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  • Fried cheese curds from Chapman's Brewing Company on Falls Drive.

  • Parmesan and habanero-agave boneless wings from Chapman's Brewing Company on Falls Drive.

  • Bacon-cheese fries from Chapman's Brewing Company on Falls Drive.

  • Chapman's Brewing Company on Falls Drive.

  • Some funky artwork that is among the highlights of the atmosphere at Chapman's Brewing Company on Falls Drive.

  • Dessert chimichanga from Chapman's Brewing Company on Falls Drive.

  • Avocado burger from Chapman's Brewing Company on Falls Drive.

  • The bar at Chapman's Brewing Company on Falls Drive.

  • Bavarian pretzel from Chapman's Brewing Company on Falls Drive.

  • Fried mushrooms from Chapman's Brewing Company on Falls Drive.

  • Fish & Chips from Chapman's Brewing Company on Falls Drive.

Sunday, March 10, 2019 1:00 am

Southwest taproom features some standouts

RYAN DUVALL | The Journal Gazette

Chapman's Brewing Company

★★1/2

Out of a possible five

$$

As far as breweries go, there was nothing about Chapman's Brewing Company's taproom on Falls Drive near The Village at Coventry that really stood out as different.

It fit the template of many that have flooded the Fort Wayne market in recent years with an unintimidating menu featuring burgers, flatbreads and shareable snacks, an ever-changing selection of its own craft beers and an atmosphere that was modern and neat, though pretty streamlined and not overly original.

But there were two things that made it stand out: two of those appetizer/snacks that might have been the best versions offered in the Summit City.

The Bavarian soft pretzel was the perfect partner for a beer, made for a great appetizer and wouldn't be bad as a meal, either. This dark brown beauty was big, for starters, had a nice bubbly, crunchy exterior that was covered with coarse salt and the inside was perfectly soft. With a little cup of beer cheese, it was delicious.

The fried mushrooms were even better. These beer-battered beauties were also big as they were whole white button mushrooms, the coating was light and airy, but also flavorful. The tasty sriracha ranch dressing that came with them – and many other items – was an interesting spin on the American favorite.

After those gems, the rest of my experiences at Chapman's were inconsistent – especially when it came to the service.

During one visit, I had a splendid server who not only rushed to clear a table for my party after a busload of folks left the place – something he did not have to rush to do given my wait was not long – he was knowledgeable and personable.

On another visit, I had a server who was inattentive, had no idea what was what when it came to the menu and made the most basic of mistakes, such as failing to bring utensils and napkins before or after she delivered our appetizers. I had to flag down another employee to get them. There were two good things that server did, however.

First, she brought a little plain ranch dressing with my boneless habanero-agave wings instead of just the sriracha version. That came in handy as these little breaded chicken pieces were glazed with a flaming hot sauce that provided no sign of sweetness from the agave. The garlic-Parmesan wings were better and didn't even need ranch given they were coated with so much shredded Parmesan.

She also asked if I wanted to add bacon to my queso mac and cheese. Of course I did, and this dish was also worth heading back to the brewery to have again.

It had a thick, creamy cheese base that, incidentally, was a wonderful place to dip that pretzel. There were diced poblanos and bacon bits throughout, and it was made with shell pasta that was a bit overcooked, but not enough to really hurt it. It was topped with melted shredded cheese and a crispy chicharon crumble. I will ask for double bacon next time because a little more would have really made it a treat.

The sriracha ranch was the right mate for the fried cheese curds and was pretty good with the french fries served on the side with sandwiches.

The curds were beautifully battered with stringy, gooey cheese inside. The fries were decently crisp and proved to be a respectable side, but were better when topped with cheese and bacon as an appetizer.

There was another snafu – by the kitchen staff or the server who took the order – when my Avocado Burger arrived as a Grilled Avocado Chicken Sandwich and had to be sent back. When I got the burger, it was cooked well done – beyond saving. I was not asked what temperature I wanted, which was too bad because it was well seasoned, the avocado was plentiful and I would have enjoyed it a great deal had it been medium or medium rare.

I was also not impressed that the rest of my party had its entres and was able to nosh away for a good 10 minutes before my fish and chips arrived. Once they did, I was pretty happy, however.

The pollock was encapsulated in a Harvester blond ale batter that was perfect, just as it was on the mushrooms. The fish inside was moist and flaky, and the tartar sauce with it had a decent flavor, but could have used more pickle.

Dessert is not something I normally expect from a brewery, and Chapman's only offering was not worth trying.

The mini chimichanga was about as good as one of these Mexican restaurant staples can be, which isn't much, but, in addition to chocolate sauce, it was drenched in a raspberry sauce that tasted like cough medicine.

There was not a lot about Chapman's Brewing Company that surprised me in a way that made it truly stand out in this brewery-competitive market, but there were enough high points – the mushrooms, mac and cheese and fish – to lift it above many of its competitors and make it worth visiting again.

Restaurant: Chapman's Brewing Company

Address: 5735 Falls Drive

Phone: 855-597-6724

Hours: 11a.m. to 10p.m. Tuesday through Thursday; 11a.m. to 11p.m. Friday and Saturday; 11a.m. to 8p.m. Sunday

Cuisine: American

Handicapped accessible: Yes

Alcohol: Beer and wine

Credit cards: Yes

Kid-friendly: Yes

Menu: Pretzel ($6.49), cheese curds ($6.95), cheese-bacon fries ($6.45), mushrooms ($6.95), boneless wings ($9.45), mac and cheese ($8.95), avocado burger ($9.95), fish and chips ($11.95), dessert chimichanga ($3.49)

Rating breakdown: Food: ★1/2 (3-star maximum); atmosphere: 1/2 (1 maximum), service: 1/2 (1 maximum)

Ryan DuVall is a restaurant critic for The Journal Gazette. This review is based on two unannounced visits. The Journal Gazette pays for all meals. Email him at rduvall@jg.net; call at 461-8130. DuVall's past reviews can be found at www.journalgazette.net. You can follow him on Twitter @DiningOutDuVall.