WheelHouse Kitchen + Bar is On its Game

This Augusta spot near the ballfield pulls off a triple play of craft beer, hearty dishes and lively atmosphere.

Although the minor league baseball players won’t be dusting off their cleats to take the field at the Skylands Stadium in Augusta until May 18th, wheelHouse Kitchen + Bar serves casual food and drinks all year round in a contemporary, industrial-rustic dining room right at the entrance gate to the 4,200-seat field of dreams.

At this time of year, business is steady and enhanced by events like this weekend’s boat show. But once the summer schedule kicks in, one of the dozen tables inside or out on the patio could be hard to come by without a reservation.

Our super-friendly server brought a big bucket of Sriracha popcorn to get us primed for drinks. There are flights of beer, pitchers of sangria and a nice selection of wines by the bottle or glass, but a highlight of our visit was the blackberry-and-pineapple mojito cocktail with just the right blend of sweet, sour and minty freshness.

The most interesting “First Base” selection was creamy deviled eggs, flavored with smoked trout.

Deviled eggs

Our plump pierogies, stuffed with feta cheese and spinach, seemed to be missing the latter, but we hardly noticed due to the deliciously briny side dish of olive tapenade. What we did notice was that the stuffed baby clams had a strong essence of chorizo, but little of the corn and lime flavors that were promised.

Corn and lime stuffed clams

The “Outfield” salads were far more of a home run. Baby greens with caramelized pecans, goat cheese and cranberries were lightly dressed with champagne-honey vinaigrette, and the earthy tones of the spinach and beet salad were nicely complemented by spicy pecans and a tangy lemon-herb dressing.

Beet salad

Vegetarians also will love the Parmesan risotto bowl full of spinach, mushrooms and butternut squash, which can be ordered with Cajun shrimp for an up charge. Another seafood highlight was the spicy Baja fish tacos, filled with black beans, chipotle rice, blackened white fish and a juicy cabbage slaw.

Meat eaters will find plenty of selections, including a hearty short rib ragu served with twists of campanelle pasta in a tomato-merlot sauce, buffalo chili made with local meat from Green Acres Farm, and a substantial flatiron steak with blue-cheese butter and corn-whipped potatoes that arrived done to a perfectly pink medium rare, but was rather tepid as temperature goes.

Beef ragu

Flat-iron steak

Every one of the eight desserts, which included classics like cider donuts with ice cream and caramel, and warm carrot cake with melted maple cream cheese icing, as well as the alcoholic and non-alcoholic ice cream floats, sounded intriguing, but we were just too full to go into extra innings.

wheelHouse Kitchen + Bar, 94 Championship Place, Augusta. 973-383-7644; wheelhousekitchenandbar.com. Open for dinner Wednesday and Thursday 4 pm to 9 pm Friday and Saturday 4 pm to 10 pm, Sunday brunch and dinner are served noon until 9 pm.

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