Event - Eureka! Tasting of Burgers & Beers
My first memory of Eureka! in Huntington Beach was when, while walking around Bella Terra since Duc lives nearby, we came across the larger-than-life photographs of juicy burgers and in-the-middle-of-being-poured draft beers which were plastered across the dividers separating passersby from the construction inside. It looked simple enough of a concept - an American cuisine focused restaurant with an emphasis on burgers and 100% American craft beer. Fast forward to when it opened in March 2014, we saw the development that cemented the notion we already had in mind. This location is one of many in the family of restaurants (California-based) that sources local produce and aims to bring great service and fare together in a great environment with value. Their motto of EATertainment is now taking over the building at Bella Terra, and upon invitation, we took a step inside to see just what they had to offer which admittedly was quite a tasty experience.
One trait that I admire about the whole family of Eureka! locations is their commitment to assimilating and serving the personality of the community where they station themselves. I know of Pitfire Pizza and Umami Burger who follow that same mantra. Though the menu items and overall philosophy of the restaurants are the same throughout, they veer towards designing the interior and building out a space that is representative of where they are taking up shop. In this case, the Huntington Beach Eureka! features an industrial influence in their decor, highlighting dark woods and metal while still using artwork (from local artists) with surf culture motifs. An entire paintbrushed wall placed bright gold lettering and colorful shapes against the gray landscape, and canvases of surfing snapshot adorned another wall.
We learned that the tables and paneling came from reclaimed pre-war Old Growth Douglas fir, recycled steel, and North American hardwoods retrieved from historic barns, factories, and whiskey distilleries (designed by E&K Vintage Wood). With all of these arrangements, the restaurant seats 133 inside and outside. The bar was quite impressive itself with loaded taps of craft beers and also a few wines. However, what was a bit unique about Eureka! was its Bottle Shop near the entrance which had plenty of great wine and beer choices for ready purchase to take on the go. It made so much sense considering there are apartments above the restaurant with tenants that I'm sure would love some craft beer readily available.
When it came down to it, it was difficult for us to decide on exactly which few to pick to drink from their extensive alcohol list. I think this is a good (or is it bad?) sign for us to keep coming back - there was such a variety! American craft beers is just a portion of their offerings; there is also a strong list of small batch whiskeys and specialty cocktails. More specifically, you can find 40 craft beers on tap at any given time and 21 small batch American whiskeys (distinguished on the drink list by their state of origin such as Kentucky, Texas, and Utah), a number chosen to pay homage to the 21st Amendment. Duc's eyes went wide when he also saw some harder-to-get-ahold-of whiskeys on the list too.
If you can't decide quickly like we couldn't, there are flight options. Opt for four whiskeys for $22 or four beers for $9. The pours are generous, and if you really can't force yourself between the two, you can also mix a flight like we did. Costs of 50/50 flights vary depending on the type of beers and whiskeys chosen (rotating beers on tap are an additional $1 and select whiskeys are $5 more). The cocktail I had was just called "Gin" ($11 - Junipero Gin, Vya Sweet Vermouth and Breckenridge Bitters), a marvelously well-balanced drink that pleased the gin lover in me. The flight we chose was of The Dude's Blood Orange Juicebox, Ninkasi Dawn of the Red, High West Rendezvous Straight Rye Whiskey (95% Rye) from Utah, and Prichard’s Single Malt Whiskey from Tennessee. We happened to select ones that ended up in a $27 flight but your miles may vary!
Appetizers are aplenty, and it only makes sense considering the vibe of the place. It is definitely a neighborhood hangout, one of those places you could call up your friends to visit after work for a relaxing glass of whiskey or beer and good food. There are some more common American cuisine appetizers on the menu like Truffle Fries, Steamers (clams), and Nachos but we opted for ones a little more out of the box. The Lollipop Corn Dogs ($7.50 -all natural polish sausage hand-breaded in a sweet corn batter and served with spicy porter mustard, homemade ketchup, and ranch) come at five to an order and take you back to the happier, simpler days of childhood...save for the beer you've probably got in hand. The sweet corn batter was nice and crunchy, and the sausage juicy and slightly sweet. Each bite of the endearing lollipops (truthfully just regular skewers in corn dog balls) incited a fun recollection of old memories which we all shared with each other as we thought back to those days. They truly don't even need the sauces that came with them but I was a fan of the ketchup for sure. Blame nostalgia for that one.
We also got ahold of the Osso Buco Riblets ($8.95 - Sherry braised pork lightly tossed in a homemade firecracker aioli) which are one of the most popular dishes at Eureka! so far. These morsels were slightly tougher and drier than I expected of braised pork but the aioli really made up for it. Though it's called "firecracker aioli," I hesitate to call them spicy by any means. Perhaps it's just the term you throw in for the burst of flavor that it gives to whatever you toss with the stuff. Our waiter said he would swim in it if that were possible, hah! Because these riblets are small, they actually work out well as appetizers to share at the table without being too messy.
Eureka! prides itself on quality and local ingredients. They also note prominently on their menu that their beef is all-natural, hand-packed, vegetarian fed, and both hormone and antibiotic free. That's a step in a great direction. Not into beef? There are turkey and veggie patty options as well. The burgers entrees come with handcut Kennebec potato fries that can be substituted at $1.25 more for Honey Cinnamon Sweet Potato Fries, Panko Crusted Onion Rings, Pacific Coleslaw (with peanuts), or House Side Salad with choice of dressing. There are other modifications you can make including throwing on add-ons and different cheeses. We decided we'd try a few variations with our order to see what makes each different.
Duc chose the Jalapeño Egg Burger ($11.50 - fried egg with melted Cheddar, crispy bacon, spicy chipotle sauce, and jalapeño peppers) with a side of onion rings. I'm not even sure why one would call these onion rings though - they were practically skirts. The behemoth rings were not manageably dippable in the sauce bowls in their whole form nor able to be bitten into unless you folded them down onto themselves. However, the crunch was rewarding; I like how they used panko instead of traditional breading. As for the runny egg that coated the burger once we popped it, the creaminess of the yolk was necessary with how much jalapeño was involved. This is a burger for those who love some spice in their life. I thought that the bacon was a bit over the top myself but the rest of the meal was solid.
My choice that day was their Veggie Beet Burger ($10.50 - house blended red beet and bean patty served with homemade zucchini pickles, tomato, red onion, and arugula tossed in lemon vinaigrette) in a wrap instead of with buns. A fuchsia wonder, the patty draws a lot of attention for its bright appearance but also must get a lot of attention for just being dang good. It was quite juicy, a trait I don't always see in vegetarian burgers. These we substituted for the sweet potato fries which were great having been powdered with cinnamon and drizzled in honey (though Duc found them too sweet himself). I think this burger would be a lovely fit for those wanting to go meatless one day or are vegetarians because it was truly hearty but still light in feeling.
We also tried the Balsamic Steak Salad Wrap ($14.50 - grilled strips of top sirloin served with spring mix, shoestring onions rings, blue cheese crumbles, cherry tomato, grilled red onion, and balsamic vinaigrette) without the wrap. The salad was enormous in both size and flavor. The crisp greens were joined by crunchy shoestring onion rings that gave it the perfect pizzazz for savory and salty. I liked how the vinaigrette was not too heavy so the other ingredients could shine. The top sirloin was a tad less tender than I would have liked but the vegetables really shone through on this one. No wonder it is also a favorite dish at Eureka!
Though we thought we were stuffed beyond what we could handle, there were only two dessert items on the menu. Between the three of us (we dined also with Christina of Eureka), it seemed a task we could easily tackle. The two tempting sweets were Eureka!'s Chocolate Espresso Soufflé Coffee Cup Cake ($6.00 - rich dark chocolate soufflé à la mode garnished with homemade whipped cream) and Goldengate Butterscotch Rum Pudding ($6.00 - served with homemade whipped cream and caramel sauce and garnished with flaky sea salt). Talk about a treat! The favored between the two ended up being the coffee cup cake because though the flavors were rich, the cake did not leave us feeling overstuffed and overindulged. The rum pudding is an excellent, smooth and creamy addition to the end of any meal but because of how heavy it felt (it's pudding of course!), it is definitely one you'd want to share. To top off the meal, we also opted for some Kean Coffee; the roast served at Eureka! is Kean's Guatemala blend.
Overall, a great experience at Eureka! and though the concept may not seem exciting upon first glance (burgers and beers), the food speaks for itself. There aren't many areas near there that serve up this relaxed and easygoing vibe while providing quality food so we are excited to see how it pans out in the coming months. There are plans to also open a location near UCI this year - it's all part of their strategy to be near universities because of what they have to offer. Our thanks go out to Eureka! for having us and for being a fun addition to the Huntington Beach neighborhood.
[SPECIAL NOTICE] For the first two weeks of May, Uber will provide 1 free ride to Eureka! Huntington Beach. Eureka! will show their appreciation with complimentary Osso Bucco Riblets with proof of Uber receipt.
Photography by Duc Duong. More photos available on Facebook here.