Dutch Goose has officially delivered me a sucker punch.
Last Wednesday afternoon, it was a quick one-two double tap smack. When I went back for a rematch on Friday, I got the full-on bitch slap.
Funny thing is, the odds were stacked in my favor since Dutch Goose was, I thought, merely a watering hole with a flat top; the foodie in me went in expecting marginal pub food.
But I'd like to think I took my ego-deflating beating with grace.
It started with the turpin ($7.25), a curiously named hot sandwich I plucked without much consideration from the daily specials on a dry erase board to sate the persistent hankering I've recently had for canned green chilies. The Goose sandwiched them between grilled turkey and melted cheese, slipped it all between a grilled hoagie, and suddenly I was paying attention.
Years ago, friends and I would proclaim one Thursday a year dive-bar night. Essentially, we'd work our way down State Street and giggle all the way to Eagle. The annual nonsense took place on Thursday because that was the night to drink beer at Dutch Goose. Because of those trips, until I got this assignment (begrudgingly, I'll admit), I had no idea I could get anything other than beer and clams at the Goose (silly, yes, but let's remember I was there for the liquid, not the lunch).
Aside from being known as a damn fine place to drink beer, Dutch Goose has cultivated a reputation for finger steaks and clams. Knowing the other BW reviewer would tackle the clams, I took on the finger steaks as my mission. On recommendation from the owner, who let slip that his finger steaks follow the original Torch recipe, I ordered the entree ($7.75): finger steaks, french fries and a side salad. An Idaho outsider, I've never understood Gem Staters' enthusiasm for the finger steak or fry sauce, but a decade into my residency here, I think I have a solid understanding of a quality finger steak. Dutch Goose does well. Marks for light, well-seasoned batter; high marks for tender, hand-cut meat. (For the record, the chicken strips are also hand cut.) But I get paid for honesty, so here it is, as honest as it gets: Good as those finger steaks were, not a morsel of fried meat at the Goose or anywhere else in town could have bested the Goose's hoagie sandwiches.
Without exaggeration, I get asked about once a week where to find the best ____ (fill in the blank). Sometimes, it's an ethnic dish a recent transplant is craving. Other times, it's a national magazine looking for the best burger. Most often, it's a reader on a quest for a hot sandwich. Had I only been to the Goose for food before last week, I would've known where to send all those inquirers.
Turpin? For sure. Even better is the Snake River ($7.25). Stacked with pastrami, ham, salami and cheddar cheese grilled and served on a mustard-slathered toasty hoagie with mayo, lettuce, tomato and onion, it's the sandwich I'm plotting a return to first chance I get. The sandwich I keep hearing about is the double burger ($7). Two beef patties from Snake River Farms side by side on one of those grilled hoagies has my regular dining companion in some sort of Dutch Goose burger trance. For more than a week, he's been requesting an encore.
As for the rest of my Dutch Goose match, pepper sums it up best. Spicy deviled eggs (75 cents), hot wings ($6.75) and homemade chili (with burger as well as chunks of beef for a little extra protein) are for the diner with a hefty approval for the peppercorn. All are fine accompaniments, but to get the fullest from your Dutch Goose experience, consider something on a hoagie. And keep your expectations up, lest the Goose school you, too.
—Rachael Daigle was a hoagie bogey before last week.
A balding man in his mid-40s, George Costanza-esque, gazes distantly at the green while pushing a toothpick from one corner of his mouth to the other. You can hear the snagging crunch of Velcro as he secures first his left, then his right, white leather glove. No, this isn't a close up of a PGA golfer steadying his shot—it's a foosball showdown at Dutch Goose.
Dutch Goose, simply the Goose in the evening, stands near the corner of State and Veterans' Memorial Parkway. Its innocuous boxy exterior, fading, vaguely sexual signage ("steamed clams" "finger steaks") and side parking all help conceal the dive's enormous popularity. On a recent Tuesday night, a friend and I lurched open the Goose's heavy metal door by its horseshoe handle and adjusted our eyes to the neon glow inside. Though the place seemed like it would be thick with stale smoke and hunchbacked "Hey, beautiful"-bellowing stool swivelers, it was packed with an assortment of families, college kids and hardcore, game-driven guys, like Mr. Foosball. Most nights, Dutch Goose doesn't have table service, just a large menu, a specials board and 18 beers on tap. We were there on two-for-one burger night, "you buy the fries, we buy the second burger," and pairs of patties and buns spattered on the open grill. According to the young woman taking orders, the SOB Burger ($6.25)—melty pepper jack and mild green Ortega chiles on a quarter-pound burger—is a popular choice, and, a seemingly odd staple for an inland pub, the steamed clams, are another favorite. We ordered a small bowl of the clams ($12) with garlic bread and calamari ($6.50, sans fries).
Scooting into our booth, we poured ourselves a couple glasses of dark amber Deschutes Brewery Buzzsaw Brown ale from a pitcher ($9.25) and got to watching the riveting games of foosball, pool and Buck Hunter Safari happening near our nook. Though all the action was concentrated inside on this particular late-winter night, the Goose does have a back patio with numerous octagonal high tables that are packed on summer evenings. We retrieved our order after it crackled out of the intercom, tucked a couple napkins into our blouses and dove into the bowl of clams. While the broth was unsettlingly murky—a watery gray/brown lagoon with pungent raw onions bobbing up and down—the clams were still flavorful after a squirt of lemon and a dunk into a melted butter bath. The accompanying garlic bread was a doughy butter sponge that we tore at periodically without much interest, opting instead for the chicken-tender-shaped deep-fried calamari. The calamari was a strangely delicious mystery (what part of the squid is it?) that we preferred not to solve. Only slightly full after finishing these two dishes, I swore to return on a Friday and give the Goose's signature fried halibut and chips a try.
At around 1 p.m. on a Friday, the Goose was once again packed. Even with a few tendrils of light seeping into the space, it retained its pub-y charm. The halibut fish and chips ($9.75) came out steaming—flaky white nuggets hugged by a crunchy beer batter on a leafy pile of homemade potato chips. The chips were excellent, minimally seasoned and still soft in some spots, and the accompanying side salad was welcome roughage to offset the fatty, filling entree. While the daytime clientele had shifted to the Coke-swilling office set, with a sprinkling of bar flies and tatted pretty young things, I could tell the Goose was bracing itself for the evening's revelry—the Big Buck Hunter tournament. Gloves optional.
—Tara Morgan wants to double dutch with some Dutch geese.