Taste Bud: Sergio’s has way more than just beer

If you’re going to Sergio’s World Beers in Butchertown, chances are you are going for one (or several) of the 1,500 or so beers owner Sergio Ribenhoim keeps in coolers and on draft.

Maybe you want a nice Victory Brewing DirtWolf or that elusive Schneider Aventinus Doppelbock, or perhaps the tart tastiness of my current favorite, Duchesse de Bourgogne. Heck, maybe you just want to search for that single Bud Light that hides in the many coolers at Sergio’s. Hey, it’s only $47 — someone needs to buy it one day. (Speaking of which, on a recent visit, my girlfriend Cynthia asked Sergio for water, and he handed her a Bud Light.)

But lately, I have been heading to Sergio’s for one of my favorite seafood treats in town: ceviche.

When I first saw it on the eclectic menu at Sergio’s, I was skeptical. Could a place that specializes in hard-to-find beers from around the world make a decent ceviche? Then I remembered: Oh yeah, it’s Sergio. The world-traveling, quirky, affable beer authority also knows his way around a menu, not to mention a good pairing.

Besides, you gotta love a menu that has its own preamble. Especially when it includes lines like, “His food menu is valid during our pre-grand opening period, which could be forever.”

The ceviche is also conspicuous on the appetizer menu, joined by pub grub staples like hot wings, beer cheese, big pretzels, jalapeno poppers and fried mushrooms. To be fair, Sergio’s also offers traditional Mexican favorites like menudo and huevos con chorizo, so I guess I really should never have been surprised.

All I will say is that I’m damn glad I tried it. Hell, I get it pretty much every time I visit Sergio’s these days.

The menu description goes like this: “Humungous bowl of world famous freshly made shrimp ceviche served with warm homemade chips. Allow 15 minutes for preparation.”

OK, I don’t think it’s really world famous, but it certainly should be. It begins with the word “humongous.” The first time I ordered it, with Cynthia by my side, we figured we would nibble on it as a snack before ordering something else. It ended up satisfying us both on its own. We were immediately hooked, in part because it is delicious and in part because it’s only $10 for a light meal that will take care of the both of us.

Seriously, it’s a huge mound of ceviche, and Sergio’s does not hold back on the shrimp — or the big, fresh chunks of avocado, for that matter. The diced tomatoes, peppers and onions are also always fresh and crisp, and the dish carries the perfect amount of citrusy bite.

One other aspect I love about Sergio’s ceviche is that it is plenty spicy. I don’t know if that is an added ingredient or if the chefs simply use spicy peppers rather than mild, but I am all in on the toastiness of the dish. A cool, crisp summertime treat that also has a heated spice kick? Count me in.

And the lightly salty and crisp white corn tortillas that come on the side are a perfect vehicle for getting the tender baby shrimp and veggies from bowl to mouth. Not only do they hold their own under the weight of a big pile of the stuff, but the light flavor never gets in the way of the ceviche itself.

When you get about two-thirds of the way through your giant bowl of ceviche, you get to the juicy underbelly, which is when the flavor takes a turn for the more citrusy, and the bites get juicier as you dig deeper. Heck, I could finish off the juice with a straw if I thought Sergio had any.

Anyway, I highly recommend Sergio’s in general, and this dish in particular. And while you’re there, maybe have a beer or two. Or 1,500. Just don’t ask for water.