The beer list has maybe 100 brands by the bottle, and 26 or so on draught. Cambridge Brewing Company’s Great Pumpkin Ale ($5) showed very well. It’s clean and refreshing, with just a hint of pumpkin and an aftertaste almost like mint. A glass of 2006 Joseph Carr Cellars merlot ($9/glass; $35/bottle) was excellent food wine, with enough fruit and acidity to drink simply with cheese. Decaf coffee ($1.86) was well-made too.
My pick of the desserts would be the banana bread pudding ($6). This is the old-fashioned kind, with the custard and bread a little distinct, and bananas as a kind of layer with caramel sauce. There’s nothing wrong with panna cotta ($6), a plain, light vanilla pudding with raspberry sauce and a few fresh berries on top. Papaya sorbet ($3) was sweet and refreshing, but didn’t capture the elusive papaya flavor.
The thing about opening a bistro-pub in the provinces is that one has to be nice with the dollar signs. The mark-up on the wine might even be a bit below the traditional double-retail price point here, whereas many downtown places are now charging triple retail, and then some. Plus, with entrées around $20, you don’t have to check the stock ticker before you make a reservation.
Service was warm and helpful, though there were some miscommunications with the kitchen. It took a couple of tries to get the bluefish pâté to complete the seafood trio, and an offering of peach sorbet turned out to be peach ice cream. The atmosphere is calmer than at downtown restaurants, so you can hear yourself think, even with a background tape that gets to some real Chicago blues.
The only real problem with Townsend’s is that you have to find the place first: it lists its cross street as Truman Parkway, which is more usually — but not always — called Truman Highway, and in any case is a mysterious four-lane divided road to nowhere. There’s also not much parking in front of the restaurant, so you might have to park on a dark side street. Public transportation is via the Fairmount Line of the Commuter Rail. Right.
Inside, the room is organized around a stone fireplace, which has an unfortunately fake fire. (There are lots of candles, but that’s not the same.) It’s outfitted with dark wood and patches of yellow, purple, and maroon. Think: low-key and welcoming, like everything else about Townsend’s.
Robert Nadeau can be reached at RobtNadeau@aol.com.