A bold hipster vision unfurled this week in the huge interior of the former Farmer’s Exchange. A joint venture between Uncommon Brewers and el Salchichero, the Oasis is sure to appeal to those who like their craft beers served in contemporary beer hall style. Gorgeously appointed with lots and lots of good-looking wood—original floors sanded, polished, and lacquered to glistening perfection; huge tables fit for a Bruegel wedding party cut from thick slabs of redwood. There’s a distinctly Pacific Northwest lumberjack masculinity about the decor (even though there are also palm trees and beach photos in the lounge area). Twin Peaks at the Beach? The “public eatery” of this mega-brewpub is called Matambre and the menu is poised to accompany and flatter the many sensational brews available, of which we sampled two on our initial visit to the brand-new establishment.
Matambre’s no-fuss game plan invites you to check out the menu at the main bar, order, and pay. A very can-do staff was happy to demystify the procedure. We went for a Lardon Salad ($12.50) and Matambre Burger ($15.50), and if those prices seem a bit unusual, it’s because they reflect an 18-percent service charge already built in to all menu items. Waiting for our orders let us scope out the lounge area, marked off by an “island” of cork flooring and punctuated by big bodacious red couches. Gorgeous. A sexy meet-up spot, especially given the flawless playlist filling the lofty ceiling space (and often submerged in criss-crossing acoustics). Bob Dylan circa 1966, Tom Tom Club of the ’80s, and Van Morrison circa 1995—for boomers and millennials who crave contact nostalgia. Beers on tap (by Uncommon Brewers) are available in sample-friendly, midday 2-ounce pours, so we happily tried on a lovely bitter India Brown Lager ($1.75) and a fruity Framboos Blonde Ale ($2). Impeccable lager!
Matambre’s debut menu is designed to accompany fine brews. Mostly small plates, inventive sandwiches and a few salads, of which I went for the vast field of frisée with a fried egg in the center. The spiky greens were playfully laced with crisp fried shallots and studded with el Salchichero’s dreamy bacon. Once pierced, the egg yolk infuses and adds satiny vigor to the buoyant greens—a bacon and egg salad. A lively idea to join with a glass of beer. My companion had to have the burger, smartly topped with melted white cheddar and pickled charred onions. The sesame bun was slathered with a terrific green goddess dressing and was sided with fries. A mega-bottle of sriracha hot sauce sits on every table.
What fun to dine on these huge gleaming redwood tables, as yet without a single scratch or stain. We figured the large 10-seater communal tables can handle about 100 folks at a time. A showcase for artisanal meat specialties, the menu offers pastrami, pork belly, scrapple, chicken liver mousse, fried chicken tenders, even salmon rillettes. After 5 p.m. you and your partners can gather around a whole poussin with plenty of trimmings. Like every new ambitious venture, the Oasis is still fine-tuning itself. Stop by and sample this big-shouldered vision, finessed by a team of talented folks.
Closed Mondays, Oasis Tasting Room & Kitchen and Matambre eatery open from 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday; until 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday; and until til 9 p.m. on Sunday. 415A River St., Santa Cruz. matambreeats.com
Product of the Week
Wild Rice Edamame Salad, from Oakland’s Epicurean Solutions, available at New Leaf. Incredibly addictive blend of super crisp eco-farmed rice (brown, wehani, black Japonica), edamame, celery, craisins, sunflower seeds, fresh ginger, honey, mint, red wine vinegar and sesame oil. Almost too good to be possible. Texture and intense flavor! $5ish.