There are 53 varieties of beer on tap at Mid City Beer Garden, but don't let that fool you.

The restaurant at 3808 Government St. is as much about food as it is about beer. Maybe even a little more so these days as it looks to expand its kitchen.

"The owners purchased the red building next door and have built out a full prep kitchen in it," said Christian Grimaldo, Mid City's beverage coordinator. "It's almost 100% complete. And as we move forward into expanding our menu, we'll try to bring back some Chelsea's favorites, do appetizer options and healthier options."

Visiting Mid City Beer Garden on a rainy afternoon. Staff video by Robin Miller

Chelsea's Cafe, which closed in December 2019, was owned by Dave Remmetter, who owns Mid City Beer Gardens with Brian Baiamonte and Kelli Paxton. The beer garden opened on Labor Day weekend in 2019.

Dishes from Chelsea's, such as the lamb burger, will join another favorite already on the beer garden's menu: grilled cheese sandwich.

"It was the Chelsea's flagship item, and Dave was kind enough to bring it over with him to this place," Grimaldo said. "I think it was his grandmother's recipe."

The sandwich combines six cheeses in between homemade rosemary focaccia bread served with a side of spicy tomato basil soup. The sandwich also was the top takeout pick when restaurant dining rooms were shuttered during the coronavirus lockdown last spring.

"We were doing growlers of beer and to-go food, plate lunches initially," Grimaldo said. "And as we continued to recover, we started offering our menu items. At first, it was just the grilled cheese."

And customers ordered it in droves.

"That's definitely our most popular item," Grimaldo said. "And we were able to start offering the full menu after that, then slowly clawed our way back to being open."

The menu includes everything from chicken and andouille gumbo to smoked brisket po-boy sliders, along with weekly specials that include catfish on Fridays and tacos on Tuesdays.

For snacking, there's a big, soft pretzel, buttered, salted and served with coarse ground mustard and beer cheese dip.

As for the beer menu, Grimaldo said it rotates during the year. Beers by Baton Rouge area and Louisiana craft breweries dominate the selection.

"We have so many excellent breweries across the state that it's really easy to tap that and make them the focus of our menu," he said. "We have 59 taps in total with six of them being wine and nonalcoholic beverages. And we also offer cocktails."

The beer selections change with the season.

"Some stay on the menu permanently, and we try to have fun with the rest," Grimaldo said. "We try to do some different stuff like going with the seasons. So, we'll have something for Oktoberfest, and we'll go a little darker during the winter. During the spring and summer, it's nice and hot, so we'll have more Pilsners. We also go with what the local breweries are distributing at the time."

The food and beer is served in an enclosed, tropical outdoor courtyard and in the indoor spaces surrounding it.

The beer garden will be able to seat more than 300 customers when it's back up to 100% capacity. For now, it is operating at almost 75% with tables spaced for social distancing.

The only thing left to do now is additional parking.

"We're going to add another parking lot before the end of the year," Grimaldo said. "That's one of the main complaints is that there's not enough parking. Our owners listen to their customers, and we're going to accommodate them."

And as time goes on, Mid City Beer Garden plans to become more involved in such community events as Oktoberfest and Mid City Merchants' arts hops as Hot Art, Cool Nights and White Light Nights.

"We're just trying to make this more of like a community center, where we have things like dog adoptions and have the master gardeners come out and do a presentation," Grimaldo said. "We just want to get the community involved, and we're really lucky. The neighborhoods really sweet and accepting of us and helped us get the zoning to do this."

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