With the weather this summer lending itself to outdoor eating, it seemed like the perfect time to climb into the old elevators in the Fountain Square Building and dine al fresco on the roof beneath the setting sun. And it turns out that the Rooftop Garden Restaurant offers more than just a great view of the city.
For the uninitiated, the building's roof is covered by a patchwork deck the runs the entire expanse of the building. On the right night, with a gentle breeze, a collection of good people, and a sturdy pair of sunglasses, you'll never want to leave.
The Rooftop Garden Restaurant is a summer extension of the same building's first floor gastro-pub, The End of the Line, and thus offers the same dinner menu. We started with an order of the fresh baked pretzel sticks ($7.50) accompanied by Havarti dill and Stout beer sauces. True to their word, the pretzel sticks were freshly baked and almost too hot to handle when they arrived - and they're good enough to put The Rathskeller on notice. The only disappointments of the entire meal were the dipping sauces: The Stout beer was weak and the Havarti dill fell well short of its potential.
For our main dishes we settled on half a rack of Carolina Style Baby Back Ribs ($13), the Gooey Spinach Melt ($10) and the Thai pizza ($10). A Gingham salad went along with the ribs, and its generously portioned mix of mixed greens, blueberries, strawberries, mandarin oranges (all fresh), toasted pecans, and real blue cheese finished off with a poppy seed vinaigrette was the second straight strong offering from the kitchen.
The star of the meal was the Carolina Style Baby Back Ribs. Proponents of marinated and sauce-laden ribs may be converted by this dry-rubbed, slow-roasted, perfectly charred half-rack. The mustard style BBQ sauce - more mustard than BBQ - had a strong opening presence of Dijon, while a familiar tang of BBQ sauce brought home each meaty bite.
The thin crust Thai pizza rewarded us for eschewing its Cajun counterpart. The slightly and intentionally burnt crust added another level to the already intense combination of peanut and sweet chili sauces. Crisp matchstick carrots and peppers atop water chestnuts, ginger, green onions and sesame seeds all found different parts of the palate to stimulate.
The Gooey Spinach Melt is precisely that, and worthy of a doggie bag due to its base of Texas toast-sized cuts of marbled rye. The spinach dip had a helpful crunch thanks to large chunks of water chestnut, and the alfalfa sprouts and diced tomatoes offered enough freshness to leave us mostly guilt free when attacking a fist-sized side order of no-frills, well-executed white cheddar mac and cheese.
With the meal going so well and the view only getting better, we felt skipping dessert would be a disservice. Our honest, friendly server recommended the Lemon Bar ($6) as a personal favorite. We took his hint and added the House Made Cheesecake ($6) in the name of research. The Lemon Bar had a custard consistency making it lighter than most, and the homemade kiwi sauce on top could not have been better. The Cheesecake was likewise lighter than most of its gut-busting brethren, and while the wedge was generous in size, it proved easy to dismantle due to the lemon zest throughout, which helped curb the richness. A light caramel drizzle made a sweet addition to the bites that made its acquaintance.
The prices seemed fair at the start, and better with each moment of the retreating sun. The service, while perhaps unique to our server and his tableside manner, is excellent. And the food deserves all kinds of superlatives, but suffice to say that it's really damn good.