With its high-tech beer hall ambience and a gazillion craft beers to choose from, Pour Taproom has been making the downtown sudsy for an entire two years now. A recent addition to the beer-intensive experience is Surf City Kitchen and its modern pub menu created by consulting chef Anthony Kresge. Kudos to owner Paul Figliomeni, who also heads up Soquel’s home of outrageous lunchtimes, Surf City Sandwich.
We went to check it out last week at lunchtime and enjoyed the prospect of sampling a few of the dozens and dozens of craft on-tap beers lining two walls of the cavernous space. Long tables down the middle invite conversation and the prospect of making new friends, while one side offers banquettes for couples. Once we’d mastered the beer acquisition system, we made our way back to the kitchen counter to check out Surf City Kitchen’s ambitious menu. Not finding anything as obvious as burgers or sausages, we decided to live dangerously and ordered a deluxe version of the national dish of Quebec—pork belly poutine—and seafood tacos with pickled onions and blackberries. But we were intrigued by the prospect of sriracha-inflected nachos with pork shoulder, or a complicated creation of Caribbean-style beef meatballs with caramelized onion in ginger-lemongrass coconut broth with pineapple-mango salsa and crostini. There’s even a Belgian beer-batter waffle with Mission Hill Creamery salted caramel ice cream, and pistachio brittle. That would probably be for après beer.
We downloaded our glasses of brew-on-tap—$1.10/for a 2-ounce tasting pour—and found a table we liked, already equipped with napkins and tableware. On a warm day my Corralitos Brewing Co. West Coast IPA tasted like liquid reincarnation. Refreshingly chilled, the rich golden IPA was citrusy crisp and loaded with middle tones of lemongrass and tarragon. Outstanding.
Our lunches were brought to our table, mine a large plate of fried russet potatoes laced with bits of cheese, to-die-for pork belly and thick gravy, strewn with garlic chives ($13). Hot, unpretentious and delicious, this was spot-on diner fare and the perfect partner for cold beer. My companion’s order of snapper tacos consisted of two soft tacos topped with cabbage, fat slabs of snapper, and pretty pink pickled onions ($14). The tacos were adorned with cut limes, fresh blackberries and a dot of green salsa. More salsa please. We applied some needed hot sauce from the lineup of classic condiments along the back wall. Without crowds, Pour Taproom/Surf City Kitchen can feel cavernous. But when filled with after-work beer lovers, this is a lively place. I’d like to see a straight-ahead burger, maybe even a high-quality hot dog added to the designer fusion menu. But that’s just me.
Buttercup Cakes Therapy
On the way back to the car after our lunch at Surf City Kitchen, we just happened to pass the house of buttercream temptation—Buttercup Cakes & FarmHouse Frosting—and the sudden need for sweetness reeled us in. Amid all of the pretty cakes and party tchotchkes sits the jewel box of cupcakes! Beautifully topped by the finest frosting alive—and believe me, I’ve done the fieldwork on this subject—sit cupcakes so gorgeous they can raise blood pressure. Having tried every single one of these twice, I zeroed in on my current fave, the gluten-free lemon passionfruit mini. Cupcake perfection for $2.25 topped with a fresh raspberry. A bite for me, a bite for my sweetie. This pretty tea room gives calories a good name. Next time—the carrot ginger cupcake! Buttercup Cakes lives at 1411 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz.