Perky young staffers working the cash register explain how this do-it-yourselfer works: You prepay for dishes from the all-American, comfort-food menu posted on the wall. Neatly printed blackboards advertise the impressive selection of beers and wines. While you wait for your order, grab cutlery and find a table, inside or out.
The woodsy, muted gray décor is sort of Anthropologie meets gastropub. A flat-screen TV satisfies sports fans, and the open kitchen can keep foodies entertained. The stiff, metal chairs could use some cushions, especially outdoors on cool nights, but the overall vibe is comfy.
The menu combines cocktail-party standards like spinach and artichoke dip with Mom-made favorites like chicken parm and macaroni and cheese. In keeping with the rustic charm of the place, many dishes are served on cutting boards or in cast-iron skillets. Problem is the café tables outside are too small for more than one board.
The best dishes are the simplest. The charcuterie includes thin sheets of prosciutto di Parma and a variety of pâtés. Marrow bones are a standout presentation with two stocky bones piled high with frizzled leek sticks side by side with freshly toasted points, super-grainy brown mustard and a savory, Parmesan-studded braising liquid.
The barbecue chicken sandwich is filling and tasty. The squishy hoagie roll stuffed with deep-fried chicken strips brings it into po’ boy territory, but a cornichon skewered on top dresses it up a bit. It’s plated with sliced avocado, a dab of sweet mustard and nicely tangy barbecue sauce, but the packaged salad greens and anemic tomato could use an upgrade. They are happy to grill the chicken for those who don’t want the grease.
Sliders can be had with beef, pork or fish. I liked the tuna the best, with its brioche-like bun and a bit of eel sauce to temper the tangy wasabi mayonnaise. But many sandwiches seem too heavy on the bread and light on the stuffing. One notable exception: the rich short rib and brie.
Sides, like the rest of the dishes, are rather small, especially when they are as good as the addictive shaved brussels sprouts with chewy cubes of bacon drizzled with a warm walnut vinaigrette. Fries are cut thin and nicely seasoned with herbs and good salt, but would have been better hot.
Tiny green salads don’t have much oomph. One standout: perfectly roasted red and golden beets cut into tiny chunks and served over frisée with a bit of feta and an unobtrusive citrus dressing. The caesar is one of those annoying modern versions made with whole romaine leaves, here scattered with crunchy but flavorless croutons and nibs of hardly roasted red pepper. The gloppy dressing didn’t help.
Hearty grains are represented in the form of farro with plenty of good, chopped veggies and less-impressive quinoa loaded with pesto that had an odd, dusty taste.
Desserts choices are limited, but s’mores will do in a pinch. The graham cracker sandwich looked promising with its golden toasted marshmallows, but it wasn’t melty enough, and the chocolate quality is questionable.
The food is a bit uneven, but OTC is more about the friendly crew and the fantastic selection of craft beers—a dozen on tap and even more in bottles. Cigar City, Lagunitas, Well’s Banana Bread and Left Hand Milk Nitro are reasonably priced, as are well-chosen wines by the glass or bottle. After all, you don’t need a prescription for a pint and a bite.