#227: Porter’s House of Draft

Before I get started here, a little shameless self promotion.  This week I began a side mission to go everywhere in Rancho Cordova for lunch, but with a twist: salads only!  If you ever find yourself out that direction and in neat of a light meal, check out Rancho Salads.  I’m doing one every weekday, so I should be finished by the Fall.  Anyway, on with Eating Through Roseville!

I finally made it to Porter’s!  Well, I did go once before to have some of the very limited Goose Island Bourbon County Brand Stout when they first opened, but this time was for food and thus the blog.  Porter’s House of Draft is a new taproom/restaurant located at Foothills & Pleasant Grove.  They opened in early-mid May but were not serving much in the way of food at the time of my first visit due to some electrical/fire code issues that were being worked on.

I was joined by my friend Justin for lunch today.  We arrived just before opening and headed in as soon as the open light turned on.  If you’re coming in from the bright sunlight, as I did both times I’ve come here, you will be greeted by a much darker environment that gives your eyes a nice rest from squinting.  One side of the room has the walls covered in distressed wood panels, the other wall is painted an even darker brown, and the bar, tables and floor are also dark.  The lighting isn’t as on display during the day since a lot of light still makes it’s way through the tinted windows, but I think it would be really cool later at night.  Vintage style long-filliment bulbs put off a very warm glow and look really neat against the dark browns.

They have nearly 30 taps, and a cooler with bottles on top of that.  One thing I was really happy with on my first visit, aside from my delicious glass of Bourbon County, was that there was a lot for me on their list, which is to say lots of non-IPAs and Pale Ales.  Hops are huge right now, but I don’t care for them at all so it is always nice to see a good selection of dark, smooth and malty beers available.  So far it looks like that’s still the case.  Today however, we decided to pick a bottle from the cooler and went with Firestone Walker’s Stickee Monkee (2015) [$20].  This 22oz bottle was plenty to share, especially at 12.5%.  It is officially a barrel-aged central coast quad, though Justin claims this is a made up style and simply calls it a barleywine.  Whatever the style, it was Ah-Mazing.  Very rich and complex.  I was sipping my half of this happily for the hour+ that we were there.

Of course, we were here for lunch primarily, so we were given menus by the bar manager, Barclay.  He was up on a ladder updating the blackboard with the days selection while we pursued this, but came down frequently to check on us, and soon another table.  He knows his beer and will effortlessly tell you about who makes it, where they make it, what which ingredients or brewing processes help to give it it’s distinct flavors, and surely much more.  Their menu is available on the website, but it seems to change frequently enough that the one we saw was a bit different, so here is what it looked like for us.

We both picked out a burger, I went with the California (Ground chuck, brisket and tender rib meat combined in one patty, topped with sliced avocados, lettuce, tomato and a delightful sriracha aioli) [$11] and Justin with the All American (Cheddar, tomatoes, lettuce, onions and thousand island spread on a toasted Truckee sourdough roll) [$10].  I was also curious about the Mini Corn Dogs (A generous portion of mini corn dogs.  Fried to golden brown perfection.) [$7].  The corn dogs came with fries, so I upgraded my fries to onion rings (malty ale battered onion rings, fried hot and crunchy).

The food all came out at the same time.  It had taken a bit of time, maybe 20-25 minutes, but we were not in a hurry and had told them as much, so I didn’t really have an issue with that.  Also we were the first order to the kitchen so they were probably still ramping up.  The 2nd customer’s food seemed a little quicker.

Everything looked great.  The mini corn dogs were cocktail wiener-sized and there were 11 or 12 of them, so a good amount (we were genuinely curious what quantity would warrant “a generous portion” in the description).  They were as advertised, perfectly crisp and golden brown.  They were similar in flavor to traditional fairground corndogs, though perhaps a little less greasy.  The fries were basic but also crisp and tasty with a bit of ketchup.

Justin had ordered his burger without much (or any?) of the produce.  It looked pretty simple by that point.  But he enjoyed it, I was only a bite into mine when I looked up and his was already completely gone.  My onion rings were really good.  Extremely crunchy and it looked like they had even been thrown on the grill after being fried.  The thousand island-like sauce that came with them was pretty tasty as well.  My burger was piled high with produce.  I kind of tilted it and let out a lot of the lettuce that added probably over an inch to the height.  The tomatoes were still cold, insulated from the patty by the lettuce.  I ended up eating most of these individually because they were so ripe and delicious looking.  Eventually I was down to the burger with avocado, a bit of lettuce, one tomato and aioli.  It was damn good.  Cooked perfectly with a pink center, the beef was just right and flavorful.  Even Justin, who is far, far pickier than I, gave it high marks.

Barclay hooked us up with a complimentary slice of cheesecake (which I’ve seen them mentioning on their Facebook page over the last few days) for dessert.  It was drizzled with caramel syrup and sprinkled with black Hawaiian sea salt.  I’ve never had cheesecake with salt, but it totally makes sense with the caramel.  In addition, I’ve never even heard of black Hawaiian sea salt.  It was a really visually interesting contrast with the coarse, black grains against the creamy white cheesecake.  This was fantastic and a perfect way to end lunch.  I finished of the last little swig of Stickee Monkee, which went well with the cheesecake, and we were on our way.

I knew that beer-wise I was very happy with Porter’s, but I was not expecting the level of food that we encountered.  To top it off I think the prices are really fair.  It’s great to have a place like Porter’s on this side of Roseville and I hope they stick around for a long time.

#213: The Monk’s Cellar Brewery & Public House

It’s been very quiet around here lately and the reason is that I was waiting for new places to open! Recently, a couple have done so. The Monk’s Cellar and Crawfish Factory have both opened within the last few weeks and had some time to get settled in. I’ll tackle Crawfish Factory next week.

Monk’s Cellar is a brewery and public house located on Vernon Street next door to Sammy’s Island Bar & Grill. If you have been to any of the downtown events over the summer you may have noticed them giving sneak peaks into the space as it was taking shape, or even sampling their beer at the recent Wednesdays On Tap events. They’ve definitely been putting their name out there for a while and it shows. I met my brother and his wife for dinner on Tuesday and the place was quite busy.

We arrived at 6PM and through the iconic wooden door (a similar door serves as their logo) we squeezed into a crowded entryway. Two groups were before us and soon a 3rd arrived behind us. The first was seated right away and the 2nd was told it would be about 15-20 minutes for a table, so I was ready to be told the same. Instead we were offered a hightop table that seated 6 (my brother and his wife also had their infant in his car seat). I guess the previous group wanted a normal table. We went ahead and took that and spread out with room to spare.

I always forget how far back the spaces on this side of the street go back. Inside it is a long and narrow with most of the normal tables in the back. Up front they have the bar and a mix of different small tables plus a counter/island that faces the main brewery room. Another brewing room is just past the bar where they have open fermentation tanks, although they weren’t using them at the time. As far as I’m aware, all the beer on the menu is brewed here, in house. Our high-top table and one other was directly across from the open-tank room. Past that is mostly normal seating, along with a kind of loungy looking corner with a couch and armchairs. This was filled for all but the moment in-between groups where I managed to snap a photo of it.

We had a little drink menu that was left with us and quickly our server introduced herself, then went off to get us water, a second drink menu and a regular menu as well.  Soon we ordered our beers.  There was a Bier Blanche (Belgian style white.  Light, citrus, fresh), an Abbey Ale (Belgian style dubbel.  Brown, raisin, full) and a London Porter (English style brown porter.  Dark, chocolate, balanced).  All were $5.  I’m guessing the “$3” on the menu refers to happy hour price, which had just ended when we arrived at 6, according to a sign outside.  All three were good.  The Abbey Ale was very flavorful without being overwhelming or having any one particularly potent note.  The Bier Blanche was nice and light with a very clear citrus aroma and flavor.  The London Porter was mine and tasty to the last sip.  It had a bit of a chocolate scent to it but I didn’t feel that carried through to the taste.  It was actually much less sweet than I would have guessed by the smell.  Very drinkable, especially with my fish and chips.

The food here seems like slightly upscale typical pub food.  I say that because I can’t say I’ve ever seen mussels or marinated olives in one before, at least not anywhere around here.  All the fries on the menu are duck fat fries, which I’ve usually only seen in gastropubs or food trucks.

We ordered the olives to start.  These came out in just over 5 minutes.  These were Crystal’s idea, I personally don’t care for olives like this.  I stick to plain old black olives.  These were very, very strong in flavor.  I had one each of the 4 types I saw in the jar and then decided I was done.  Branden & Crystal almost finished the rest and said they enjoyed them.

Our dinners came out less than 10 minutes after the olives, which was pretty quick from order time, less than 15 min total.  I had the Fish & Chips (ale battered, light & crispy, with duck fat fries and house-made tartar sauce)[$9].  Crystal ordered the Moules Frites appetizer (mussels & duck fat fires)[$10-half pound] and Branden got the Brewmaster Burger (spent grain, white bean & lentil burger, arugula, pickled onion, Gruyere, Russian dressing & garlic aioli, served with duck fat fries or salad)[$10].

Crystal enjoyed the mussels.  I didn’t even think to try one myself, I don’t think I’ve ever had one.  Her fries came with the same garlic aioli that came with Branden’s burger.  My fries didn’t so I shared hers.  Branden had actually ordered the salad with his burger but they mistakenly gave him fries.  He had wanted to try some of mine anyway so he just kept and ate those instead.  He said the burger, while obviously a big grainy, was pretty good closer to the center where he got a little bit of all the toppings in each bite.  Around the edges where it was more patty and bread was perhaps a little more boring, but he said that’s pretty normal for a veggie burger anywhere.

My fish was OK.  It was obviously right out of the frier because it was insanely hot and I had to pull it into a few pieces and let it cool off while I worked on some fries.  These duck fat fries are unlike any I’ve had before.  First off, they didn’t have the telltale aroma of duck, and were considerably less greasy than I expected (they’re still a little greasy like most fries, just not to the extreme levels of the duck fat fries I’ve had before).  The color was also very unique.  They were quite dark although not burnt or overcooked as far as I could tell, and the fact that all of ours looked the same seemed to indicate that this is how they make them here.  Flavor-wise they were fine, I honestly didn’t taste much if any duck flavor.  They were pretty good with the garlic aioli, and just fine by themselves.  The fish itself was also just OK.  It was as greasy as it was hot.  My cloth napkin was soaked with grease by the end of the meal.  Texture-wise it was perfect, very thin, crispy batter and buttery-smooth, melt-in-your mouth fish, but there wasn’t much flavor beyond the somewhat bland batter.  Honestly it was the house-made tartar sauce that stole the spotlight.  I don’t even really like tartar sauce that much, but when a restaurant makes their own it’s usually pretty good.  This was no exception.  It was thick and very flavorful.

The service was excellent. Our server came by at just the right moments when we needed something, like when we were ready to order or when we were ready for a 2nd round of beer.  Staff was constantly in motion, including the owners (not entirely sure if I recognized them both, but I definitely saw one of them there).  The noise level was pretty high, lots of hard surfaces for sound to bounce around on.  Overall I thought the food was fine.  The beer is the star here and it’s great that it’s from a local brewery right here on Vernon with a very nice place in which to sit and enjoy it.  I’m sure I’ll be back to try something else on the menu soon.

Website: http://monkscellar.com

#164: 2H at Bunz and Company (now Bunz Sports Pub & Grub)

Today I made plans to go watch the Sharks game at Bunz & Company (or 2H at Bunz and Company as it’s now called) (they changed the name sometime in late 2013 to Bunz Sports Pub & Grub).  I suspect I am in a tiny minority of Roseville residents that have never been here, and even more so, know barely anything about it.  I was aware that it was a sports bar and that it was somewhere in the vicinity of Vernon St, but that’s about it.  Some time ago I purchased a Groupon, or some similar deal, to Bunz and Co and they promptly went out of business.  This happens to me pretty regularly for some reason.  I got my refund and moved on, not giving it much thought.  A while later I read an article about Bunz being reopened by new owners.  That was about a year ago, and I’ve finally made it out here.

I was killing some time before heading over and checked out their Facebook page where I saw that they had a live band playing from 7-9.  I figured that was a guarantee that I would not be able to hear the game audio and decided to go early, eat and then just watch the game at home.  I arrived a little after 6:30 and took some time taking a photo outside before going in.  The building is pretty unique for Roseville, looking like it belongs more in a little mountain ski town or something.  It was much bigger than I had expected.  Based on a couple photos I had found online before driving over I thought it was a tiny bar with enough room to fit a small band.  Boy was I wrong.  It was easily 4-5 times larger than I anticipated.  The bar itself was pretty long and the space in front of it was big and full of places to sit.  Further towards the front of the building looked to be a separate room, though I did not make my way in there to get  better look.  From the front doors, if you turn away from the bar you’ll find yourself in another big room with more seating.  On top of all this (no pun intended) is the 2nd floor where you’ll find pool, foosball, arcades and more.  From here you can look down on the first floor.  Tonight this gave a good view of the band.

I walked up to the bar after entering and gave the drink situation a once over.  They appeared to have a full compliment of liquor and a decent amount of beers on tap.  Almost immediately I was greeted by the bartender, who asked me what I would like.  I took a moment to examine more closely the beers on tap.  There were a lot of very typical domestics, Bud, Bud Light, Coors Light, Miller Light, Rolling Rock and Blue Moon.  I noticed a couple smaller breweries there, Bear Republic and Anderson Valley.  In addition to these they have a small selection of bottles, but nothing much more exciting than what’s on tap.  I ended up going with their “Gusto” sized (27oz) glass with Blue Moon [$6].  With the beer she handed me a menu.  The place was moderately busy so I decided to just sit there at the bar.  The menu has a lot of the type of bar/pub food you might expect, Bacon & Cheese Skins, Mozzarella Cheese Sticks and Nachos Grande among others.  A good chunk of the menu is made up of burgers, and a note which I’m just now noticing on their website says that all their meat is provided by the Roseville Meat Market, which is pretty cool.  However, their website menu and the menu on Facebook seem to be out of date, as the burger I selected has a totally different description than what was on the menu there at the bar and the prices are different as well.  I went with the California Burger.  Their website says this has sauteed mushroom and pepperjack cheese.  The menu there in the bar said bacon, avocado and American cheese, and that’s exactly what I got.  I ordered it medium rare and opted for fries (choice of fries, salad, and something else that I can’t recall).

With my food ordered, I sat drinking my Blue Moon and watched a pretty spectacular end to the Carolina/Philadelphia game on the big screen in front of me.  Behind me, the band was setting up and getting in tune.  About 13 minutes after ordering, my burger arrived, and shortly after that the band started playing Country music.  They weren’t too bad either, and I really could not care less about Country.  As soon as the plate arrived I had noticed the big steak cut fries.  Usually I’m much into this type.  These were surprisingly good however.  Most were crisp and they all tasted good and were lightly coated with salt.  My burger had all the fixings on it.  Lettuce, several pickles, a lot of red onions, a big slice of tomato and the whole thing was topped off with a big cherry tomato skewered on top.  The American cheese, as well as the two big, crisscrossed strips of bacon, was thick.  Biting into this good sized burger I found the patty to be cooked perfectly with a warm pink center.  This was absolutely fantastic.  Everything about it.  The beef was delicious, there was a good amount of soft, tasty avocado slices under the bun, the cheese was flavorful and the bacon was quality.  This burger reminded me a lot of the Burgers & Brew in Midtown Sacramento, which is my favorite burger in the Sacramento area, and probably my #2 burger of all time behind Umami burger in SF.  This one gives it a serious run for that #2 spot.  The only thing I think I would give Burgers and Brew over this is that they have some amazingly good variations, including a ridiculously awesome spicy guacamole burger.

2H at Bunz and Company was a crazy revelation for me.  I was blown away by the size of the place.  How it remained hidden from me all this time despite being within walking distance is beyond me.  The bartender was friendly and attentive and from what I could tell the same was true of the rest of the staff.  I met, and spoke to very briefly, one of the owners who was very nice.  The prices seemed very reasonable for what you get (and the burger is several dollars cheaper than a comparable burger at Burgers & Brew).  I think the only thing I might do to improve Bunz is to put some more variety into their beer selection with some microbrews and definitely at least one stout.  Other than that this place is fantastic.