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Blue Pine's burger, beer and bourbon steps up the classics

The marketing campaign—as it is—for Blue Pine's Tuesday night's special underplays the offering: "Grab a shot of bourbon, a burger AND beer for only $15!," says the low-key announcement on the restaurant-bar's website.

But when we arrive at the (relatively) newly remodeled Blue Pine—a rough wood and woodsy facelift that has chased away most of the ghosts from the former dive bar—the waitress informs us that the Tuesday night offering is more than what it first appears: "It is all local," she says, amiably, in quick passing. "The bourbon, the beer, the beef—all local," she adds.

Likewise, the entire menu at Blue Pine has stepped up. Although there is still a faint waft of the restaurant's former incarnation as a notorious down-at-its-heels tavern—the occasional waft of a curt urinal mint scent—Blue Pine has otherwise reinvented itself, and the Tuesday night offering is a perfect window into that new personality.

The beer is a slender 12 ounce pour of Boneyard's refreshing RPM IPA, and the bourbon is C.W. Irwin, a smooth, easy-drinking whiskey that serves as the beer's peppier cousin—a one-two combination for a mid-week meal. The bourbon, in particular, is a pleasant surprise. Distilled locally in smaller-than-industry standard barrels, the drink picks up additional oaky flavors. It is a straightforward drink, clean from start to finish.

Blue Pine is trying really hard to up its game—and has mostly been successful. At the helm is Matt Neltner formerly of Kokanee Cafe in Camp Sherman. His menu has received attention for exotics like frog legs, but it really is the more standard fare that is most attractive: "Beets & Peaches," an $8 delicious pairing for a salad; "Shitake Mushroom Pancakes," which include sun-dried tomato butter, as a sensible and stylish meal; and familiar but clever desserts, like Key Lime Cheesecake on popcorn crust and topped with coconut whipped cream.

Likewise, the centerpiece of Tuesday's special is a burger—and, again, is several cuts above standard barroom fare served at some of the downtown joints. A good-looking serving, the burger arrives juicy and medium rare as ordered, stacked between sturdy kasier rolls. Tucked under the bun is a pickled something or other (is that a pickled onion?) that provides a surprising crunch in the bite and zing to the taste. On the side are shoestring fries flecked with parsley, and a garlic paste adding a slight bite. Simple, but classy.

All told, Blue Pine's Tuesday night $15 bourbon, beer and beef returns dignity to basic midweek meals—and, it is all local.

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