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PETE TITTL: Eureka! double-stacked with great new dishes

Eureka! is a small regional chain that you can count on for a great variety of craft beers and whiskeys as well as burgers. To the point that on the food menu right now there are three major categories: snacks, burgers and not burgers, which includes a few token salads.

What you can also count on at Eureka! is menu tweaks twice a year where they debut new and usually impressive items, such as those we sampled on a recent visit: the eggplant and tahini spread ($10) and chargrilled cauliflower ($9) off the snacks menu and the double stacked burger ($18), with a Headhunter King drink ($14) that is allegedly so strong the restaurant limits you to two drinks per visit.

Eureka! burgers have to rank among the best in the city primarily because they use that great local product Santa Carota carrot-fed beef, which I feel has a rich, moist flavor, and though I usually order the 28-day dry-aged bone marrow burger ($20), this new double stacked product is a worthy replacement.

There are two patties, pretty thick, I'd guess 12 ounces of beef here, with two cheeses, cheddar and Havarti, as well as a garlic aioli (so much more appropriate than a generic mayo), house-made pickles and onion strands that had been caramelized with whiskey. The cheeses are an inspired pairing. If burgers are your thing, you must order it. Even the fries on the plate were satisfying, seeming a lot fresher than the product most places serve.

The drink didn't seem as strong as it probably was. My companion said it reminded her of something you'd get served in Jamaica. She said that without knowing that Jamaican rum is used, so she gets points for detecting that. Lots of lime and pineapple juice helped it go down.

They do have other new craft cocktails including something called Morning, Peaches ($12), which is a bourbon-based libation made with coffee, vanilla, lemon and peach juice, and another called The Floor is Lava ($13, mezcal, lime, hibiscus, blood orange and Ancho Reyes chile liqueur). My liver thanks me for passing on those. They still have the most Wisconsin-worthy Old-Fashioned drinks.

My companion ordered those two "snacks" and we both were wowed by the eggplant and tahini spread, which takes hummus-like appetizers to a new level. On the side are grilled bread planks, called "grilled ciabatta crostini," perfect for dipping. There's a bit of feta on top as a garnish. The ingredients include lemon, sumac and chives, and of course the main ingredient of tahini, ground sesame seeds. The eggplant was a harmonious presence, and this was the first thing at the table finished. It's irresistible.

We had a split opinion on the grilled cauliflower, which had been brushed with a Fresno chile lime vinaigrette and had a garlic aioli on the side. I thought the slight smoky taste made them interesting, though I confess a strong bias toward grilled vegetables. My companion was far less impressed, greeting them with a shrug.

On future visits, we plan to sample other new items including a butterscotch pudding dessert with a house-made bourbon caramel whipped cream ($8) — though it is pretty impossible to resist that bourbon barrel cake with the candied pecans — and the ahi tuna poke stack ($15) with bourbon barrel-aged soy sauce, smashed avocado, black rice, firecracker aioli, green onion and Fresno chile.

Happy hour is another strength here, weekdays 3-6 p.m. and I've grown fond of the firecracker pork riblets with the firecracker aioli. Beer and wine are $2 off, though on Tuesdays wines are half-price. Other personal favorites off the happy hour menu include the fried chicken sliders ($7) and the mac and cheese balls ($6). Also love the wings with the orange chili glaze.

Service was really solid from Nicole. It was a Friday night and the patio and the inside were both packed, but the wait was not long.

Eureka! can be recommended for a fine dining experience.

Pete Tittl's Dining Out column appears in The Californian on Sundays. Email him at pftittl@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter at @pftittl.