Huck's American Craft has multi-regional focus

So you're not going to be able to take that road trip you've been planning for this summer—the one where you eat your way across the country, sampling cheese curds in Wisconsin, fried ravioli in St. Louis, Frito pie in Texas (granted that would be a lot of driving). No matter. It's possible to stay local and nosh instead in Brewer's Hill, where Huck's American Craft (3718 Hudson St, [443] 438-3380, hucksmaericancraft.com) has your regional culinary cravings covered.

A collaboration between Charlie Gjerde, his wife Lori Gjerde, and Lori's sister Carrie Podles (Podles and Charlie Gjerde also own Papi's Tacos and Alexander's Tavern), Huck's pays tribute to the broad appeal of American bar food. The menu name checks at least a dozen cities or states, and that translates into choices like Iowa corn chowder and California spinach salad, a Minnesota Juicy Lucy (that's a cheese-stuffed burger for the uninitiated) or a Texas Picnic (shredded beef barbecue served up on toast), San Francisco cioppino, Philly cheesesteak, or Buffalo, New York wings. Oddly enough, there are few, if any, offerings that nod to Maryland.

The menu is accompanied by a soundtrack of classic rock, local baseball on the televisions, local brews on tap, and reasonable prices (daily specials, including $3 off of burgers and drafts on Tuesday, feel like a bargain) which makes for a pretty comfortable corner tavern (save for service, which, on the night we dined, was well-meaning, but over-extended and rather forgetful—I'd love to tell you about the Frito Pie, but it never showed up on our table). Portions are also generous. The tasty Philly cheesesteak ($11), bound together with a tangy beer-spiked cheese fondue, but lacking a good dose of hots, clocks in at a pound of shaved Angus beef. A sub roll overflowing with fat little bubbles of Ipswich clam bellies ($13)—a real treat to see on a menu when so many places only offer clam strips—prompts the restaurant's genial, chatty chef, Rob Suk, to make yet another trip up the stairs to the second floor kitchen to retrieve a steak knife to cleave the sandwich in two. Otherwise, how to get it into your mouth?

Huck's offers their own take on pizza, serving up pies with a thin pretzel dough crust, and Suk tells us he is delighted that someone at our table ordered the pretzel pie with lox ($12). He cures the salmon himself in a mixture of citrus rind, herbs, vodka, and sugar, he explains, and he admits to having to exercise extreme willpower to keep from nibbling on the fish all day. I applaud him because the lox is lovely and as addictive as he suggests. That said, a lox pretzel pie with red onion, fresh tomatoes, and spinach does not in any way resemble a traditional pizza. This is not a bad thing, but be aware that only the crust is baked and the rest of the toppings are piled on top, making a terrific brunch entrée.

Huck's also makes the case that chicken and waffles ($12) might be the ultimate comfort food dish. Suk's version boasts piping hot breaded chicken breast smothered in a peppery gravy that is a bit too rich. I also wish there were a way to keep the waffles crisper. Perhaps a touch less gravy? Or gravy over the chicken but not the waffles? Still, neither the purple potato fries, which accompanied the clam roll and should have been hotter, nor the cioppino ($16.50), whose broth tasted more like tomato sauce than a well-seasoned stock, could compete with the chicken.

Desserts at Huck's read like a list of summer state fair offerings: an adult root beer float; red white and blue berry shortcake, and a fried Twinkie ($4). The latter is better than you might think, especially if you subscribe to the adage that everything is better fried. The cup of huckleberry icing on the side seems overkill, though, considering the Twinkie is dusted in confectioners sugar with a dab of chocolate fondue on the side.

Despite its multi-regional focus, Huck's still feels of this city and of the neighborhood. The space is snug with a bar, a few high tops, and a handful of tables, and when you walk out the door, content with beer and food, Mr. Boh, lit up in the sky, winks down over the blocks of row houses. You may have traveled far afield for your dinner, but now you're home.

Huck's American Craft is open seven days for breakfast (all day), lunch, and dinner.

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