Eureka! is not a restaurant that rests. It seems every few months they adapt to current food trends, change the menu, cut loose some items, embrace the new and different. Sure, there’s always excellent craft beers, whiskey, burgers and sandwiches — those never go away — but you never know what will appear next.
Since we hadn’t devoted a column to the place in years, we went back to the 5-year-old restaurant and were wowed by some of the new items. We ordered two entrees that were new and different, the pan-seared salmon ($18) and the slow-roasted pork ribs ($20), as well as the lone interesting dessert, the bourbon barrel cake ($7.50) and an appetizer that is an old favorite, the lollipop corn dogs ($8).
Let’s start with that appetizer as it’s pretty typical of the strengths of Eureka! Hot dogs themselves are typically dull. Here, they use Polish dogs. That’s a positive point. The corn batter is slightly sweet, the way Marie Callender’s cornbread is slightly sweet. That’s another positive, especially with the smoky nature of the sausage. The final excellent touch is the spicy porter mustard. This item remains one of the best offerings on their solid happy hour menu of 10 different discounted food items and $2 off beers and wines by the glass (2-6 p.m. daily and 9 p.m. until close).
The salmon was also excellent, a thin, crispy filet sauteed with a sauvignon blanc sauce, topped with avocado and presented on a plate that looked like Exhibit A in healthy eating, with beets, roasted zucchini, red peppers, some onions, broccoli. The avocado use was actually pretty minimal, forgivable given the perfect wine sauce. As my companion described the salmon, she noted the thin, crispy exterior gives you the flavor and texture of fried food without all the fatty negatives. Definitely an “I’d order it again” entree.
Not sure I’d get that excited about the rib plate, which did have pork that was tender like slow-roasted ribs should be and meat falling off the bone, but the smokiness was so restrained it felt like something was missing. It was roasted, not smoked, admittedly. If anything saved it, it was the two sauces, an orange chili sauce laid down all over it, which brought some sweet heat and a stripe of chimichurri that was the perfect finishing touch. The coleslaw served with it further reinforced the fresh edge at Eureka!. It featured cabbage that was lightly tossed with a vinaigrette — nothing heavy — and topped with peanuts. My companion couldn’t keep her fork out of it. The signature fries are ordinary shoestring — nothing to inspire fond food memories.
The beer list is always a tough choice, especially because there’s a chalkboard on the wall far away from where we were seated that always has the most interesting options. I ended up ordering a General Sherman DDH Tioga Sequoia ($7) out of Fresno that was from the rotating taps list, which was dominated by West Coast craft breweries. DDH stands for double dry hopped, and if you love IPAs with some citrusy notes, this is the ticket.
The dessert was absolutely a winner. In the past we’ve had some excellent desserts here, particularly the butterscotch rum pudding that was just amazing as well as a chocolate chip bread pudding that was a revelation. Angry at first that these were not there, we ordered the bourbon barrel cake and all was instantly forgiven. Our summer travels took us to Nick’s in San Clemente where the signature dessert is a warm butter cake served with vanilla ice cream that is a must order. This wonderful dessert is even better than that. It has candied pecans, hot caramel, and vanilla bean ice cream and like a fine wine is nuanced with hints of maple and the calming notes of the bourbon used in the process. I understand why the only other dessert option is an ice cream sundae. What could compete with this? It’s seriously a must order.
Most of the changes we saw were on the signature entrees, though they’ve added three “taco bar” plates since our last visit for the column. And you can always count on the cowboy burger being on the menu. On other visits we’ve enjoyed the butcher’s flat iron dip ($14) and the Napa chicken sandwich ($12), made special with roasted Roma tomatoes and Havarti cheese.
It should be noted that this is a place with a loud ambiance. If you want to cherish the conversation, our recommendation is to head outdoors to the patio that is shielded from the sun and always has the appropriate heating and cooling devices working.
Eureka! can be recommended for a fine dining experience.