It might have been a while since Northern Lights changed its name to No-Li, but it has taken a good while for the brewhouse-menu to change. Now it has, and we decided to take an early look at it during its debut day.
First, the most important addition for many will be that of the poutine. A lot of people swear to the best thing to come out of Canada since Bryan Adams, and that's fair enough. I've never been crazily in love with the stuff myself, but hey... Fries, cheese, and gravy? It's hard not to at least like the stuff.
With that in mind, I'm sure there are better poutine judges than me out there, but I found No-Li's take on it to be good. The mushroom gravy was tasty, and few will argue with Tillamook's smoked cheddar.
Nice as the gravy was, though, it was all gunked solely on top of the fries. In other words, you'll go through the stash early on in the meal, and be left with just the fries toward the middle of it.
That's too bad, but at least the shoestring fries were nicely seasoned. (Though I assume some will want real think chips as opposed to the thin stuff.)
The real litmus test for for a brewpub, is the pretzel. And again, No-Li didn't do a bad job on it. The pretzel was dense, with a nice fresh flavor, and really only lacked a good outer crunch. It wasn't miles from the type of pretzels we've had in Switzerland, but also didn't quite reach up to Saranac's standards. (Which again doesn't reach up to Deschutes, the gold standard as far as pub pretzels are concerned.)
Thumbs way up for the cheese sauce, though, which was more of a cheese gravy. Often times these tend to be half-assed Velveeta clones, but No-Li really nailed it. This was a true, thick sauce -- made with an amber ale -- and it held its own against any other cheese sauce we've tried.
Finally, the pub greens. You can get a plate for $2.50 which is quite the killer deal. It's a great salad, nice and fresh, and should be a perfect compliment to pretty much any dish on the menu.
So. There are some ups and downs, but the former outweighing the latter. The brewhouse used to be worth going to for the wings and beer; now it looks like the rest of the menu also makes the trip worthwhile.
It's certainly still early goings, but we'll be back. With some minor improvements here and there, No-Li could become a real destination.