By Hungry Hungry Harris
I’m sure I’ve said this before, but I really don’t get the chance to head out to the OC very often. Every time I’m lucky enough to head down south I seem to find a gem of a restaurant or bar and my last visit to Huntington Beach definitely did not change that. With a couple of friends in tow, we made our way down the 405 to the Bella Terra Mall in HB to visit the Public House by Evan’s Brewing Co. Tucked away in a mall parking lot where we once would have seen an ostracized Chili’s or Applebee’s stood the rustic looking gastropub; lit perfectly under a beautiful post-sunset SoCal sky. The sounds of laughter and live music made this restaurant an enticing dinner stop for those leaving the mall or in my case having one hell of a Thursday night.
Evan’s Brewing Co. has been making beer since 1994 and is Orange County’s oldest brewing company. They started out by supplying beers to restaurants with house beers sold under the restaurant’s name. In 2014, the brewery caught on fire and from the ashes rose Evan’s Brewing as we know it today. Since that fire, Evan’s Brewing Co. has produced numerous international award-winning beers and has opened two tasting rooms in the Soco District in Fullerton and the newest at the Bella Terra Mall in Huntington Beach.
With its recent opening only a few months ago in December of 2017, The Public House by Evan’s Brewing Co. Huntington Beach is still in the baby stages of becoming the “it” spot in HB. Upon walking into the restaurant I immediately saw everything I would ever want in my everyday gastropub. Like I stated early the restaurant has a very rustic feel; a lot of brick and exposed wood paneling, like a country cabin. They use kegs in a lot of the furniture but not in a “Hey, look we serve beer and we use kegs as a stool!” type of way. They definitely have a theme for the restaurant and they do a great job of keeping everything consistent. Everything serves a purpose and is beautifully displayed throughout, which leads me to their enticing menu.
When you think of brewery food, you probably assume they have chicken wings, burgers, and other basic finger foods. The Public House by Evan’s Brewing Co. doesn’t do basic food. Although they are flirting with the idea of adding finger foods, if they end up anything like their existing menu items well then I’ll prepare for a blown mind the next time I walk in. The menu, curated by Executive Chefs Matt Roman and Chris Paul, includes some of the most lavish dishes you’ll probably ever see at a brewery tasting room outside of Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens. Their appetizers include a coastal ceviche, duck confit poutine, and their Moules Public; which takes local black mussels, Spanish chorizo, fennel, Hefeweizen oven-dried tomatoes and puts it on a Public House sourdough crostini. They have a few salads that even the carnivore in me was drooling over. They also serve brick oven pizzas and flatbreads. Some of their main entrees include pork shank, flat iron steak, jidori chicken and pan-roasted salmon; all served with their own individual sides. And to top it all off, their dessert menu is bonkers! Desserts like bread pudding, a seasonal cobbler a la mode, key lime pie and a chocolate espresso budino had me planning my dinner so I made sure not to be too full by the dessert course. That’s a big deal to me because I usually don’t really dig into sweets.
After our beer orders, we were greeted by General Manager Christian, who uttered my favorite words, “I’m just gonna have chef bring you out a few things.” It’s like music to my ears. I see it as the chef, who in part created these dishes, is selecting his favorites and serving me what he is especially proud of. That’s a huge deal to me and I don’t take that honor lightly. So the dishes start coming out… and coming out… and coming out. At one point, our table was so full of plates and beer flights that you couldn’t even see the table top. You could’ve literally closed your eyes, poked at the table with a fork and you definitely would‘ve ended up with stabbed food on your fork.
The food came in healthy waves as to not overwhelm us I guess, but it definitely came quicker than we could chew, but no one was complaining. The first wave consisted of charred Brussel sprouts, fried cauliflower, and vegan toast; a new item that wasn’t on the menu yet.
As I’ve written in just about every spotlight, Brussel sprouts are one of my favorite foods. Everyone has their own take on them and every sprout is better than the last; well the streak continues. The Charred Oaklore Brussel Sprouts are cooked in Evan’s Brewing Co.’s very own Oaklore Brown Ale along with generous cubes of pork belly and topped with shaved parmesan cheese. The Brown Ale provides a nutty caramel flavor with a sweet hint of vanilla. You combine those great flavors with the natural sweetness of the sprout and then toss in the salty and savory of the pork belly and you have flavors battling it on your taste buds. Served from oven to table in a cast iron skillet, these Brussel Sprouts definitely stood out from other sprouts I’ve had in the past.
The vegan toast really surprised me and had me fighting with my friends for the last slice. Let me start off by saying that all of the bread at the Public House by Evan’s Brewing Co. is made by Chef Matt Roman at the Fullerton location and trucked over. The vegan toast is a slice of sourdough (which happens to be my bread of choice, coincidence?) ciabatta slathered with a vegan Za’atar and lemon aioli and topped with diced eggplant, snap peas, broccolini, and pickled onions. The bread is absolutely perfect; the middle is soft but didn’t get soggy even with the aioli and the crust was crisp enough for a nice crunch without leaving your mouth wounded like you just ate dry Cap’n Crunch.
As we were fighting for the last slice of toast, our eyes suddenly shifted to the next wave of food. As Chef Chris set down a beautiful pork shank dish I immediately threw in the white flag in the battle of vegan toast. Chef Chris presented us with a pork shank dish that was not on the menu. A similar dish is available but this one wouldn’t be served to the public for a few days. A pork shank that resembled a mini tomahawk steak dressed ever so elegantly with brussel-kraut, snap peas and apple gastrique. You probably read that list and looked back at brussel-kraut and wondered, “What the hell is that? Is that like sauerkraut?” Yes, instead of cabbage, thinly sliced Brussel sprouts are given an apple cider vinegar bath. Second, you’re probably wondering what the hell a gastrique is? Apple gastrique is basically a fancy applesauce. It’s very finely pureed, with vinegar, salt, pepper, and butter. I think this dish best resembled the restaurant as a whole. Like I stated earlier regarding the décor, everything served a purpose and so did everything on the plate. The plate was one big perfect bite waiting to happen. You wanted each bite to have a slice of pork, brussel-kraut, a snap pea and a small dollop of the apple gastrique. The saltiness of the pork, the bitterness from the brussel-kraut and the sweetness of the gastrique made each bite better than the last.
While we were all in pork bliss, Chef Chris snuck in a Fall Chicken flatbread at the end of our table. I don’t even know how long it was there but once the pork shanks were gone our full and undivided attention turned to the flatbread. The dough was absolutely perfect. I remember telling the GM that if business didn’t go well they can always open up as a bakery. Their bread is that good! The flatbread was topped with seasonal squash puree, KrHOPen IPA caramelized onions, Tuscan kale, pomegranate seeds, smoked Gouda, and parmesan. This dish was as delicious as it was beautiful to look at. It may have even been too pretty to eat, that is until I grabbed the first slice and took a bite. My eyes rolled to back of my head and I slouched back in my chair with complete satisfaction. The Gouda provided smokiness and kind of dried your mouth allowing the other flavors to completely overtake your taste buds.
Thinking our meal was done, we started to talk about our favorite dishes and dessert arrived at our table. After taking one look at the dishes, the thought of being too full for dessert never crossed my mind. The first dish I tried was the Chocolate Espresso Budino, Italian custard made with Evan’s Brewing Co. Chocolatte Porter served with whipped cream and fresh berries. The sweet chocolate custard combined with the tart berries made want to devour the whole cup but I had guests I had to share with. Next up was the Key Lime Pie. Although I don’t really do sweets, key lime happens to be one of my favorite pies. The key lime custard is made in-house with labneh yogurt (strained to remove most of its whey, resulting in a thicker consistency) and topped with toasted meringue. Our server, Tygr talked up the crust as this is one of her favorite desserts as well. She was absolutely right to talk so highly of it. The crust was buttery and it crumbled as soon as it hit your tongue. And again a fight ensued for the last bite, but I won this one. In true Billy Mays fashion, we had a “But wait there’s more” moment as two more dessert dishes were set out. The Chef’s Choice Bread Pudding and the Seasonal Cobbler ala Mode were laid out in front us in piping hot cast iron skillets both with a huge scoop of salted caramel ice cream slowing melting over the top of each dish. I dug into the cobbler first and made sure to get a perfect bite of both the cobbler and ice cream. The cobbler topping collapsed as I dug my spoon into the skillet to reveal the perfectly cubed apples brewing in their own juices and caramelization. The apples walked that thin line of oven-baked softness and crisp. After a few bites of the cobbler, I moved onto the bread pudding. Growing up in a Mexican household I was used to Capirotada or Mexican bread pudding. Whether you’re a fan of Capirotada or not, which I am not, this bread pudding is totally different. It’s not really a pudding at all; it was more like a huge slice of dessert French toast. I definitely flirted with the idea of ordering one to go.
All this talk about food? At a brewery tasting room? What about the beer? Well yes, they definitely had a bunch of beer there as well. The first thing I noticed upon looking at their beer list was that it wasn’t overrun with IPAs. I’ve noticed a lot of breweries tend to go overboard with the IPA; offering a regular IPA, Double IPA, West/East Coast IPA, Triple IPA, Session and so on and then only offer a porter or stout. I get it IPAs are all the craze right now and for a while, I was all about them too. It’s a breath of fresh air to see a brewery offer so many different kinds of beers. Evan’s Brewing Co., in my meager opinion, has down an awesome job of including as many beer styles as they could. Their beer menu includes Chocolate Porter, Honey Blonde, Black Pilsner, Imperial Russian Stout, blonde/brown ales and a Mexican Red Ale. I was able to go in and sample so many beers that I was genuinely excited to try because they weren’t different variations of IPA. My favorite beer of the night was most definitely the Joaquin Dead (You see what they did there?) Mexican Red Ale. Red Ales or Ambers are my go beers styles. I love the malty caramel flavors so this beer was right up my alley. The Evan’s Brewing Co. website describes the beer as a “malt forward session ale, deep red in color, delivering a caramel and bready flavor with a medium-light mouthfeel.” This is something I could drink every day and not get tired of. After talking all that crap about IPAs, my surprise beer was their Samesies IPA. It was that perfect balance of hoppy bitterness and the sweetness of a regular old beer. The fruity flavors that are usually subtle in IPAs were displayed loud and proud. This was another beer I can see myself drinking regularly, which isn’t something I’d normally say about an IPA. I love that the kitchen uses a lot of the beer in their cooking and that all of the food compliments the beer, that’s the advantage of the tasting room kitchen. The food and the beer complement each other, so whether you’re there for good food and discover they have an awesome beer or vice versa you won’t leave disappointed.
I want to thank everyone at the Public House by Evan’s Brewing Co.; from Chef Chris, to Christian to our server Tygr and everyone who stopped by our table to recommend something. You guys love what you’re serving people and it definitely shows. Be sure to swing by this Sunday when Beer Mug from the Kevin & Bean Morning Show swings by for brunch. I may swing by for another round of food and maybe pick up a few Joaquin Deads to-go. The OC is hiding another gem from us LA city folk and it’s not fair. I will definitely be back next time I’m in the OC. Until then…
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