It doesn’t sound like a place called Loading...Gastrobrunch would be a place for dinner. And when the downtown St. Cloud restaurant first opened it served only breakfast and lunch.
But now dinner hours have been added, and new dinner items to the menu, too. So a friend and I were invited to stop in and sample.
I was at Loading last year for a lunchtime visit but at that time I was confining my dining to outdoor tables. So it was nice to experience the interior this time. It’s rustic, befitting its location in the historic Hunter Arms Hotel. Horizontal wood planks on one wall, a brick wall behind the bar and a fieldstone fireplace at the far end give the room a cabinlike feel. A mishmash of gewgaws give the decor an eclectic feel.
My friend and I started with the chorizo meatball appetizer. The presentation in a small cast iron skillet filled with gooey queso had us raising our eyebrows. But after we both took one bite we admitted it was pretty darn good. The meatballs had just the level of spiciness you would expect from chorizo, and the cheese sauce mellowed it out. I almost asked our server if there were some chips we could have to finish the queso.
But instead we moved on to our entrees. I ordered the salmon paella, which was made with brown rice, giving it a nutty texture. The rice also had bits of red pepper and morning glory tomatoes as well as tids of sausage. Instead of being incorporated into the rice, the salmon fillet, perfectly grilled and nicely seasoned, was served on top and was surrounded by six shrimp.
My dining companion chose the beurre blanc linguini, which had the al dente pasta tossed in the buttery sauce with peas, mushrooms and caramelized onions, all topped with ribbons of shaved parmesan. We added the optional chicken, with blackened seasoning, but without it this would be a good vegetarian option.
We visited on a Wednesday when the restaurant offers its list of bottled wines at half price, so there were lots of people there to take advantage of that deal. We chatted with co-owner James Brady about the vibrancy of the downtown area and he said there had been comparisons made to Winter Garden before it bloomed.
I could see it happening here. But maybe Loading should amend its name now that it serves in the evening. Maybe Loading...Gastrobrinner? Maybe not.