As a brewery, Sweetwater always has been upfront about its associations with pothead culture. Its foundational brew is called Sweetwater 420, after all. Those associations have carried over to the brewery’s on-site restaurant, the Sweetwater Taproom, where the menu appears to have been written by someone with the munchies. That’s meant as a compliment; the strategy that’s worked so well for the beer seems to be paying dividends for the restaurant, too.
One of the best representations of the new taproom’s culinary ethos is the Korean BBQ Philly. It makes no attempt at authenticity; instead, it’s engineered for maximum flavor delivery. Made with shaved pork that’s deeply marinated in spicy, savory gochujang sauce, the meat is so richly flavored that it’s often mistaken for beef. Topped with kimchi aioli, which gives the sandwich a necessary shot of acidity, the whole shebang is blanketed with a velvety layer of cheese sauce. The house-made hoagie barely can hold it all; the bread receives an assist from a wrap of parchment paper, which ultimately still fails to keep your hands clean.
The Korean BBQ Philly is fun and messy, but the flavors are spectacular. It’s a fireworks show that pops on every segment of the palate: sweet, savory, salty, sour, umami — it’s all there. And, of course, those intense flavors cry out to be paired with one of Sweetwater’s beers, a huge selection of which is on tap. An oak barrel-aged dark lager provided a crisp, refreshing counterpoint to the frenetic sandwich. Therein lies the genius of Sweetwater; though the Korean BBQ Philly appears to be a delightful mess, it’s perfectly calibrated to keep you coming back for more.
Sweetwater Taproom. 195 Ottley Drive NE, Atlanta. 404-691-2537, sweetwaterbrew.com/taproom.
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