REVIEW: Mad Chef Craft Brewing
I spent my Valentine’s Day visiting breweries. Andy, Jimi and I headed down I-283 to check out Mad Chef Craft Brewing.
It’s been on our (growing) list since opening in July 2015, and I’ve heard great things about both the food and beer — frankly with a name like “Mad Chef,” you have to expect for food to play a role.
The trip is easy — take 283 to the Millersville exit, then wind along for fewer than 2 miles to a plaza, where Mad Chef sits next to a gym.
First things first: Mad Chef does a great job of creating an atmosphere inside that makes you forget you’re in a suburban strip mall.
Embracing the industrial trend, the kitchen and brewery are on full display, with stainless steel as far as the eye can see. Wooden tables — high and low — comprise the storefront, while stainless stools sit beneath exposed bulbs along the bar.
Service also meets current trends: order drink and food at bar; get a table number for food, and it’s later delivered to you.
Our visit coincided with the release of their first in the WilBeer series, a collaboration with local chocolatier, Wilbur Chocolates. By the end of the day, friends from Beer Busters, Brewery at Hershey and local homebrewers had all traveled to check out the South of the Border Porter (more on that shortly).
Co-owner, brewer and chef Francisco Ramirez is a presence. Customers know him by name, and the trained chef and longtime brewer, can be found making sandwiches in the kitchen between working in the brewery.
A flight is reasonable at $7. You’ll get five beers in the flight, most of which aren’t updated on the website, unfortunately.
Start with the Johnnie Doe. Described as a light lager, but I would have guessed Helles. It’s crisp and flavorful, and we all agreed we could drink this all day long.
The Spot Hop Pale Ale 5.0 Citrus Mystic has a terrific nose of tangerine, and at 5% ABV, this is “crushable,” as they say.
“Legit” was my Untappd description for the OH Mad Hops Double IPA. It’s 8% ABV, which isn’t ungodly powerful. Convo goes like this:
Jimi: “This is really good.”
Me: “Like really good. Legit.”
Porter “Rico” is one of the newest additions to the tap list. Francisco is from Puerto Rico, thus the play on the name. Hints of coffee and chocolate make this porter well-rounded and tasty.
The final sample in the flight is the Black Beerd Oats. Talk about saving the best for last. This is their current top-seller, Andy’s first draft choice, and for good reason. They ferment this oatmeal stout “a little longer” with French oak chips soaked in spicy rum and vanilla, lending a little barrel-aged flavor to this creamy stout. Win.
Naturally, Jimi and I couldn’t resist a taste of the Fusion Series: Citra, Amarillo, Tangerine, and Habanero. It had a wonderful citrus nose and a nice pepper flavor, but minimal heat.
Now the draw for so many: the South of the Border Porter. Using the base Porter “Rico,” this was includes Wilbur cacao nibs, plus cinnamon, vanilla and three chilis — Chipotle, Negro and Diablo. It’s not hot-hot, but man is it delicious. My fave of the day. A growler fill came home for me to share with the #HBGBeerWeek crew.
In a place called “Mad Chef Craft Brewing,” the food must also live up to the name. The menu isn’t overwhelming, but features several shareable appetizers, charcuterie boards and a nice list of sandwiches.
We started with a small charcuterie plate (chorizo, two cheeses, roasted red pepper, some kind of fig honey), and Pickled Vegetable and Olive Platter served with Naan featuring Grilled Olives, Greek Olive Blend, Chipotle Pickled Carrots and Sweet and Spicy Pickles with a side of Naan. Ooh those carrots. Want more.
We enjoyed these with our sampler platters, the Porter and Stout both excellent matches for the spiciness of our selections.
As we watched orders come out through the kitchen, the guys got a major hankering for the French Dip — slow cook roast beef, provolone, horseradish mayo, Mad Chef caramelized onions, side of au jus.
My cravings leaned toward the Reuban or the Cuban. I asked our server. “The Cuban is Francisco’s favorite,” he said. “The pork is slow-roasted for three days.” Nope, you had me at Chef’s Favorite. Sold.
The guys loved their French dips, but we all agreed I won the sandwich ordering game.
My Cuban, which Francisco said he picked up from Cuban neighbors while growing up in Puerto Rico, is made with slow roasted pork loin, ham, swiss cheese, pickles and mustard.
Mad Chef is 100% worth the visit. Beer is solid, flavorful and clean. Food is interesting, delicious and filling.
Look for Mad Chef Craft Brewing during Harrisburg Beer Week, and definitely consider a trip to visit before and after. Mad Chef also boasts pretty great brewpub hours, open 4-10 p.m. Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and noon to 10 p.m. Friday-Sunday.