The gastropub formula—showcasing uncommon beer and other adult beverages, supported by menus that blow typical bar food out of the water—seems to be a winning combination for operators and customers. The chef/owners opening these concepts across the country see them as a way to break out of fine dining and and reach a broader audience. Customers like the value, the broad beverage choices and the more sophisticated food.
The latest additions to the gastropub scene are putting distinctive spins on many classic elements, often bringing new/old tastes to their markets. Here’s what we found:
Goose & Gander recently took over the former Martini House spot in Napa Valley’s St. Helena. Chef Kelly McCown’s rustic American ingredient-driven menu is balanced by mixologist Scott Beattie’s artisan seasonal cocktails, wines and local craft beers. Bar snacks include Duck & Chicken Wings with fried pickles ($8) and Mushroom “Wellington” Spring Rolls ($6); charcuterie and cheese plates are offered in small ($12) and large ($18) options; the seasonal menu lists items like Roasted Bone Marrow ($13) and a Roasted Pork T-Bone Chop with asparagus panzanella, piperade, roasted garlic and grilled spring onions ($26). Beverages are also seasonal, reflecting the changing menu options. The space is divided into a 75-seat dining room upstairs with big leather booths and tables crafted from reclaimed redwood; a garden that seats 66; and an intimate, 34-seat basement bar.
A Fox Restaurant Concepts brainchild, Culinary Dropout, is about to open a second unit at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas. At a sprawling 6,000 sq ft, with a 3,000-sq ft, 320-seat patio, its scope kind of pushes the gastropub envelope, but hey—this is Las Vegas, after all. Two-thirds of the menu is given over to liquid refreshments; the other third is pub grub. Choices include appetizers such as Soft Pretzels with Provolone Fondue ($10) or House Smoked Salmon with Poached Egg and toast ($13), sandwiches like a Shaved Prime Rib Dip with Fontina and Onion Soup ($17); and, from the entrée section, familiar fare such as Beef Stroganoff ($15) and Beer Battered Fish & Chips ($15).
In Laguna Beach, CA, Three Seventy Common Kitchen+Drink promises “boldly updated” farm-to-table cooking. Chef/owner Ryan Adams works with local growers and purveyors to source the makings of dishes such as Oysters Rockefeller, Wild Mushroom Bruschetta, Butcher Steak with bone marrow, fries and bordelaise and a reinvented Poutine with veal, gravy, leeks, peas, cheddar, bacon and horseradish crema. Instead of bread, Adams serves bacon maple popcorn. Classic and creative cocktails, 30 wines by the glass and 60 by the bottle and craft beers keep thirsty patrons happy. Three Seventy builds a sense of camaraderie through events like the Sunday Night Social, a weekly family-style $26 fixed menu (half price for kids) with traditional favorites like roast chicken, pot roast and meatloaf.
Eric Skokan, who has raised the bar on farm-to-table cooking at Boulder's Black Cat, just opened Bramble & Hare, where he plans to showcase the produce and meats he raises on his own farm. Bramble & Hare is described as a farmhouse kitchen and pub, but it’s set in a vintage industrial space off Boulder’s central pedestrian mall. It is open for lunch, dinner and late night and features garden-inspired cocktails and a brief daily menu with items like vinegar turnip chips, chicken skin chicharones, and pork and lamb burgers. The tiny spot seats 22, five more at the bar and 18 in a private dining room.
Last fall the partners behind Haven Gastropub + Brewery in Orange County launched a second location, north in Pasadena. Executive chef Greg Daniels’s all-scratch menu features local ingredients, humanely raised meats and sustainable seafood. Old World dishes (Lamb Belly, Rabbit Legs and Porchetta di Testa—hog’s head roulade) have been updated with a modern American twist. Haven brews join others among the 40-plus varieties on tap, along with more than 100 bottled beers, a global wine list with 50 by the glass, an extensive whiskey and gin selection and pre-Prohibition era cocktails.
Coming soon to downtown L.A.’s fashion district: Restaurant Hospitality Rising Star Casey Lane is expanding beyond The Tasting Kitchen to present his take on traditional British pub fare in a vintage setting at The Parish. Angelenos can sample pork head pot pie, fried chicken, deviled eggs, roasted bone marrow and burgers. The Parish will butcher and cure whole animals in-house and prepare dishes on a European wood-fire grill. John Coltharp has been tapped to head up the bar program, which will focus on classic cocktails, an ice-making program, beer cocktails and 20 rotating taps pouring local craft beers.