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Raise a glass to the new Shell Beach Brewhouse 

click to enlarge BREWS AND CHOW:  The newly opened Shell Beach Brewhouse has some diverse menu options including street-style tacos. - PHOTO BY STEVE E. MILLER
  • PHOTO BY STEVE E. MILLER
  • BREWS AND CHOW: The newly opened Shell Beach Brewhouse has some diverse menu options including street-style tacos.

I’m always talking to my fellow regulars at the Arroyo Grande Kennedy Club Fitness about restaurants, food, wine, and beer, and most lament that I’m making them hungry when they’re trying to work out. I know. I make myself hungry. Yet everybody who asks me about the new Shell Beach Brewhouse wants to know if it’s literally a brewhouse. Nope, I tell them, the Brewhouse is not a brewery despite its name but it does offer a vast array of good beers and ales. This usually elicits a skeptical look and their retort, “Then why is it called a brew house?”

South County residents love the fact that the Brewhouse has 30 beers and six wines on tap. The latter choices, however, don’t thrill me. We have so many fine wines from local producers available for a tap system I wish they would keep those wine choices local. Nevertheless, it is the hottest spot in Shell Beach (and South County for that matter) usually filled with people four-deep at the bar after 5 p.m. 

Last March when I originally spoke with co-owner Bill Hales, he told me their neighbors in Shell Beach were excited about the upcoming opening. I was surprised but ever since they opened there has been no doubt about it. The neighborhood is happy about this great-looking, comfortable new place for socializing, watching the game with like-minded brethren, and enjoying a good meal. But it’s not just a sports bar. Hales told me it would be more restaurant focused and family friendly, like their Arroyo Grande restaurant, Rooster Creek. And they do have a kids’ menu with treats like the slider duo, crispy sweet potato-crusted chicken tenders, and griddled PB&B with choice of side, just $7 each.

click to enlarge Ultimate Burger with a brioche bun at Shell Beach Brewhouse. - PHOTO BY STEVE E. MILLER
  • PHOTO BY STEVE E. MILLER
  • Ultimate Burger with a brioche bun at Shell Beach Brewhouse.

My first visit with my husband Dan Hardesty was a Thursday evening when we arrived at 5:30 and couldn’t get close to the bar because it was packed. In the dining room the hostess told me there was an hour wait for a table. Fortunately, two seats opened along the front windows in the bar so we snagged them and ordered beers to watch some college football. Not being big on waiting in long lines or heavy crowds we were about to leave when a nice guy Dan knows from Diablo Canyon called us over. Denny Cronomiz invited us to take his seat and the empty one next to it at the bar.

He told me that he was from Philadelphia and he explained why the menu says, “the Philly for real,” about the authentically prepared cheesesteak sandwich ($11). As a matter of act, Brewhouse chef Jason Gable is also from Philly. “The word wit means with onions, but it’s only in reference to the onions, meaning you want your Philly with them or without them,” Denny explained. Not only that: Gable buys the original Philadelphia Amoroso hoagie rolls par-baked, frozen, and shipped to be baked fresh at the restaurant each morning. The authentic Philly is made with whiz as in Cheese Whiz which was enough to turn me off.

That first visit we decided to try the food, even though I was a little concerned it might not be as good as it could be—the entire staff was hustling to keep up with the throng of guests that completely filled the house. When it was delivered I became downright excited about the food, it was so fresh and tasty. I thoroughly enjoyed the Brewhouse Standard, a burger made up of ground beef chuck and brisket, topped with aged Cheddar, crispy bacon, dill pickle slices, tomato, onion, lettuce, and ale burger sauce on a brioche bun ($11.50). I chose the side of crispy fries and found them crunchy good.

Dan, a.k.a. Mr. Fish, chose the sesame ahi salad ($13). The diced ahi (which I would find was the same diced version in several dishes) was fresh and delicious atop a shredded cabbage trio, daikon radish, local greens, crispy yucca, and sesame ponzu vinaigrette with wasabi. We had also tried Denny’s Ono kettle chips boardwalk style with garlic dill and malt vinegar ($5), generously portioned, and found them tasty if a bit soggy.

click to enlarge Aloha Ahi Poke salad with housemade thick cut potato chips at Shell Beach Brewhouse. - PHOTO BY STEVE E. MILLER
  • PHOTO BY STEVE E. MILLER
  • Aloha Ahi Poke salad with housemade thick cut potato chips at Shell Beach Brewhouse.

I didn’t like every dish but I can honestly say that about any of my favorite restaurants, anywhere. Next time I’ll order the chips with the malt vinegar on the side for dipping. I returned three more times to try various dishes. The smashers ($6.50), crispy red potatoes with clarified butter, parmesan, and arugula, were far too greasy for me. The crispy Katsu Snapper and chips ($16) was mostly crispy panko crust, not enough fish. Nor did I like the local fried oyster po’boy ($13.50) with only three oysters; it seemed like it was all baguette and lettuce. The brioche burger bun would be preferable for it.

I loved the ala carte street tacos with several choices of toppings. My favorites were the spicy Korean beef and grilled ahi tuna ($3 each), topped with Oaxacan cheese, onions, cilantro, and molcajeta red salsa on fresh flour or corn tortillas.  

The Brewhouse is a fun place that’s family friendly. General Manager Eric DeMatteo said they’ve submitted applications for the permit to add alfresco dining out front. “We’re trying to do the best we can to make it a place people really enjoy returning to, and making changes as we get requests from people.”

 

Contact Cuisine columnist Kathy Marcks Hardesty at khardesty@newtimesslo.com.

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