I like to imagine that everyone who orders the pretzel nugs ($7) at Tela, the new gastropub in Wyoming, does same thing I did: Dips a little pretzel nugget into the dark sauce, takes a bite, then stops and says Wha….?!? What is that?
What it is is roasted garlic caramel, a dessert-sweet sauce that tastes like brown sugar, garlic and nothing you’ve had before. It’s the kind of food, with its extremes of savory and sweet, that chefs and trendy diners love these days, and the best thing to happen to pretzels in awhile.
I also imagine many people might have a reaction similar to mine when they first walk in to Tela: What is this?
The sparely styled restaurant with a decidedly urban feel is not the restaurant you expect in the pretty small-town suburb of Wyoming.
Though why shouldn’t Wyoming be up to date? I’m sure plenty of people from the neighborhood go to restaurants in OTR that look a lot like this all the time.
Now they and their neighbors have a closer hip restaurant. Concrete floors, exposed brick walls, recycled wood, exposed-filament light bulbs, low couches in one corner by the bar, a quirky collection of objects on a shelf above the bar, orange bar seats and a garage door make a promise that it’s going to be good, something a little different, something that knows what’s it’s doing.
Yes, if you’re hungry. The general feel of Tela is less odd in Wyoming than the food is. It’s gastro-pubby and hearty in the extreme, as if catering to guys in their 20s. Satisfying on an elemental level, it’s very filling and, like that garlic caramel, is built on big flavors and simple principles.
The Monte Cristo ($7.50) sandwich is made as an appetizer. Pimento cheese (not quite melted) inside thick slices of bread, cut into cubes, battered and deep-fried is food that would taste great after several drinks.
We had one salad ($7.50), a delicious crunchy mix of raw fennel and bright citrus crowned with pea shoots, croutons and padrone peppers, with a light and tangy buttermilk dressing. Then we left vegetables behind.
The ur-dish of this kind of menu is poutine ($9): a little outrageous, not concerned about calories, and delicious like your favorite junk food and home cooking put together. Here, it’s French fries topped with pieces of braised pork belly and gravy, cheese curds and a fried egg. Tela adds mustard. I am a poutine expert, having recently eaten a dozen varieties around town, and I put this in the middle of the pack,with a less delicious gravy than some and not quite the perfect ration of each element.
Half a miso-glazed roast chicken ($14) comes with randomly broken up potatoes mixed with locally-made Fab Ferments kim chee. Not a refined preservation, and I think they might have put in more kim chee, as long as they were committed to the idea. The chicken itself was nicely roasted, not as easy to do as it sounds.
The pork two-fer ($21) did have vegetables, but they were long-cooked greens. With pork tenderloin wrapped in speck ( a kind of ham) and meaty, fatty and super-delicious pork belly, it added up to a southern-spirited mess of meat.
There are a lot of sandwiches; we tried the chivito ($11), That’s a sandwich from Uruguay, though interpreted differently here, with brisket and ham instead of the pounded steak of the original. It was delicious, with the flavors of bacon and egg coming through especially. Definitely hearty.
I was wondering if I just happened to choose the heartiest things on the menu, but I don’t think so. I could have had a bowl of vegetables and rice, or the other salad, but it’s a Lyonnaise, with lardons and fried egg. There’s a burger called the Multibeast, an oyster po-boy, chicken wings, and steak frites.
So, if you don’t come hungry, come prepared to share. It’s not really for me to say, but I’d think adding more light dishes would be a good idea if the owners want to be a neighborhood restaurant that people feel like going to frequently.
I got to Tela a little sooner after it opened than I sometimes make it to a new restaurant, but there was nothing in the service to suggest they’d opened only a couple of weeks before. Our server was not only prompt and on top of things, she was very natural and convincing describing the food. And someone nicely brought us some extra garlic caramel for our fries.