Somerville, MA - We still can’t help but fail to get the appeal of Assembly Row. I know that some people might find a Brooks Brothers outlet within walking distance of a $49 a plate “soul food” shack to be the closest thing to a retail and culinary nirvana their hypoallergenic hearts can dream up, but the very idea seems disingenuous to us. Remember those prefabricated gated communities from the 80s? Assembly Row is essentially just that - only with beer gardens. It’s Mr Rogers neighborhood for grown-ups; at least if you’re the sort of grown up who has no qualms paying $3100 a month for a two bedroom condo in Union Square.

But exceptions can be made. Particularly if you’re Somerville Brewing Company, and we’ve been devouring your product with all the greed and insatiability of a hops-charged squirrel on a 2 a.m. binge.

Fresh American Brewhouse may have been open since February, but it still hasn’t overshadowed Somerville Brewing’s flagship brews. Nor is there any reason why it should, except you’d be overlooking one of the best restaurants in the city. This is a brewpub in new England, after all so you’re bound to find some of your comfort food favorites—tomato bisque, mac & cheese, clam chowder, meatloaf and grilled cheese. Which are likely incredible, but you can get those at any sketchy IHOP from Grafton St to Greenfield. What makes Fresh American stand out from your other typical gastropub?

The absolute lack of pretense, for one. They don’t have to offer you ironically named deep fried pickles or five thousand and one variations on a designer cheeseburger in order to maintain your business. Their business was built on beer; and it’s obvious they know their business, indeed.

Take the Happy Sol Blood Orange Hefeweizen, for example. On its own, it’s enough to make you forget the opening credits of Dexter. Using it as a base to marinade bacon wrapped scallops? It would seem like an egregious waste worthy of boycotting if the end result wasn’t so positively sublime. And who needs French Onion when you can have American Fresh’s cheddar ale soup brewed with Somerville’s own Flagraiser IPA? PEI mussels steamed in their bellwether Trekker Trippel Belgian Golden Ale? Worth sidestepping armies of Chico’s bargain hunters for a taste. They even swapped out Buffalo to name check Rochester for their wings appetizer.

Yes, you heard correct. They gave Rochester, NY some sorely needed love. So you know they’re pretty damn cool.

Less impressive were the Avocado Won Tons, which suffered from simply being too bland and uninspiring. They’re maple glazed Brussel Sprouts sounded great in theory. But the end result was simply being too much to take in properly; a vivid riot of goat cheese, chipotle, pecans and cranberries that masked the earthiness of the greens rather than accenting it
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If you’re a Sour Ale lover, the Heaven Scent Passion Fruit is a must. It managed to blend both tartness and fullness; a far from easy task. Equally impressive was the Phantom’s Gloves, a back currant sour which had us puckering up without the slightest semblance of shame or self consciousness. The Message in A Bottle Tropical IPA was not a winner, sadly; something about blending mango and pineapple with an IPA just didn’t sit well after the first sip. Perhaps we’re simply Philistines.

If you’re feeling nostalgic or historically inclined, yes you CAN get a Fluffernutter sandwich for dessert. That doesn’t necessarily mean you SHOULD, but you CAN. We won’t take responsibility for your lack of it; we’re just saying the option’s there.

Is Fresh American successful? Ultimately, yes. It certainly forces us to do more than simply mutter under our breaths and furrow our brows the next time someone recommends Assembly Square as an eating choice. Now if only their inventiveness would rub off on some of the other eateries…

American Fresh Brewhouse is located at 490 Foley St in Somerville and is open Mon-Sun from 11:00 a..-12:00 p.m. For more information, visit: /www.slumbrew.com/AmericanFreshBrewhouseAssemblyRow