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Let's eat.

From Big Sur's killer cliff-clinging eateries to Salinas' unparalleled produce, this blog aims to sniff out all things Monterey County can stomach, via picture and prose, curiosity and appetite, hand and mouth.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Opening Night at Cannery Row Brewing Company

The CRBC powers-that-be kept looking at their watches. At least three relayed a version of, "Whoah. We've only been open [fill in the blank] minutes and look at this…"

The big historic brick building was open at 5pm. The bar was spilling over by 5:20pm.

"We got 78 reservations in the first hour we went active on Dining Out," Rob Weakley, co-founder of CRBC parent Coastal Luxury Management, said during a break from expediting in the kitchen (that's him hustling, below left). It's not like the online Dining Out reservation service has an alert built in. Folks were waiting and watching.

The whole CLM team was on hand to double staff the madness—Tim Mosblech, chef of 1833, CLM's other restaurant to be in the former Gallatin's, was among the many pitching in (above)—and the service was a notch higher than I was anticipating for opening day insanity. One of the most welcome sights was seeing experienced people from extinct spots like Stokes and Monterey Live manning the taps and tables.

Another welcome sight: beer. And more beer. I was a little worried when a soft opening a week earlier starred not a drop of hops. But on this night it flowed well past midnight as a big ol' woofer boomed from above the bar area, shifting from classic rock to more house-like club action as the night spooled out.

I tried a couple signature brews, Madame Flora's "Red Light Special" and Tipsy Seagull American Pale Ale ($5.75), done exclusively for CRBC, who isn't doing any brewing themselves. The pale ale stood out thanks to an herbal tastiness I haven't found elsewhere.

Friends toasted tasty Old Rasputin ($7.25) and Spaten Premium ($6.50). Most everyone drooled over a selection that ranges from "lawnmower beers" like Milwakee's Best ($4), Hamm's in a can ($4) and even Mickey's Wide Mouth ($4) to Allagash "Fluxus" ($39) and Bosteels - Deus "Brut des Flandres" ($75) with stops at Bear Republic Red Rocket Ale ($6.50), Abita Turbodog ($5.75) and Hofbrauhause Munchen Original ($7.25) in between.

Meanwhile the wine list delivers more than 30 California bottles ranging from Red Rock Winery Reserve ($23) to Trefethen Chard ($60) and the bourbons number several dozen.

And the place can bring the burgers. Chef Mark Ayers grinds his own meat with 75 percent chuck and 25 percent short ribs. They come on artisan bunds with fries or a salad and receive toppings like crispy shallots, Marin French brie and signature sauce (as with The Big Belly Bomb, $10.50) and fried egg, bacon and french fries (the Breakfast Burger, $11.50).

I like the looks of the crispy oyster po' boy ($13.50) with caper-pick remoulade on an artisan potato roll and the triple grilled cheese with thick-cut bacon on Santa Cruz sourdough ($9.25, above).

On this trip we stuck to appetizers. The "2-hour wings" (.75/each) are up to the hype—they don't even need the Point Reyes blue cheese. The crispy fried cheese ravioli ($8.50) rock ricotta, mozzarella and pecorino romano well. The truffle fries ($7.75) are good but not worth the price.

The big several hundred thousand dollar smoker, Cheech, makes things like the wings, the smoked baby back ribs ($15/half rack; $24/full) and the slow-braised pork belly ($16) possible.

One of the stars of the operation is designer Carissa Duncan. Her details are dope, including the kegs dangling outside...
...and the beer bottle "wall"...

...keeping with the theme, here's the chandelier (chandebeer?)...

And windows to the keg room further the beer-as-art design scheme.

Chalkboard walls escort a walk through the halls to the restroom...

Attention to detail is apparent most everywhere, including the check cups made from vintage beer cans.

Retro signs hang around. The door to keg room is pretty cool in a space shuttle way.

A bunch of flatscreens bring the game live above the bar and in the dining room (that's a look from the front towards the bar starring CLM restaurants boss Gary Obligacion.

I doubled back after the Bela Fleck mindblower in Carmel to see how lively it was past the dinner hour and the place was still pretty much poppin', on into the early morning.

The next course: the balcony, featuring firepits and a look over the Rec Trail. And 1833, which is maybe a month away, insiders say.

With a side dish of world domination.