Not five minutes into my settling into one of the pewlike benches of Ron’s Corner Tavern in Bedford, and I’m already getting a beer appreciation tutorial, taught with disarming folksiness, from Edward, a fellow customer.
Burly and bearded, Edward (it’s a tavern, so last names were not exchanged) is helping me distinguish between two Texan-brewed beers among the average of 10 Lone Star State beers that Ron’s regularly stocks. Ron’s has a total of 31 brews on tap, and 20 in bottles and cans. To his credit, Edward’s descriptives are spot on, as the Revolver Blood and Honey ($4.50-$6) brings a certain sweetness, tasting of orange zest, cinnamon and local honey, while the Peticolas Velvet Hammer ($4.50-$6) packs more hops-powered bitterness to its finish.
Enter Ron’s, and its wood-on-wood interior, intimate in its low-wattage lighting, shoots back like a narrow longneck. Its 35-foot bar counter is the unquestioned center of attention. Underscoring the pre-eminent position of beer at Ron’s are the dozens of beer signs clinging to the wall, the hundreds of coasters snugly embedded just under the bar’s top layer, and the museumlike display cases full of neatly stacked beer cans.
As befits an establishment where the prevailing drink is a classic or exotic beer, Ron’s food menu is as short and sweet as a Las Vegas wedding ceremony.
The redneck cheese platter ($7.99) lives up, or down, to its humorous tribute to the caviar of truck stops: the little smoky. About 20 bullet-sized porky links join the duo of saltines and cheddar cheese cubes. Plenty of quenching gulps of beer follow a few bites of this salt-heavy starter.
The pulled pork and coleslaw sandwich ($8.99) is full of sloppy-joe-worthy pork shreds, laced with crunchy coleslaw and all bound in a slightly sweet barbecue sauce. It’s surprisingly tasty, and the fatty richness of the meat is nicely cut by a puckery dill pickle and a heap of house-cut fried chips. The French dip sandwich ($8.99) is generously packed with thin slabs of roast beef, whose juiciness is so abundant that they end up soaking through the hoagie roll — something that is not desirable — while rendering the accompanying dipping “jus” irrelevant. Better to slather the sandwich with its zippy horseradish sauce.
The most uniformly successful among Ron’s bar standards is the calamari ($10.99). It could have gone down in cliché-ridden flames save for how perfectly fried it was. These squid rounds are also boosted, not by the predictable side of marinara sauce, but by a cayenne-fired Buffalo sauce.
A wedge of clearly pre-packaged “New York style” cheesecake ($4.99) is thankfully ungrainy and does its level best to cool down the tang from that Buffalo calamari. A better bet to finish off an evening at Ron’s might be yet another of its battalion of beers — with such wacky monikers as Moose Drool or Dead Guy — each packing more complexity and allure than most of Ron’s conventional bar fare.