Purple Pub: premiers in mediocrity

For several years, students and residents alike have been waiting anxiously for their beloved burnt-down Purple Pub to reopen, and those prayers were finally answered a few weeks ago. The new Purple Pub is folded away in a on Spring Street, its opened French doors beckoning to both curious diners and drinkers. I the establishment for dinner to see if the newcomer measures up to the anticipatory hype that has been following it.

The fare at the Pub is standard American, consisting of salads, soups, burgers, sandwiches and pub appetizers like wings, calamari and nachos. The main courses are priced at $8 to $18, the soups $3 to $6.50 and the appetizers $7 to $12.

All of the sandwiches and burgers were built with brioche buns and accompanied by thinly cut French fries that were definitely the best I have had in Williamstown so far. The seasoning was salty yet light, the outer coating of each fry crispy and a beautiful golden brown and the soft, inner potato not ravaged by excessive oils. They were, in fact, complemented perfectly by the Champagne dressing that came with the house salad. The dressing was an unusual mixture of honey Dijon and Champagne flavors and was an even more unusual color – light green. However, that strange coloration belied its fabulous, creamy texture and flavor. It was smooth like champagne and as creamy as whipped cream cheese without being too rich. The mustard added a tangy, vivacious quality to the richness that beautifully softened up the mixed, bitter greens it was married with and complemented the darker taste of the crispy fries.

I even tried this innovative dressing with the handmade fried calamari but with less exciting results. I mostly blame the blandness of the fried calamari. It seemed like there was not a dab of salt in the batter, which was sadly a bit under-crisp. The squid inside was tender, but the pieces were cut too irregularly and largely for them to achieve a good ratio between the amount of squid and batter in each piece. The fried calamari sank and definitely brought down the dressing on it with it. I tried for a better result with the accompanying marinara sauce, but that too was a disappointment. The sauce was cold, watery and contained too much oregano.

The BBQ pulled pork sandwich had the standard filling of pulled pork, onions and cheddar cheese inside it. Unfortunately, I could not detect the small amount of cheese in the midst of the mass of tender meat and onions and pillowy brioche. The soft textures were nice, but I would have appreciated perhaps a counter-texture. The pulled pork itself was texturally pleasing due to its unusually large chunks but did not impress beyond that. There was no hint of the expected smoke or tangy BBQ sauce, although it was spicier and nuttier than most other pulled pork I have experienced.

The buffalo chicken sandwich was considerably more interesting because of the spice involved. The seasoning was adequately spicy and came together with the appropriately musty blue cheese to create a familiar, comforting flavor profile. The chicken was tender. Part of why this sandwich worked better than the others was because it was accompanied by fresh lettuce, tomato and onion, thereby creating a more dynamic interaction of textures.This sandwich provided spice, crisp, salt, tang and tender in one package.

The Cowboy burger was better than the pork sandwich as well. The meat, ordered medium, was juicy, and the American cheese was surprisingly sharp. The subtle tang of the BBQ sauce jumped when it encountered the spicy jalapenos trapped inside the cheese. The sautéed onions and mushrooms melted into the background due to their mushiness, but provided the right sort of smoky flavor for this rugged burger. The jalapeños really saved this burger from failing texturally, as they stood against the softness of the rest of the burger.

The Williams was a disappointing burger because it became a blob. On paper, the cheddar, avocado, sprouts, bacon, tomato, onion and garlic aioli sounded like the perfect condiments to be had on a high-quality medium-rare juicy beef burger. In my mouth, this was a failure. The cheddar was so skimpily applied that it was almost undetectable, as was the little bit of the avocado present that just melted into the cheddar and meat.The onion almost saved this burger had it not been for sparseness. The sprouts seemed to be a good idea texturally but were too nutty to stand out within the similar nuttiness of the avocado-cheddar-tomato concoction.

The waiting staff of three or four was not on top of its game that night. I felt hustled when one waiter asked to take my plate away when I was still munching my delicious French fries. Overall, my two experiences at Purple Pub were mediocre. I was not blown away by the service and decor, and was fairly disappointed in the food. This restaurant is solidly average.