You can’t go wrong with burgers and beer in a college town, even a sophisticated foodie one like Berkeley.
So it makes sense that the chain Eureka opened up its first Northern California location in downtown just a few blocks from the University of California at Berkeley. (BTW, they put an exclamation point at the end of Eureka but I’m dropping it because I’m tired of having to fix the auto-cap on Word.)
I visited with my friend David on a Saturday night and it was packed even though we ate on the early side. The restaurant doesn’t take reservations, but they have a good system where they text you with updates.
Although a tad dark, the dining room and bar looked lively with warm finishes and contemporary décor. There were a few flat screens on the wall showing sports, but they were far enough so they weren’t the focus of attention.
The service, however, can be a bit slow to start. We sat studying our menus for a long while before anyone came up to offer us water or even to welcome us. (In fact, I had to ask for a server.)
Once our server arrived, she was friendly and our food came out in a quick pace. We started with beer from their list of craft brews. I enjoyed my Deviant Dales IPA from Colorado but David didn’t seem all that thrilled by the lager the server recommended.
The menu had a mix of starters and specialty items, and several gourmet burgers. We couldn’t decide what to get as an appetizer because David has this thing about mayo and several items were tossed in aioli, which is just a fancy name for mayo. So that’s how we ended up with the lollipop corn dogs ($7.50), which came looking like cake pops and served with three dipping sauces: spicy porter mustard sauce, ketchup and cheddar IPA sauce.
The batter around the corn dog seemed undercooked, despite looking golden brown. But we both enjoyed the spicy porter mustard.
We balanced our corn dogs with the Santa Barbara Kale Salad ($8.95), which was a huge serving of farmer’s market kale made simply with roasted garlic and toasted walnuts with a light lemon vinaigrette.
Of course, we ordered a couple of burgers. David was good by replacing his Cowboy Burger ($11.25) with a ground turkey patty, but it was still dressed with the shoestring onion rings, crispy bacon, and homemade beer barbeque sauce. I went with the Fresno Fig Burger ($11.25) with a sweet fig marmalade contrasting with the melted goat cheese, crispy bacon and arugula in the same spicy porter mustard.
The burgers come out messy from the get-go with the toppings (mine was buried under a pile of arugula and a not-so-crispy bacon slice). I actually like the way they cooked the beef patty, but after it sat for awhile, it didn’t have that same excitement. (Side note: I replaced the French fries with cole slaw that was crudely chopped.)
The Last Bite
While the burgers were OK, I feel the food at Eureka suffers from the stereotypes of chain food, which is a paint-by-number execution from the kitchen. There’s no top chef pushing for creativity or excellence because they’re just trying to meet the company standards. While the food wasn’t bad, I probably would come back more for the vibe because it definitely is a handsome and fun space.
Rating: 2 out of 4 camera snaps
Eureka Restaurant, 2068 Center St. (at Shattuck), Berkeley. PH: 510.809.8282. Open daily from 11 a.m. to late. No reservations. Major credit cards accepted. www.eurekarestaurantgroup.com
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