There are plenty of options at Seabright Brewery besides award-winning beers
It was the first brewery I had been at in Santa Cruz when it opened more than two decades ago. There have been occasional changes to the menu since then, the addition of a full bar, and on my recent visit, most of the servers wore name tags.
Beer-friendly appetizers include Baked Brie ($8.95) with roasted garlic and house-made cranberry chutney, local Calamari ($8.50), and original Buffalo Wings ($8.50). I chose the crunchy coated Salmon Bites ($8.95), which are similar to the Salmon Fish and Chips ($12.95), but served atop Asian slaw. Seven cubes of salmon, battered with pale ale and panko crumbs, were deep fried and served with soy sauce flecked with chili peppers and thyme, and an appetizingly green, spicy, wasabi-laced tartar sauce. For the slaw, crisp, shredded purple and green cabbage with julienne of carrot was kissed with sesame dressing.
Sandwiches and pub favorites ($8.50 to $12.95) include a triple decker club sandwich and a grilled Chicken Caesar Wrap. I’m a fan of the large Tuna Melt ($8.95) with onions and celery, which I order without cheese. When it arrives, the tuna lightly browned, I top it with red onions and tomatoes and douse it with green Tabasco.
Any of the Brewery’s ten burgers ($8.95 to $14.95) can be made with hamburger, grilled chicken, house-made turkey patty, portobello mushroom or vegan veggie burger. Sides include fries, chipotle macaroni or potato salad, Asian slaw or chips and salsa. Add $1.50 for a mixed green salad, cup of soup or onion rings. Best Foods Mayonnaise, Grey Poupon and chili sauce join ketchup and mustard to create your custom blend of condiments.
The Popeye, with a half-pound of ground chuck, which is leaner than ground beef, was topped with salty crumbles of feta cheese and oily sautéed spinach which gave the burger a nice earthy flavor. The side of chipotle macaroni salad with dill pickle was tame, a situation easily remedied with a big dose of Chipotle Tabasco.
The crisp, wide onion ring which topped the Western ($12.50) was too tantalizing to leave in the sandwich. A grilled chicken breast was topped with Cheddar cheese and tender bacon and a vinegar-based barbecue sauce which nicely complemented the chicken.
Spicy Sinaloa Barbacoa ($13) is a Brewery special whose roots lie in the Caribbean. Originally it was a method of cooking meat slowly over a fire (the source of the word barbecue), but in Mexico may also include meats that are slowly roasted in a pit. A large bowl of tender beef, both finely shredded and chunks, had been sauced in mole after cooking and flavored with bay leaves and juniper berries. It was served with cheese-topped, nutty, plump rice and black beans, cabbage and tomato salad, and aromatic corn tortillas. The house-made chili sauce with an herbal bitterness was the ideal complement to the salty beef.
Seabright Brewery, 519 Seabright Ave., Santa Cruz, 426-2739. Full bar. Open from 11:30 a.m. until 11:30 p.m. daily. Visit seabrightbrewery.com.