I was already sitting in the sunshine enjoying the salt-laced citrus tartness of Good Robot's Goseface Killah when my friend Sarah walked onto their gastroturf with her new puppy, Penny. A puff of curly golden fluff, Penny delighted everybody within two feet of her before rolling around and tussling with a nearby basset hound. And that is why beer gardens are great.
This summer has been a busy one for beer gardens, with Stillwell's splendid new space on Spring Garden Road, the Stubborn Goat's occupation of the waterfront area that was the city's perfect introduction to open-air suds last summer and Good Robot's sunny little spot in the north end. Between these spaces and all the microbrews popping up across the province, life seriously could not be better if you live in Halifax and love beer.
Unlike the touristy waterfront and high-traffic Spring Garden Road, Good Robot's space is relatively low-key, like a secret garden on Robie Street. It's cozy and convivial, a row of long picnic tables tucked under string lights, dogs underfoot and bean-bag-toss games ready to play at a moment's notice.
You don't need better reasons to go to the gastroturf than the beer and the atmosphere, but throw in Rinaldo's heros and suddenly you're an idiot if you haven't.
I bewilder our server by ordering one of each of the four hefty heros on the Rinaldo's menu. But if Sarah and I were going to try them, I figure, let's fucking try them. The sandwiches are a bargain at only $7-$8 each.
There are four sandwiches: Shaved roast beef with lettuce, swiss cheese and a slightly spicy horseradish mayo; hunks of porchetta and crisp crumbles of cracklin' with arugula, aioli and zesty salsa verde; meatballs in a sweet and simple San Marzano tomato sauce with salty pops of kalamata olive, topped with a gooey melt of mozzarella and parmesan; and breaded eggplant, fried until creamy, topped with the same combo of tomato sauce and cheese, along with some arugula and aioli.
The Rinaldos have been sourcing as much of their beef and pork as possible from local suppliers like Getaway and Moo Nay farms, getting vegetables and eggs from their former fellow market vendors. They bake their bread—wonderful, crusty rolls that toast to an airy crunch—at Velo's Pizza in the shop's off-hours. There's nothing fancy or fussy about the heros—they're just damn good sandwiches.
"We focused in on heros because our family connection to Italian-American food and because they are delicious," says Tony Rinaldo, who started the sandwich operation with his brother, Sam.
Food is the family business: Their father, Salvatore, was the original owner of Salvatore's New York Pizza. And the brothers opened up TDOGS, a hot dog cart that specializes in high-concept toppings, last year with their longtime friend Patrick Lowe. The low start-up cost and what Rinaldo felt was "a need for gourmet hot dogs in Halifax" made that a great starting point. But the family's passion for Italian-American cuisine couldn't be kept at bay.
Rinaldo's had a weekly operation at the Seaport Market for awhile, and would pop up at The Other Bean and Propeller now and then, but now they've found a regular groove serving up their heros at Good Robot. "It has been a great fit for both of us," says Rinaldo. "It gives us the opportunity to showcase our food, while we try to find a location for our brick and mortar. We really want to do it in the north end. We are just waiting for the right place to become available."
Until then, go to Good Robot for these great sandwiches.
Good Robot Brewing Co., 2736 Robie Street
Fridays noon-10pm, Sundays noon-8pm
Editor's note: The print version of this story reads that Tony and Sam Rinaldo's father was the original owner of Salvatore's Pizzaiolo Trattoria in the Hydrostone. Their dad was actually the owner of Salvatore's New York Pizza, formerly located on South Street; Chris Cuddihy and Michelle Rouleau own the north end Sal's. Apologies for the oversight.