Awhile back, I wrote an article that was a bit of a commentary and slam on gastropubs, because, first, the meal we had at one, in particular, was horrible and, second, I don’t know why I would ever eat at another one. Gastropubs are an ode to indecision – they don’t know what they want to be and no one else knows what they are, either. A place like Belching Beaver Brewery Tavern & Grill, however, is an altogether different animal. Everything you need to know you can figure out from the name before you ever get there – it’s a lively, community oriented, jovial setting where you can share some freshly prepared food while lingering over a unique beer or three. Yes, now there’s a concept you can get your head around.
The success of any restaurant is often as much a product of ensuring that the food and menu is tailored to the diners’ palates as ensuring that it is good. In other words, if you’re going to open a high end French restaurant in Oshkosh, Wisconsin (I would imagine, although I’m definitely no Wisconsin expert), you should probably have some dang good cheese fries on the menu if you’re expecting to fill the dining room…or a very small dining room. Belching Beaver Brewery Tavern & Grill and Executive Chef Ramiro Guerra in Vista seem to have a firm grasp on this concept.
Belching Beaver Tavern & Grill is housed in a surprisingly large space in downtown Vista – a renovated, former bank building. With a bar that seems about 1/4 mile long and a dining area that is expansive, there are a lot of seats & tables to fill and turn here. Chef Ramiro has assembled a new summer menu that contains the magic sauce that allows them to do so several times a night.
Ramiro credits his experience as Executive Kitchen Manager for BJ’s test kitchen and some private cooking gigs that allowed him a lot of leeway in menu development for his ability to combine and prepare flavors that will ultimately be favorites amongst his clientele. While all of his offerings feature beer in the ingredients, the menu is definitively free of heavy beer flavors that are often overdone in the food at similar brewery establishments that happen to also serve food.
For instance, when is a salad not a salad? Maybe when it comes out with a man sized portion of salt and pepper grilled sirloin, topped with flash fried, flour coated green onion and a “hopped” up vinaigrette coating the local, fresh picked produce with umami laden, lip-licking flavor and a delicate crunch.
Talking with Chef Ramiro revealed that his single favorite food is, drumroll, please…fried chicken. Okay, you’ve got my attention now, Chef. For a southern boy like me, it can be safely argued that fried chicken is the pinnacle and ultimate example of true American food. More so, it can be further argued, and frequently is, that every single family recipe for fried chicken is THE best fried chicken in the world, depending on who you’re talking too, making it perhaps the only dish in the world that has millions of “best” ways to prepare and enjoy it. To challenge that concept in my neck of the woods means you’re throwin’ down fightin’ words.
After doing a run through Ramiro’s menu at Belching Beaver Brewer Tavern & Grill, it’s clear that he is making the best fried chicken in this town…except there’s no fried chicken on the menu. His “fried chicken” is in the form of simple, fresh as can be ingredients, thoughtfully and imaginatively combined in a way that makes you keep wanting one more bite…one more…okay, last one…fine, I’ll take the rest home… From hours out of the water local bluefin tuna to locally farmed vegetables every item on the menu here is easy to recognize with comfortable flavors, containing enough interesting accents and textures to elevate them from simply ordinary to a damn good reason to go out and eat something special.
What we have here, in a North County town that favors casual, comfortable and affordable food, but is ready to take their dining experience to a bit more sophisticated level, is a thoughtfully prepared menu that excites and tantalizes while remaining approachable and familiar. That’s some damn good “fried chicken,” Chef!
Here’s the Rundown on Belching Beaver Brewery Tavern & Grill:
Belching Beaver Brewery Tavern & Grill is in downtown Vista. There’s plentiful parking within an easy 1/2 block or so walk and they do accept reservations. It’s a cool, open space, tavern style. laid back in the inimicable Vista style.
The new summer menu was released last week and is spot on. Ingredients are crisp, light and refreshing, with plenty of heft remaining on the menu for the meat and potato lovers. Nothing to be afraid of here in terms of flavors and preparations, but plenty to be excited about. Table service was quick, friendly, knowledgeable (especially on the 100 or so beer selections) and efficient. Items range from $6 for small plate items to the $20 range for entrees.
Ingredients ranging from andouille corn dogs and fish tacos through flatbreads and steaks all feature flavors that are not easily achieved at home, but that you wish were. Enjoy a beer and a couple of plates for me and I’m sure I’ll see you there soon. Cheers, my friends!
302 East Broadway
Vista, CA 92084