A&E

All that glitters

Hearty burgers, local brews and whiskeys shine at Eureka! in Mountain View

Eureka! is an all-American restaurant. There's American craft beer, American small-batch whiskeys and a menu showcasing everything from burgers and wings to lollipop corn dogs. The company is headquartered in Hawthorne, Calif., home of legendary all-American band the Beach Boys.

With revenues north of $40 million, the Eureka Restaurant Group operates 20 restaurants in four Western states, focusing on locally sourced food and libations. According to Alexia Penna, the group's marketing manager, the company opens restaurants in "discovery markets" near universities and technology centers where creative and aspiring people live and work.

The company seeks architecturally interesting buildings as well. A new outpost opened in April at downtown Mountain View's 191 Castro St., a century-old building that most recently housed 191 Restaurant and Bar. Eureka gutted and opened up the interior, further exposed red brick walls and added rustic tables and chairs, upholstered booths and a banquette. A plank wood divider separates the bar and dining room.

The wall behind the bar displays an impressive array of tap handles and backlit glass shelves of whiskey. The 50 small-batch whiskey count is impressive, but the 40 craft beers on tap -- 20 that rotate, 20 that are always available -- are the backbone of Eureka!'s beverage business. The all-California wine list offers reds and whites from the Central Coast and Napa/Sonoma.

On Thursdays between 8 and 10 p.m., there is live music featuring a local performer (genres vary). Eureka's restaurants aren't cookie-cutter. Each has its own ambiance augmented with alliances with local events and artists.

The all-American menu had some solid hits but a few misses. For starters, there's the osso buco riblets ($10), a platter of pork cubes braised in sherry with a "firecracker" aioli. It was a generous portion of meat but I didn't care much for the sherry braise, which fell flat. It needed something else -- cumin, spicy paprika, garlic or honey -- to bring it to life. The firecracker aioli was tame.

I was much happier with the chili wings ($11.50) with your choice of sweet orange chili or house-made Carolina reaper chili sauce -- reaper chilies are currently regarded as the hottest in the world. I opted for the hot stuff. It was fiery but not fire-extinguisher hot; it had flavor too, not just heat. It was plenty spicy but the kitchen mercifully tempered the piquancy. It was lip-smacking but not throat-burning.

The five fat lollipop corn dogs ($8) were more showy than delectable. The Polish sausage, embedded in too much sweet-corn batter, had almost no flavor, but corn dogs generally don't have much flavor. The slightly spicy porter mustard was the saving grace. The dogs were more exciting on the plate than in the mouth.

The truffle cheese fries ($9.50) was a pile of fries tossed in earthy truffle salt and topped with grated parmesan and scallions, with a side of white truffle cheese dipping sauce. A little truffle flavor goes a long way, and this was just right.

All of the burgers were delicious, especially the Fresno fig burger ($12.50). Fig marmalade was spread inside a seeded bun, with goat cheese melted over the beef patty, and strips of crisp bacon added with a slice of juicy tomato, red onion, arugula and spicy porter mustard. It was a great combination.

Almost as good was the jalapeño egg burger ($12.50) with cheddar cheese, bacon, chipotle sauce and pickled jalapeños topped with a fried egg. All burgers came with crisp fries. Sweet potato fries were worth the extra $4.

Despite the great burgers, and there were nine to choose from, my favorite dish was the fried chicken sliders ($12). They were served with mashed potatoes, reaper chili sauce and coleslaw, all on a soft white bun -- crunchy and smooth, spicy and fresh.

I wasn't excited about the "All Day" breakfast burrito ($12.50). The tortilla was stuffed with steak, potatoes, peppers (red, yellow and jalapeño), a slightly spicy ranchero sauce, Monterey Jack cheese and sour cream, with a fried egg on the top and arugula on the side. Despite the cornucopia of ingredients, there wasn't much flavor. The ingredients seemed to cancel each other out.

For dessert, the butterscotch rum pudding ($7) with caramel sauce, whipped cream and sea salt was grainy but not from the salt. The flavors just didn't come together and there was something off-tasting about it. The Americana apple crisp ($7), with warm caramelized apples, pecan-oat crisp and vanilla ice cream was pleasing.

I like the concept, the ambiance and the all-American vibe at Eureka. The burgers are first-rate, as are most other dishes, while a few items need some maintenance. The assemblage of American bourbons and craft beer is exceptional.

Eureka!

191 Castro St., Mountain View

650-426-0582

eurekarestaurantgroup.com

Hours: Sunday-Wednesday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.; Thursday-Saturday, 11 a.m. to midnight.

Reservations: no

Credit cards: yes

Parking: street

Alcohol: full bar

Happy hour: 2-6 p.m. daily

Corkage: $10

Children: yes

Takeout: yes

Delivery: no

Outdoor dining: no

Noise level: high

Bathroom cleanliness: good

Freelance writer Dale Bentson can be emailed at dfbentson@gmail.com.

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