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The Gastropub Test

How to discern the good from the bad

We’re starting to notice an absurd amount of Gastropubs popping up around Los Angeles, but a craft beer and gourmet "sounding" food isn’t always enough, here’s how we separate the good Gastropubs from the bad.

The Life Cycle of a Food Trend

How often have you gotten all giddy about a new restaurant after reading some article, then rushed over with a group of friends only to be disappointed by how utterly lame it actually is? Well, you shall be fooled no longer.

The LA food scene is simultaneously a breeding ground for innovation... and the death of it. What starts as an amazing fusion concept, an unexpected ingredient or a counter intuitive approach to cooking becomes copied, mimicked and hollowed out as replicas and renditions sprout up left and right. Suddenly, that genuine nugget of ingenuity has become an annoying and inauthentic trend. Ugh.

So, in our effort to abide by some sort of misplaced culinary vigilantism, we’re going to arm you with the knowledge to disable and decipher the good from the bad to mark only the most indisputably authentic forays.

What is a Gastropub Exactly?

As the equivalent of the punk-rock rebellion for food, the Gastropub was a surefire hit from the very start. Mashing up high quality ingredients and craft micro-brew beer without the white-tablecloth snootiness of the fine dining experience is the perfect way for you to stick it to the proverbial “Culinary Man.” What probably began LA’s affixation to this accessible highbrow cuisine was when Esquire placarded Father’s Office as the Best Burger in the world in 2000. Since then, we’ve witnessed an exponential uptick in the elevated pub grub scene with additions from the likes of The Village Idiot, The York and The Lazy Ox Canteen.

Our Current Fav

To its credit, the trend hasn’t completely lost its prowess. For instance, Josef Centeno’s newest esteemed eatery, Baco Mercat, gives a novel nod on the familiar iterations of posh pub food with his own creation...the Baco: a pizza-meets-taco sandwich layered with an unexpected amalgamation of worldly ingredients.

The Drab State of the Gastropub

Unfortunately though, these days the gems are few and far between. Gastropubs have become Gastro-clubs that make their mark by casting copy cats across the city. And with all of the trappings of its pure-breed ancestors, it can be somewhat difficult to discern the authentic from the artificial so we’ve scouted the scene and developed this simple test to ensure you aren’t being hoodwinked by any half hearted scheme.

The G-Pub Test

Drinks:

You’re Good to Go If:

  • There is at least 1 beer made by Trappist Monks.

Get Out of Dodge When:

The Look:

You’re Good to Go If:

  • There are there at least 5, but no more than 10 pieces of genuine antique tchotchkes (that includes taxidermy animal heads people).
  • There is at least one piece of furniture that hails from the "reclaimed" wood of an old church, saloon or pirate ship.
  • They may have 1 TV but it must be playing Swiss Family Robinson or another ironic ubiquitous genre flick (think Citizen Kane, Godfather and pretty much any John Hughes movie).


Get Out of Dodge When:

  • You’re over joyed to see that First Edition Joyce novel but when you go to select it from the bookcase you find that they’ve actually glued it to the wall (shame).
  • There’s more than 1 TV and it’s playing sports.
  • The space is as big as a night club. 

 

Nomenclature:

You’re Good to Go If:

  • The name of the establishment is an ironic combination of Adjective + Animal? (The Spotted Pig, Blue Cow, Lazy Ox... you get the picture)


Get Out of Dodge When:

  • The name includes any presence of the words Lair, Dungeon or Sanctuary. In fact, any other ominous subterranean dwelling-based names are out of the question.

The Food:

You’re Good to Go If:

  • There’s a burger over $15. Don't ask why... just order it. 
  • There's at least 2 dishes that pay homage to classic British pub fare (acceptable answers include but are not limited to: Shepherds Pie, Blood Pudding, Liver and Onions). 10 points for irony!
  • You encounter pork belly in one form or another (skewered, simmered or sliced).


Get Out of Dodge When:

  • You come across the gluten free, farm-to-table chickpea and kale “Burger.” We’ll save you the trouble, it’s dry and doesn’t taste like anything.
  • When the menu is over specific about its ingredients. " Blue Diamond Almonds from Sacramento." Rule of thumb: if they're trying to over-sell it, there's probably a reason.
  • Keep an eye out for buzzwords and an over abundance of trendy ingredients... yes, porkbelly is great, but porkbelly with peanut butter bacon puree topped with foie gras foam? We doubt it. Jamming fancy ingredients together doesn't make a tasty dish.  

The Service:

You’re Good to Go If:

  • The staff look like they just rolled out of bed. We appreciate a man who knows how to implement a good mid-week bender.
  • If the first words out of the bartenders mouth when you ask him about the beer list are something along the lines of, “Well, what type of experience are you looking for?”


Get Out of Dodge When:

  • Their intro-schpeel manages to work in a story about the pilot they just finished shooting.
  • They say: "It's ALL really really good, you can't go wrong." 

Follow these rules and there's a good chance you still end up at a shitty Gastropub. But when you find yourself tucked in an oversized snakeskin booth, surrounded by a family of stuffed farrets as you watch the party girls in short dresses line up outside, you can at least have the wherewithal to act accordingly: "Excuse me miss, can i just get a Vodka Tonic and some more of those fancy nuts?" 


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