White Owl is the latest hotspot on Cherry Street, and my first experience there reflected the reason for its popularity. The place drew quite a crowd of young people the evening I stopped in (it's been open about three months). My friends and I entered through the front door to a sea of people enjoying a fun, lively, smoke-free atmosphere.
The configuration of White Owl is long and narrow; the right side of the space is aligned with a long bar backed by stocked shelves of beer and liquor. The left wall is packed with tables. At the end of the bar and up a short flight of stairs is a dining space for larger groups. There's also a game room with two pool tables, darts and arcade games.
Did I mention there are flat screen TV's? Yes, plenty of them.
The noise level was at full volume that night, which according to owner Kelly Finegan-Hunt is not a bad thing, "It means people are coming out and enjoying themselves." She admitted that they will probably have to do something about it eventually. She said the building was constructed in 1917 and had been vacant for 11 years (formerly the 15th Street Wok). She, along with co-owner and husband Jason, began renovations for White Owl last June. The couple wanted to preserve the original terrazzo floors- made of cement and marble and perfect conduits for bouncing sound.
My friends and I wove our way through the crowd, up a few stairs to the raised area to the very back room, which was perfect for our group of three.
The service was great here. We were able to order drinks shortly after being seated; and throughout the evening, a number of servers checked on us regularly. Two of us ordered margaritas on the rocks, which, to our dismay were served in Tom Collins glasses. The sweet and sour mix was gross and there was very little tequila. Our second round was a draft of Marshall's Brewery Pub Ale, which was excellent on tap.
The White Owl menu was created by Kelly and Chef Curt Herrmann (of the no-longer Curt & Marj's). "We wanted to keep it different yet familiar. We make all own sauces--pizza, pesto-- and pizza dough; we keep it all as fresh as we can. It is important for us that we are not mass produced," said Finegan-Hunt.
Customers will find everything from fried ravioli to beignets and quesadillas to a wedge salad, paninis and pizza.
We began with the Loaded Fries ($6.95) - topped with bacon, cheddar cheese and green onions. They were a little dry, though, but the bacon was crisp and savory.
For dinner, I ordered the House Made Macaroni and Cheese ($9.95). Kelly said this dish is made with Colby, Monterrey Jack and American cheeses with fire roasted peppers. The portion size was ample, but still a little pricey for mac and cheese.
One friend had the Fish and Chips ($11.95) which were served "pub style" with tartar sauce and malt vinegar. These had a crispy tempura batter and the white flaky fish was very good. My friend found her fries a little greasy. The third member of our party ordered the Sliders ($8.95). These came with fried-in onions, choice of Cheddar, bleu or Swiss cheese, and either homemade fries or homemade potato chips. They were very tasty; she especially enjoyed the fried-in onions.
I went a second time to White Owl-- this time for lunch, and the experience was much more civil. It was mellow that day and my friend and I were able to enjoy a conversation. I sampled the Sausage and Pepperoni Pizza ($10.95) and my friend the Cuban Panini ($8.95). The 8-inch pizza was stone-baked with very thin crust. It was delicious.
The Cuban Panini was made with pulled pork, Swiss cheese, pickles and mustard on ciabatta bread. It was a good sandwich. He chose fries and they were better than before. They were not greasy at all, but crispy and fresh. We also had the Fried Ravioli ($7.95) as an appetizer. While Kelly said they do not make this in-house, they do hand-bread the raviolis before frying. They were good, but heavy on the breading.
The full menu (appetizers, salads, entrees and desserts) ends at 10pm, but pizza and paninis are served until midnight.
They have a fine beer list, with ten beers on tap and more than 30 bottled selections. Wine is also available. White Owl plans to change the menu seasonally and also has daily specials. Kelly said that she and her husband want to see White Owl become a neighborhood pub where even families can go for a good meal and a good time.
1325 E. 15th St.
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