If you weren’t familiar already with the Porter Beer Bar’s reputation as an excellent place for drinking beer, that fact would be obvious as soon as you set foot in the restaurant. A long line of tap handles stretches into the bar, and the menu and beer list are presented on separate clipboards, a format that makes updating easy as the rotating beer selection changes.
Beer-friendly appetizers like salt and vinegar popcorn, Belgian fries and soft pretzels are front and center. It’s a beer nerd paradise.
Then, seemingly out of nowhere, there’s the delicately constructed, powerfully flavored banh mi pork belly steam buns.
A beer bar has no business making steamed buns this good. To start, the buns themselves are excellent; made in-house with coconut milk, they live in the center of a Venn diagram that includes circles labeled “tender,” “pillowy” and “stretchy.”
Then, the pork belly hits with a wallop of flavor, thanks to some pastrami seasoning. Rich and salty, with notes of coriander and mustard, the meat needs a strong counterpoint to balance it. It finds that ballast in hoisin sauce and pickled carrot and pear slaw, a combination that hits plenty of sweet and sour notes on its own. Paper-thin slices of serrano chile add heat and a vegetal tint that works with the swirl of hard-hitting flavors. The spiciness also encourages you to have another sip of your draft of choice — the menu’s recommendation is Grinfrost Lingonberry Mead.
Though the pork belly buns are a semi-permanent presence on the specials menu, the chefs at the Porter change it up occasionally. Sometimes, they’ll substitute duck for the pork, or change up the flavor combination. Regardless, these buns are a delicious surprise at a place that doesn’t really need to be so surprising. Then again, Atlantans know to expect the unexpected in weird and wonderful Little Five Points.
The Porter Beer Bar. 1156 Euclid Ave., Atlanta. 404-223-0393, theporterbeerbar.com.
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