West End Tap burger
Dining Reviews

A West End Burger to Die For

West End Tap & Kitchen’s burger game is strong, plus fall flavors from Mission Hill

West End Tap & Kitchen’s burger game is strong, plus fall flavors from Mission Hill

Industrial glamor oozes through the hipster cavern and outdoor porch of this go-to gastropub West End Tap & Kitchen in the Ingalls Street complex. We like the sleek raised banquette in the front room—all the better to check out the action in the bar, lounge, and of course on those flat-screen TVs. But we weren’t prepared to find one of the best burgers that ever sat on a plate.

The mighty and juicy House Ground Burger ($13) offers grass-fed, pastured beef on a Gayle’s challah bun with all the trimmings including a boatload of hot, crisp panko-crusted fries. If not the deal of the century, the next best thing.

“This is everything I want in a burger,” my picky companion raved with his mouth full. Indeed, it was. The mouth-happy flavor was augmented by the Annie’s organic ketchup that West End keeps on hand.

Our lunch started off, as it must, with the compelling house pickles, involving great crisp slabs of pickled squash, cuke, yellow bell, and carrot—each offering a healthy patina of red pepper fire power. These pickles were made for beer. My companion was also impressed with the house non-alcoholic brew from Erdinger, loaded with authentic lager depth.

My Nevada-sized order of the Pork Belly Flatbread ($15) amounted to a lot of soft and chewy dough topped with potato and parsnip purée (yes, an odd combo), plus delicious grilled sweet onions and smoked gouda, which sort of got lost in all the thick spongy dough. There were some, but not enough, pork belly bits and micro-slices of pickled Romanesco strewn on top of the acreage of flat bread “pizza.” I would have preferred a smaller portion with more pork belly to provide more flavor bang for the buck. But that’s just me. I will go back early and often for the outstanding house burger and all-star fries. And to try some of the gluten-free beers available at West End Tap & Kitchen, open daily from 11:30 a.m. westendtap.com.


New Leaf Second Harvest Donation

I love New Leaf’s delicious, free-range and sensitively-raised Smart Chicken poultry. And now I have yet another reason to procure those plump little Smart Chicken thighs. Throughout the month of November, New Leaf will benefit the crucial work of Second Harvest Food Bank. Here’s the deal: For every 10 pounds of Smart Chicken purchased, one pound will be donated by New Leaf to Second Harvest. Last holiday season, New Leaf donated 2.5 tons of Smart Chicken to Second Harvest, bringing the total to more than 19 tons since 2006, when New Leaf launched the Smart Giving program. I love these win/win events. You take home Smart Chickens for your dinner, and New Leaf donates this healthy poultry to help folks in need. Get some at your neighborhood New Leaf Community Market.


Pie of the Week

The moist, firm, nutmeg-intensive pumpkin pie at The Buttery tastes like your grandmother made it. Not too sweet, and absolutely not “commercial” tasting, it flatters the custard origins of this epic autumn dessert. We consumed ours lickety-split. $2.25/slice.


Mission Hill Creamery Fall Flavors

The seasons change, and so do the artisan offerings at this brilliant ice cream works. The Creamery’s fall flavor line-up includes an addictive Sweet Potato with Toasted Marshmallow, Pumpkin, Brown Sugar Gingersnap, Blueberry Cheesecake, and Pistachio, as well as the last of Summer Melon sorbet. Is this a great part of the country or what? Melon sorbet and Brown Sugar Gingersnap in the same space-time continuum. missionhillcreamery.com.

Christina Waters was born in Santa Cruz and raised all over the world (thanks to an Air Force dad), with real-world training in painting, music, winetasting, trail running, organic gardening, and teaching. She has a PhD in Philosophy, teaches in the Arts at UCSC and sings with the UCSC Concert Choir. Her new book 'Inside the Flame' is available at Bookshop Santa Cruz and on Amazon. Visit her website at ChristinaWaters.com.

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