There has been a bit of buzz about Townie restaurant and bar since it opened last month. When I sent an email around to some of my blogger friends to go check it out, Christina who writes the enchanting East Bay Dish somehow managed to get us all invited to dine on the house! What? How cool is that?! And so we met last week at the spacious brick building which was previously an old Italian eating establishment that had been there for over thirty years. The owners, Nima Shokat (of Berkeley’s Missouri Lounge) and Maianna Voge, are both Berkeley natives, and the kitchen is run by Dana Ryan, who’s spent time in the kitchen at Gather and RN74 and most recently at State Bird Provisions. We all like to dine early in order to take advantage of the natural light, which also allows us to get a better look around before the room fills up. The bar was bustling, it was happy hour after all… The cocktail menu features simple drinks made with around five ingredients, there are 16 beers on tap including Drake’s brewery, Calicraft, and selections from East Bay favorite Linden Street, along with $5 beer-and-whiskey specials.
The space was designed by Frank/Architects, and features exposed brick walls, a zinc-topped bar made with recycled wood, white subway style tiles and lofty high ceilings. According to Urban Dictionary a Townie Bar is where the local jokers go to congregate and reminisce about high school.
This is later in the evening when the dining room was beginning to fill up. Do you see my nutty friends Brenda who writes Bites & Bourbon, Ben from Focus:Snap:Eat and Christina waving? In the back by the window, top left? Nutty and so cute, those guys!
I’m posting the menu because it’s not on their website and there is some guy on Yelp and Facebook who is really upset that their menu is not online. Here you go dude.
The menu features new American–style small plates designed to be shared. We began with plump juicy Marin Atlantic Oysters ($3/ea) topped with grilled corn, spicy old bay butter and minced chives. The preparation was different from the classic mignonette, and the magical flavors of the spicy old bay butter was perfectly suited to the sweetness of the corn.
The Chicharrones (fried pork skins) $4, were beautiful, snowy white and lacy made dramatic by gorgeous crimson flakes of chili. Despite the airy and translucent appearance, the texture was crunchy, tough and a bit rubbery, kind of like fried casings.
Potato croquettes filled with serrano ham, manchego cheese and green onion ($8), served over a smear of rich tongue curling and garlicky aioli. I enjoyed how the tasty acidic sauce interacted with the rich aioli and crispy fried mashed taters.
The Chicken liver mousse topped with a layer of with parsley gelée ($8) was lushly smooth and rich. The piquant layer of fresh herbal flavor from the parsley gelée and the spring mix lettuces added bright fresh flavors.
The crostini had a nice dense crunchy texture that begged to be smeared with delicious rich toppings….
Mussels with chorizo ($12) came in a beautiful buttery white wine sauce that I’m still drooling about. The mussels were tender and juicy and so good with the spicy chunks of chorizo, but my favorite thing was dunking the bread into that rich buttery broth.
We shared the Grilled Caesar Salad ($9) with heirloom tomatoes, country croutons, bacon and we added grilled hangar steak for an additional $5. The croutons were fabulous and I loved the texture of the charred romaine, it was an unusual and quite likable version of a caesar.
We were still hungry and decided to order the Grilled Hangar Steak ($15) with potato puree, summer squash and arugula. Besides the potato puree were puddles of savory chimichurri sauce which added bright, fresh flavors to the perfectly charred and juicy meat.
We tried to order everything on the menu, this is a Garlic Cheesy Bruschetta with baby arugula ($7) – another delicious dish that is meant to be eaten with one’s hands. I’d order this with the mussels, mmm the cheesy toast with peppery arugula and that buttery rich broth….
Pork Belly Banh Mi ($10), was fabulous, the pork belly was tender with pockets of jiggly fatty porcine custard and a good amount of pickled carrot and daikon, and slathered with mayonnaise. The only problem was that it was about half the size of a normal banh mi, and was cut in half, which felt like quarters…. And the bread was a spongey sourdough, so the texture was rubbery and sour and very untraditional. But… it was good.
The Stone fruit salad ($10), was like a big ripe summer smooch. The slices of pluot and peach were perfectly ripe and super flavorful, infused with vanilla, absinthe, a citrus foam, a scoop of rich mascarpone that bordered on savory and peanut. We got the crumble on the side because Christina is allergic to peanuts, but I would liked to have tried this as a unified dish rather than deconstructed.
I enjoyed the meal and wish Townie was in my neighborhood, because it has such a warm and welcoming environment, interesting delicious food and a good variety of libations to eat them with. Thanks to the fine folks of Townie for a very satisfying dinner.
Although we had tried almost all of the dishes on the menu (I think the only dish we skipped were the fries…) we were still a little hungry. Ben had a craving for the amazing Flan at Comal which he said was the best he’s ever had. Since I had never been, I was up for it, so we met over at Comal for a nightcap. We sat at the counter and munched on chips with delicious spicy salsas and guacamole.
Then we shared the rich custardy flan topped with fresh raspberries and caramel sauce, it truly was delicious.
and so ends another food filled evening…