#155: Bar 101 Eats & Drinks

Last Friday I was planning on going to Bar 101 Eats & Drinks in Old Roseville to see a friend’s band play.  I had never been there so I took a look at their website to see what type of place it was.  They have a little video featuring the food and it made it look pretty solid, so I figured I’d do a post on it.  Bar 101 is located at the end of Main street near all the other bars and clubs.  I arrived pretty early, just after 6, for dinner.

The place was pretty quiet, a couple groups were seated and there were a few people at the bar.  The bar itself is on the small side given the size of the whole place.  Stick it on the opposite wall and it could have run the length of the room.  In the middle are regular tables and along the front wall some taller pub tables.  Past the bar is a somewhat separate room with a pool table, an arcade game and not much else.  TVs can be seen from most angles and a large projector screen hangs over what turns into the stage for live music at night.  I don’t recall if I was greeted when I walked in, if so it was a quick “how’s it going” type greeting and that’s it.  I took a seat at one of the tables by the front windows and sat for a few minutes, wondering if I should go to the bartender and ask for a menu.  Eventually he did come around and ask if I was going to be ordering food, then brought me a menu, silverware/napkin and a basket of condiments.

On the wall above the entrance to the pool table room is a big blackboard with the beer selection.  I’m not even remotely a beer guy, but I have to say I found it to be very standard.  There were a couple things that I don’t normally see, but all the typical domestic stuff was up there and nothing particularly noteworthy from the smaller breweries.  I settled on a Lost Coast Great White.  The bartender/server brought this out in a couple minutes.  He was the only guy working the front, though I did see another who was running food out from the kitchen now and then.  The menu was much more interesting than the beer list.  It starts off with appetizer/bar type items from wings and chicken strips to spicy panko calamari.  Some excellent sounding salads come up next, and finally the bulk of the menu, burgers, tacos sandwiches and a few other misc items.  Honestly, based on the descriptions, I think I would be down to order just about anything on this menu, which is rare I think.  I soon decided on The Package burger (Bacon wrapped, cheddar stuffed, topped with crispy onion strings and our house-made BBQ sauce on a toasted brioche bun)[$10.95].

I ordered it up and waited just a smidge over ten minutes for it to come out.  The other guy I saw running food brought it to me with the bartender just behind him, who then asked if I needed anything else.  I almost said ketchup but realized it was in the basket he set on the table earlier.  With that he turned his attention back to the bar and the other customers.  My burger was served in a largish metal pan with a light-brown paper liner.  It was presented open, showing off most of the ingredients.  The pile of onion strings was enough that I thought I would have a hard time keeping them in the burger.  A lot of it was small broken up pieces.  They sat atop the burger patty with a glob of BBQ sauce in between.  A couple slices of medium-thick bacon was visible curled around on one side.  There was a lot more there underneath the BBQ and onions.  On the top slice of bun was lettuce, red onion and a slice of tomato.  I didn’t realize how much onion there was until I assembled the burger.  It was a solid slice, which I thought might be a bit much, so I pulled a few rings off to thin it out.

Once I put it together I think I looked at it for a minute or so wondering how to go about starting to eat it.  It was a very sizable burger.  I snacked on the fries a bit while I considered this.  The fries were thin, shoestring cut, and they were pretty good on their own.  I had no desire to add ketchup to them at all.  They were crispy and had little salt, which they didn’t really need.  Finally I took the plunge, picked up the massive burger and started eating.  The first bite was a lot of bun, onion, BBQ sauce and one of the thick sliced pickles that was hiding under the patty.  I hit the bacon wrapped patty next.  It was pretty damn good.  The bacon was crisp and flavorful and the patty was full of flavor itself.  I had picked medium rare when he asked earlier.  The beef seemed to be cooked more medium as I didn’t really see any pink.  It was still very good though and plenty juicy, I’m not sure if medium rare would have even been the much of an improvement.  I didn’t really notice the “cheddar stuffed” part of this burger.  I didn’t hit an obvious cheesy pocket or even see bits here or there.  Either they forgot the cheese in this or it’s so well blended in with the patty that it simply enhances the beef without being it’s own discrete thing.  Despite this, it was still a really great burger.  Excellent, crispy bacon was in just about every single bite.  I’ve had many bacon-wrapped things, but this was my first bacon-wrapped burger, and I liked it.

The service left something to be desired.  Granted, it was just the one bartender.  They weren’t all that busy though.  He seemed somewhat disinterested in our interactions.  He did apologize for the lack of service to an extent at the end, but this might just have been because he had guessed earlier that I was doing some kind of blog/review.  I left for a while and had drinks elsewhere until the show was about to start.  When I came back it was much busier and he had another server or two helping out.  I stood at the bar for a bit scoping out the small section of liquor.  In their video they claim to have “whatever your hearts desire”.  My heart desired a decent bourbon selection, but all they had was Makers Mark.  The same bartender served that to me, again, seeming very disinterested in either me or his work in general.

While the service I received could have used some major improvement, the food was almost good enough to overlook it.  As I said the entire menu looked pretty good and I wouldn’t be surprised if I find myself back here eventually to try some other things, particularly the carnitas fries (French fries topped with carnitas, melted jack and cheddar cheese, homemade guac, sour cream, pico de gallo, jalapenos and green onions)[$7.95].

#147 Tap Room (Whole Foods Market)

I hadn’t intended to do a post on Whole Foods.  I had come here last Saturday because Fabio was supposed to make an appearance to promote some sort of protein shake or something, and I thought it would be a hilarious celebrity photo to have.  Unfortunately he cancelled, so no photo op for this guy.  Luckily it was not a complete waste since also thought I would check out the Tap Room while I was there.  Disclaimer: I know a couple guys that work at this whole foods and had direct interaction with both of them during my visit.  That said, the service and food I saw going out to other customers while I was there looked to be about the same as I received.

I rarely wonder into Whole Foods.  Usually it’s to buy beer or a ribeye (or both!).  As such I was completely unaware that, earlier this year, they opened this “Tap Room” on the right side of the market.  It’s basically a fenced-off area of seating with a small bar where they have craft beer, wine and a selection of pub-style food.  My friend Justin and I sat down at the bar and both had an Auburn Alehouse Shanghai Stout (served on nitro), which is my favorite year-round beer from the brewery/restaurant up there.  Today they were also serving this as a beer float, with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.  It didn’t sound that good to me but I was handed a little 4oz sample to try out and it was actually pretty awesome.

We weren’t planning on eating there until we saw a burger come out for someone and decided it looked damn good.  Added to that, on the menu we noticed that they have a $1 corkage fee, which we asked about.  This applies to any wine or beer purchased in-store (not something brought in from outside), which basically means you have access to a much bigger selection than is on tap.  So we decided to get a good beer from the wall of cold beer on the other side of the store and bring it back to have with food there at the Tap Room.  We picked out a Darkest Hour from Anchorage Brewing Company to share.  This is a Belgian style imperial stout aged in French oak pinot noir and rye whisky barrels and is 13% ABV.  It’s a super dark, super flavorful beer with notes of chocolate, nuts, vanilla, oaky bourbon and a touch of wine.  This is right up my alley.  It was a little pricey though at I think $15 or $16 for the 750ml bottle.

We each ordered the burger & fries (ground beef, turkey or veggie burger topped with cheese, lettuce, tomato, onions, pickle, mayo and ketchup)[$9].  You can add bacon, avocado or chili for $1 each.  Some interesting things to note: 1. The beef is apparently from Whole Foods own meat dept from what I was told, and they have some pretty great beef.  2. Cheddar cheese is standard but they offered to see what the deli had available when Justin asked if they had Gruyere.  Purchasing some from the cheese dept and bringing it over was also an option.  He stuck with cheddar to keep it simple.  There were some fry options, garlic Parmesan or sweet potato, I believe.  It may also be possible to do onion rings in place of the fries.  We both went with regular.  I added bacon to mine and we asked for caramelized onions.

It was probably 10-15 minutes for our burgers to be cooked up right in front of us in the little kitchen.  The patty was somewhat thin and draped with a thick slice of melted cheddar.  My bacon was crisp and piled on in a good amount.  They cook their burgers to medium as standard, we asked for something below that (not sure why we were vague about it but it’s just how it went).  There was just a hint of pink to mine, Justin’s was mostly brown throughout.  The burger nonetheless was very juicy and I had to set it to the side of my plate to avoid setting the bun directly in the newly formed puddle.  It was fantastically delicious and full of flavor.  The cheddar was particularly tasty.  It’s definitely one of the better burgers in Roseville for sure.  The fries were pretty decent, though I definitely like mine crispier.  Despite their dark appearance they weren’t overly cooked, in fact some were downright limp.  They appeared to be seasoned with salt and pepper only, and did taste pretty good.  I suspect these could be excellent if I ask for them to be fried longer.

This place was not on my radar at all, but I can definitely say that I will be back.  The burger was great and the price was reasonable.  Just about everything on their small menu sounds really good (I’m eying the grilled cheese right now…).

Website: http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/stores/roseville

(Scanned) Menu: Click Here


#141: Gordon Biersch Tavern

Right back to the Galleria for this one.  A couple friends and i tried out the Gordon Biersch Tavern finally.  I’ve been curious about this since it first went in.  Apparently Gordon Biersch restaurants are no new thing, though I’ve never seen one.  This little mini tavern location, however, is the first of it’s kind for Gordon Biersch.  The menu carries a small selection from the mothership, in addition to four (plus one rotating seasonal tap) of it’s own beers.

Located at the top of the escalators nearest the food court and opposite the carrousel, you just walk in a grab a seat.  There are regular tables, taller pub-style tables and a smallish bar.  It was about 3:45pm on Sunday when we arrived and the place was jam packed.  There were a couple 2-seater tables available but we waited probably 10-15 minutes for something that would fit the three of us to open up.  We pounced on it as soon as it did.  After a couple minutes our server came by to introduce herself and take our drink orders.  We all asked for waters and I asked her to wipe down one of the tables we had pulled together.  The waters came soon, and she realized she forgot about the table and came back again to wipe it down.  We hadn’t quite gotten into the menus yet so I told her we’d need a few more minutes.  The Gordon Biersch website said that the Tavern carries a limited selection of signature items, and limited it is (PDF).  I had already seen a photo of it that someone posted online earlier, but it was surprising to my friends.  There are essentially 8 food items as well as a kid’s combo.  Together we ordered over half of the menu.

I think I’ve only ever had Gordon Biersch’s Hefeweizen, so I thought I’d try another here since I don’t seem to see them too often.  I picked out the Märzen [$5] which is described as “a smooth, mildly sweet, auburn colored lager.”  I knew I wanted to try out the garlic fries, so that was a definite choice [$2.50].  I was kind of in the mood for a fish taco, so I picked that out [$4.95], and to finish off my order I also got 3 sliders (option of American-Style Kobe or USDA Choice Beef) [$6.95, ($9.95 for the American-Style Kobe)].  I was pretty hungry.  Our server came back after a while and we placed our orders.  My beer came relatively quickly and we spent the next 10 minutes chatting and people watching.  If the Galleria has just one thing going, it’s great people watching.  The Gordon Biersch Tavern is an excellent place for the activity since you can hang out in comfort and enjoy a beer.  They have a few TVs showing various sports.  One of these was about three inches above my head behind me, which had me wondering why a bunch of people were staring at my hair for a few minutes.

Our food arrived in a few trips, and soon we had 5 largish baskets with each item on it.  They had a one-size fits all approach with these baskets, and only the fries seemed comfortable and where they belonged on theirs.  The other items felt small and surrounded by empty space.  My taco was the worst off I think, all alone and propped up along the edge.  I wish I had thought to take a wider shot of each one.  It just felt weird.  The plating (if you can call it that) aside, everything looked pretty good.  My friend’s roasted turkey sandwich (with lettuce, tomato, mayonnaise, and Swiss cheese on toasted sourdough bread [$7.95]) was piled high with thin slices of cold turkey.  She said she loved it, despite having preferred a hot sandwich.  My other friend’s GB Cheeseburger (USDA Choice 8oz steak burger served with lettuce, tomato and choice of cheddar, Swiss or pepper jack cheese on a challah bun [$7.95]) had a nice melty slice of cheese over it and the whole thing looked very juicy.  He raved about it several times.

My fish taco (signature housemade taco with mahi mahi, pepper jack cheese, lettuce, spicy remoulade and pico de gallo in a crisp blue corn tortilla, wrapped with a soft flour tortilla) was pretty damn awesome.  There was quite a lot more mahi mahi than the first photo let on, so I took another once I had bitten in to reveal some more.  The pepper jack and spicy remoulade gave it a nice creamy zing.  I liked the combination of crisp corn and soft flour tortillas for some contrast in texture.  I was very happy with this fish taco, though $5 seemed a little steep.

Moving on, my sliders (tender mini burgers on housemade rolls with a kosher dill pickle and creamy mustard sauce) looked pretty boring at a glance.  My first bite into one, however, dispelled that notion very quickly.  That bite was a rush of flavors, from the well seasoned and cooked beef to the awesome mustard (which I had forgotten about and thought was mayo due to how white it was) and the dill pickle.  Everything about these was fantastic, and if they were any indication of the GB Cheeseburger, I can understand the raving about it.  Like the taco however, I felt these were a touch pricey for the portion.

Finally the garlic fries.  These were the last to arrive at the table behind the others by about a minute.  I think I smelled them before I saw them.  I was pretty much punched in the face with a wall garlic.  As I mentioned, this was the only full-looking basket.  There were a lot of fries, some thinly coated with a shiny garlic oil, and big clumps of chopped garlic covering others.  These were crispy just the way I love and absolutely fantastic overall.

My Märzen was wonderful, crisp and refreshing with a nice malty finish.  I would definitely order this again.  Cool glass too.

I have to say, I was really, really impressed by this place.  I figured it would have decent food but be more about their beers.  Each of the three things I had were fantastic and I enjoyed every bite.  The only real negative is the price for what you get.  This may simply be due to it’s prime location in the Galleria.  Of everything though, the fries were the one thing I actually would have paid more for.  They were just $2.50 for easily the largest portion by at least double the next biggest item we had ordered.  Anyway, I can see myself eating here again for certain, and it makes me want to try out one of their full-on restaurants.  Hopefully we’ll get one nearby eventually, otherwise it’s a trip to the Bay Area for the closest ones.

Website: http://www.gordonbiersch.com/locations/roseville?action=view