Photos by Ben Brown

Barrel House 101: Beer-Infused Wonder in Ventura

Barrel House 101 is the exact kind of homey, fun-filled, hit-the-spot spot you’d hope to find in the not-so-sleepy beach town of Ventura. Exit the 101 and you’ve officially escaped from L.A. Then enter through Barrel House 101’s doors—right between the beach and Downtown Ventura’s Main Street—and you’re in one of the area’s prized food and drink hotspots. Humble in its approach but pristine in its execution, this brewpub knows how to strut its stuff the right way.

First off, Barrel House 101 stays true to its name in impressive fashion. Yes, 101 taps that rotate regularly. Stouts, porters, IPAs, whites, ambers and an impressive fruits and seasonal selection [four pumpkin beers in October]. The ‘#drinklocal’ campaign brings in nearby favorites such as Topa Topa’s nitro milk stout and Island avocado honey ale, while imports include everything from Timmerman’s Framboise to Wells and Young banana bread. Add on ciders, wine and even a kombucha. A few three-pour flights should offset the inevitable decision paralysis guests will face.

The food is every bit as impressive as the drink selection, with incredible attention to detail and novelties throughout the menu. The fresh-baked German pretzel with creamy cheese sauce is a force to be reckoned with, as are specialties like the Argentinian steak sandwich and a smattering of tacos [the ahi are a crowd favorite]. A strong salad selection and lighter items like the portabella panini allow Barrel House 101 to appeal to a broad crowd.

Barrel House 101 takes their burgers seriously. The Avenue, a house signature, features a 50/50 blend of chorizo and beef, caramelized onions, fried egg, guacamole, cheddar and three-pepper sauce that will wake you right up even if you’re a few beer flights in. The blue cheese burger is excellent with crispy onions, chipotle aioli and a small mountain of blue cheese crumbles. Pair any burger with the garlic truffle fries…they’re not-to-be-missed.

On a similar note, save room for dessert, or even with your meal, get one of Barrel House 101’s ridiculously good beer shakes. The P.Beeruptin is a heavenly compilation of vanilla ice cream, peanut butter and the perfect touch of Belching Beaver PB Stout, with a peanut-butter and Reese’s Pieces-garnished rim. You’ll thank yourself many times over with the first sip. 

Barrel House 101’s price point is right in line with a place laden with TVs broadcasting every sports match you’d want to watch, adding even more appeal to guests who are sick and tired of L.A.’s gastropubs that charge much more for an inferior product. This place has set the bar high for six years running, and is showing no signs of slowing down. 

For more information, visit BarrelHouse101.com.

Anacapa Brewing Company: Brewpub Delights Along Ventura’s Main Street

Anacapa Brewing Company is somewhat of a historical landmark along Downtown Ventura’s main street. With the large beer vats right on the other side of the bar—and it’s a long bar—there’s nothing like the assurance that your beer is being imported from arm’s reach, fresh as can be. The place has been brewing up a storm for 16 years and counting, and serving up some delectable brewpub fare to go along with. 

Anacapa Brewing Company’s beer selection is about as intimate as the restaurant itself, enough to navigate comfortably with little to worry about getting lost. The Oktoberfest German Amber Lager is suitable for anyone looking for deep flavor without an overwhelming IBU, while the Rock-Knocker Amber has that bitterness some actively seek out. The drink menu also has a healthy bottle selection, as well as house-made root beer.

Food-wise, the Asiago cheese dip is not to be missed, with a spectacular beer bread rich with cheese and onions fused within. Add the ahi rolls to the list, with very generous portions of seared ahi meld with avocado and a cucumber wasabi ranch dipping sauce. 

On the entrée end, the pretzel fried chicken is a novelty worth the indulgence, with spikes of salty crunchiness and a mushroom ragout complementing what was already a finger-lickin’ good recipe, plus beer-infused mashed potatoes alongside. It’s worth noting that Anacapa Brewing Company actually makes three different recipes of fried chicken, fitting in with selections such as the chicken and waffles and the Louisiana fried chicken salad. 

The Mission fig burger features a fun spin on the blue cheeseburger, adding fig marmalade and bacon. Additional items include salads, brick-oven pizzas, pastas and other sandwiches. And for dessert, the white chocolate bread pudding is every bit as decadent as it looks.  

For more information, visit AnacapaBrewing.com.

Slater’s 50/50: Making Burgers, Bacon and Beer all the More Beautiful

Slater’s 50/50 is everything you could wish for in a burger bar. Unreal burger concoctions, compilations and custom combinations. Dozens of craft beers on tap. TVs everywhere and a festive, upbeat crowd that gives the place just enough of a sports bar vibe to stray away from a snobby gastropub, but not so much that you’d rather be at one. Oh, and yeah…bacon!

It’s important to know that bacon is so sacred to Slater’s 50/50 that it’s in their title. The restaurant’s signature patties are half ground beef, half ground bacon. And while that may be the end game at other institutions, Slater’s 50/50 prides itself on stellar ingredients used in imaginative ways across the board, providing something for anyone who walks through their doors.

The custom burger experience is second to none here. Burgers range from ‘true quarter’ [read: weight after cooking] to a full pound, patties made from turkey to bison, and dozens of toppings from house made beer cheese to Guinness bacon chili. Healthy eaters will have more than their fair share of choices, with veggie patties, fresh vegetables and salad options readily available. 

Slater’s 50/50 definitely walks on the wild side when it comes to their house favorites, which can be embodied no better than the peanut butter and jealousy burger. You guessed it—Angus beef, thick-cut bacon, and a generous slathering of creamy peanut butter and strawberry jelly. But wait, it doesn’t stop there: this burger is best served a la mode. A yolo moment in a honey wheat bun…this is a ‘you’ve gotta try it’ kind of experience, and yes, it is awesome. 

The list goes on with more impeccable burger combinations, as well as an equally enticing list of hot dogs and ‘non-burger’ sandwiches. While the one complaint is that burgers are served a la carte, it’s imperative to note that the fries and onion rings here are spot on and totally worth it. 

If you’re not already stuffed to the gills with burgers and beer, the milkshakes at Slater’s 50/50 are another home run. The maple bacon milkshake isn’t just a trendy-sounding novelty here, it’s executed with a harmonious balance of sweet and salty, and an overwhelming sense of sweet and rich that milkshake lovers embrace worldwide. 

This is the kind of place that’s tough to visit just once. Food this fun at a price point that embarrasses the snobby gastropub warrants many trips ahead. 

For more information, visit Slaters5050.com.

The Standing Room: American-Korean Fusion Lights up the South Bay

Steps off the sand and just a block from Hermosa Beach’s main drag, The Standing Room hosts the same fun-loving ambiance you’d hope to find in a South Bay beach bar, with a level of sophistication in its food that isn’t nearly as easy to come by. While others may be grasping at straws for how to become something new and different in the age of the gastropub, The Standing Room has owned its distinguished culinary identity for nearly a decade. So step inside this rustic place and see what American-Korean is all about.

Biting into The Standing Room’s tuna poke nachos unleashes a myriad of lovely emotions associated with the indulgence of rich, fresh, crispy and velvety. A mountain of ahi makes this starter a meal in itself, and perfectly-fried wonton makes you wonder what made tortilla chips so good in the first place. Then witness the soft shell crab sliders, with black buns colored with squid ink, to confirm that Chef Lowell Bakke is going to wow you every step of the way.

The Napoleon burger is another bucket-list item—cleverly described by the friendly wait staff as ‘having a burger complex.’ The description alone takes up two lines across the entire page on the menu, including three kinds of cheese, three kinds of meat [bacon and a huge slab of braised short rib], Korean aioli and fried egg, served with ever-so-lovely parmesan truffle fries. This is definitely a fork-and-knife operation…and note that the burger goes all the way up the knife when cutting. 

A seasonal restaurant, The Standing Room rotates several items in and out. If the healthier-minded happen to catch the buratta and pear salad on the menu, they will certainly appreciate the fresh baby arugula made sweeter with pecan crumble. Those with decadence on the mind will enjoy the chicken ‘n biscuit, with bite-size passion fruit tea-brined fried chicken and super-thick gravy. Don’t forget about a fun list of sandwiches, highlighting Asian-inspired meats that meld harmoniously with comfort-style classics. 

An extensive beer list is every bit as adventurous as the food menu, followed up by a good wine selection and fun seasonal cocktails. The drink menu definitely highlights the latter part of the night, where droves of partygoers flock to The Standing Room for loud live music. The transformation from rambunctious sports bar to popping city bar is seamless; just prepare to move outside if you want to continue conversation after the music starts. 

For more information, visit TheStandingRoomRestaurant.com.