prepared my tongue for another quaff of ale. S



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