The recently opened Cinder, 1500 Locust St., with its prime location, has the makings of a winning hangout spot.
Conceptualized as a cider/sour bar and artisan pizza kitchen, Cinder embodies a spare industrial, utilitarian aesthetic, allowing patrons to take in the view of the bustling foot traffic along Locust Street through the floor-to-ceiling windows, which will be wide open in the nice weather.
The bar is stocked with a well-thought-out variety of craft beers and ciders that change with the seasons. The menu is relatively simple and efficient compared to the number of libations they offer, and features a small-plates selection of “flora” and “fauna” choices, depending on how responsible you want to be on a dietary level. There’s also a seasonal menu of charcuterie and mussels.
From the appetizer menu, we opted for the more adventurous fauna side with the Cinder Fries ($9). The namesake appetizer, a take on loaded fries, is definitely colorful in its presentation. The fries themselves and the pepper-jack cheese sauce are typical at best but it’s the triple pork onslaught of guanciale, bacon and chorizo that add a spicy smokiness to the dish and send it over the top. The cherry tomatoes garnishing the dish give it some much-needed brightness and textural contrast.
For something a bit more refined, the Mojo shrimp and octopus ($15) is more artfully executed. While described as a salad, the dish is a showcase for the octopus and the shrimp, which are cooked to perfection, marinated in farmhouse cider and dressed with a nice citrus glaze.
Since Cinder has focused a considerable amount of its culinary talent on pizza, we though we’d venture in that direction. Selections run the gamut from the more traditional marinara ($11) and margherita ($13) to prosciutto with pesto ($17) and lamb sausage ($17). We opted for the most out-of-place option, the cheeseburger pizza ($17). Not that cheeseburger pizzas aren’t commonplace everywhere but Cinder isn’t content to throw ground beef, cheese and onions on a pizza and call it a night. No, they really want you to feel like you are eating a cheeseburger, topping the pie with romaine lettuce, pickles and mustard (which you have the option to leave off if the idea gives you pause), the latter of which really takes over the direction of the slices and make you feel like you are eating an unapologetic cheeseburger.
With its bustling upwardly-mobile location and a tightly focused menu, Cinder really knows when and where to pour on the charm. So this cider house rules.