We’d heard this rumor that the Dutch Garden’s burgers were exemplary because they ground the meat in house. That nagged at the back of our minds for ages because there’s such a narrow window of opportunity to try their burgers. One, it’s only served at lunch, and two, they’re not open three days a week.
But we finally made it, and tried the burger, with cheese. Oh man, it’s big, half a pound of ground beef. And we confirmed, no, it is not ground in-house. Aw! But it was still good. I especially like the grilled bun, with a golden crisp underside. And a platter of German mustards is brought out, to dabble with. This is a burger best eaten open face, because it is big and juicy.
I ordered an item I knew nothing about, but was curious about the name. This is called a Strammer Max and it was pretty much breakfast on an open faced sandwich. Fried eggs, griddled ham and cheese, on toasted sandwich bread and assorted sandwich fixings like lettuce, onion and pickles. Another sandwich-style lunch best eaten with knife and fork because the egg yolks go all oozy over the meal, yum yum.
And finally, a glass of beer to wash it all down. Aaaah.
We wanted soup tonight. It was going to start pissing down with rain shortly and go nonstop throughout the weekend. So why not some good soup and good beer. To the Dutch Garden!
I love their bar area. Between there and the back dining room, I’ll take the bar. And just our luck, we ran into some of Ted’s friends who were thinking the same thing and we invited them to join our side of the bar.
The beer was Augustijn, a tripel ale from the Van Steenberge brewery in Belgium. It is described as “extremely pleasant to drink during lenghty conversations.” Agreed.
Envision a group of Santa Barbara natives as a brewery and what you get in Union Ale.
By that, I mean this is a place that seems to be built on a good foundation and privilege, but always feels a need to find itself. Unfortunately, this business can’t take off to Bali for a year, so it carries on awkwardly and unbalanced.
A place titled as a brewing company that doesn’t actually brew anything is confusing. If you can get over that, then the wide range of offerings on tap is commendable.
Also confusing is the ordering process. Food comes from the front bar. Beer comes from…the back bar? Or part from the front bar and part from the back bar? Or maybe it’s cocktails only from the front bar, and beer from the back bar? I never figured that one out. I just know that food is ordered at the front bar.
Next hurdle: the menu. The gestalt is good. It’s a snazzy design, almost a little steampunk. Then you start reading it and it all gets confusing. The font is BIG OVER HERE! And really really small over there! But no Tufte training will reveal the logic of why the design is like that. Good luck looking at the menu online. It’s a 5.4 mb pdf, as if I want to print it out in high-gloss and frame it on my wall. No, I’d rather have some simple text.
Someone had recommended that I try the sweet potato fries. But I can’t find them on the menu. Oh, they are listed as a side dish in the ribs portions of the menu. The staff don’t know where else it is on the menu, but sure they can offer it as a standalone item if I’m not getting ribs. How much? Only the register knows.
AND WHEN YOU ASK THE BAR GUY QUESTIONS, OR PUT IN YOUR ORDER, YOU HAVE TO YELL IT LIKE THIS BECAUSE THE MUSIC AND/OR TV IS REALLY REALLY LOUD.
That said, the food was good!
The order of sweet potato fries is $6 and enormous. A meal for 2 people. It comes in a bucket, with a side of ketchup and a choice of two other dipping sauces. We got the truffle mayo and buffalo sauce.
Our service, considering the noise levels, how busy it was, and the high douche bag atmosphere, was very good! The fellow who brought the food gave us updates on food prep speeds, brought napkins, checked up on my water, checked up on how we liked the food. We weren’t even in a high traffic and eye contact area, he really went out of his way. For all this attentiveness like a waiter, it’s confusing that this bar/restaurant doesn’t officially have waiter service.
So, Union Ale is four stars on food, and loses a star for not knowing itself and for its DB atmosphere and stoopid promotion of hemp ale which keeps the public assuming that hemp is the same as pot. And that damn menu!
Shalene turned us onto this event. A beer, wine and cheese festival held in the Portland convention center. Entry fee, plus purchases are made with pre-bought tokens, plus a purchase of a mug to do tastings with.
We went into it expecting a rip off. But with a little timing, our entry fee was waived, as people arriving before noon got in free. That helped. Only Chris purchased the required tasting mug, and we all swapped saliva for the sake of saving a little money and acquiring more swag junk. It worked out really well, because we each sampled different kinds of things and shared. Chris got the beers, Ted and I got the cheese, chocolates, olive oils…things that didn’t need a mug.
Beers were actually good and well-represented. The wines we skipped. The cheeses were fine and tided us over for munchies.
But the winners of the events were the spirits. Those were tasty, and best of all, free. Also unexpected. That’s all good.
Spring Beer Fest
Freshly arrived in Portland, and hungry. Our hosts are Anne and Chris, although they were both out of town when we arrived. Luckly, Portland is terribly easy to traverse with public transportation, and we found our way to their home in the Southeast without any issue.
Chris recommended the two pubs near us for good eats. After dropping our bags and befriending the cat, Mika aka Meep, we walked the 2-3 blocks to the Horse Brass Pub in hopes of noshing on a Scotch egg.
Similar to the pubs in England, the Horse Brass was a casual yet boistrous social hub for the neighborhood. Families, friends and co-workers were settled comfortably into their booths or tables, sipping a pint and grubbing some food. The selection of beer on tap was amazing, with a heavy emphasis on Oregon-made beverages. When we were undecided, they let us sample a few until we found the beer we wanted.
Sure enough, the Scotch egg was on offer, cut into wedges and served warm with mustard and potato chips. It was fancier than I’d ever had in England – which was mostly eating out of a paper bag from the deli or butchery. I’d also never had them warm before.
T got the fish and chips, half portion of the fish. A half portion was more than enough. The fish was a firm flavorful halibut. Wow, that was great fish.
I had the bangers for dinner. Served with a green salad and white bread and butter. I know, you’d have expected mashed potatoes with it. Again, a little surprising, but I am good with getting some leafy greens instead of more stodge. We had the chips with the fish meal as well. This food was fine, but the winner of the night was the fish. Good stuff!
Horse Brass Pub (Southeast, Belmont)
There are some local cafes that do an admirable job of supporting the arts. Muddy Waters is one of them.
The atmosphere on its own is eclectic and quirky. The owners are the same, and also friendly. The kitchen is simple, providing salads and sandwiches. But most importantly, they serve fresh, local Telegraph beer! Aw yeah. Artists need sustenence like a cold frothy one to keep those creative juices flowing.
Watching the bar napkin art come together was great fun, and the event raised a couple grand for the SB Arts Collaborative.
I’m not Irish. I don’t expect anyone to wear red for Chinese New Year if they’re not Chinese. So what’s up with a threat of getting pinched for not wearing green.
I knew it would be best to avoid State Street and its CBD bars, but some friends did want to have a swift half somewhere. A pity Telegraph’s tasting room is more a weekend thing, but we made it work at Dutch Garden.
It was a great surprise to learn some of my bar enthusiast friends had never been there before. Friends that love an old school atmosphere at that. Dutch Garden has that in spades, being 50+ years old and those teensy little bar chairs and the corrugated metal roof that makes you feel like you’re kicking back in a garage.
Its patrons are fiercely devoted. No matter that they love German food, they love *Dutch Garden’s* German food and will hardly think to patronize this town’s only other German restaurant just a little ways down the road. It’s amusing, and a testament to how endearing Dutch Garden can be, but also a little disappointing. There is so little German food in Santa Barbara, why not spread the love around and keep more German restaurants in business. But I digress.
We went for a beer, to pay a very casual homage to St. Patrick, but more to enjoy a good beer. I had Belgian Piraat, a triple fermented ale. Potent, and flavorful.
I was with two vegetarians. Pescidarians, actually. You’d think this German restaurant would be the last place to provide vegetarian fare, but DG actually got back on my radar because another veggie friend considered it one of his favorite restaurants. There is always a fish dish available, but more simply, a basket of rye, a salad and a bowl of soup is a satisfactory meal and meat-free.
Tonight’s soup was carrot and almond. Oh dayum, it was really good. A fellow sitting next to me at the bar, a fiercely devoted type, said he loved German food and this was his favorite restaurant in town. Stated with friendly but strong conviction. He enjoyed the soup, and his serving was actually what put the rest of us over the edge and we ordered it.
Some people say Deano’s is their favorite, because of the crust.
So it saddens me to say that Deano’s is very likely to close its doors within the next week or so. The math is simple. Raising rents, a slump in the economy, and an American lifestyle that rewards quantity over quality means corporate sludge pizza like Domino’s stays afloat on the Mesa and Dean-o’s get scuppered. Boo for losing local businesses. BOO.
If you like Deano’s, if you have fond memories of childhood there, or fond memories of city collegehood, you’ve still got a chance to hustle that booty over to the Mesa and order yourself a last round, whether it be pizza or beer, or both.
Deano’s is a 50 year old business, originally opened as Me-and-Ed’s. The current name is a mashup of the original owners’ names. Dean and a guy whose name started with O. It is now owned by a fellow named Lou, who is also a Los Angeles firefighter.
What makes their pizza unique is a combination of things. First, their crust. The recipe is different, and the preparation style is different. The dough is folded many many times.
So there is a crunch on the bottom of the unique crust, and crunch to the cheese at the pizza edge. People love it.
The Deano’s Special consists of: pepperoni, linguica, ground beef, green peppers and onions. The thought of it will make many locals’ mouths water. I bought one, and stuck it in my freezer.
Regardless of the pizza style, Deano’s has provided a good location and atmosphere for families and groups to feel welcome and have a good time. There are pitchers of beer for the adults, there is a wall of arcade games for the kids. There’s not been a time when their quality “went downhill.”
Lots of posts of anguish, encouragement and business chatter is taking place on Facebook, if you can see the link.
Update 19 January: This business has closed.
At this point, are words even necessary?
Okay, maybe a few descriptions.
Row 1: Natto and Quail Egg, still not warmed up to natto. Vegetable tempura and pork gyoza.
Kobachi Izakaya Dining
Getting into late afternoon, we were migrating away from food and towards beverages. Magnolia was our last food stop, although it was primary to sample the beverages. One thing was certain, though, this place won the award for the best designed menu. The prize…was getting its picture taken. Um, not that you can see it in the small version. Since these are not my photos, I do not have the easy flickr links to the larger images. You’ll just have to trust me, or simply ignore this rambling sentance.
The boys had some lovely beers that were fragrant and flavorful, I had a root beer, which they also brew in-house, and we shared a small platter of oysters that we nearly cried over, because we were so full from all our feastings earlier, yet could not stop eating because they were so delicious.
Please, admire the carnage.
(photos by Ted Mills, of course)