Better Than Your Average Brew Pub: Falling Sky Brewing (Eugene, OR)

Craft breweries are springing up almost everywhere. The Pacific Northwest has seen its mini-explosion start business only within the last decade. It’s fun when the beer is served in a pub setting, even more so when there are noshes, too. Most of these places are content to sell burgers, fries and pizza, maybe chicken wings. It’s the rare pub that aspires to something more and succeed at it. Better still that its ingredients are sourced locally and has vegetarian and gluten-free options. Enter Falling Sky Brewing and Gastropub in 2011, which has received numerous commendations and a loyal following. In 2013, Falling Sky Pour House & Delicatessen opened with even a larger food menu and questions began to be raised if this could be the best brewpub in all of Oregon, which could tweak Portlanders. Zounds, they even do their own baking, smoking, curing, brining and fermenting.

Copper brewing equipment

Copper brewing equipment

Order counter

Order counter

Finding the place can be a bit tricky, located as it is in an alleyway. The tavern is spacious with communal beer hall tables from which can be seen their huge copper brewing equipment through large glass windows. The current beer list is printed on a blackboard, as are the specials and wine list. Their standard menu is also handed out before you order.

Flight of four beers

Flight of four beers

The list of house beers is impressive, covering the gamut of styles, from lagers to IPAs. And, if you have specific preferences about your beer but know nothing about Falling Sky’s offerings, a convenient system of classifying their beers is provided: alcohol percentage (ABV) and bitterness (IBU), which can sort of tell you what to expect. (Falling Sky also supplies a beer’s original gravity, or OG, number.) I had a four-beer flight: Ready to Mingle Belgian Single (4.6% ABV, 19 IBU), Morning After Pils (5.0% ABV, 25 IBU), Dr. Optic Standard Bitter (3.6% ABV, 28 IBU) and Mash Transit Ale (5.8% ABV, 40 IBU), all of which were pretty nice.

As I mentioned, the food menu is taken very seriously. Going through it gives an indication of how serious. For example, appetizers include roasted brussels sprouts with hazelnuts and pretzel sticks. The chicken wings are thankfully not buffaloed but coated in za’atar and honey. One of their favorites is poutine, that Canadian snack of fries topped with gravy and cheese curds. Falling Sky’s gravy is made from mushrooms. Their sandwiches include two vegetarian ones (one of them a burger), a lamb burger and a burger made from grass-fed local beef and served (hallelujah!) medium-rare, which can only be possible when the quality, safety and provenance of the meat can be verified. It would normally be VERY tempting.

Moules frites

Moules frite

But, we weren’t particularly hungry, so we settled for a shared house salad and moules frites, one of tonight’s specials. The salad with lemon-tahini dressing and Belgian-style hand-cut fries were very fine, but the mussels were outstanding (☆☆☆☆). The mollusks were perfectly cooked, meaty and succulent, bathed in a cream sauce with leeks and star anise. No spoon was provided, so both my wife and I polished off the broth with empty mussel shells. It’s tragic that this is not on the regular menu.

Falling Sky’s motto is LET IT POUR, which (aside from being a clever phrase) has significant meaning in this Land of the Ducks. When it rains, a discount is applied to your beer, which happens often.

Count me in for return visits whenever I’m back in town.

Falling Sky Brewing and Gastropub
1334 Oak Alley
Eugene, OR 97401

Happy Hour at Chart House (Honolulu, HI)

After an exhausting day of sipping iced mochas at Starbucks and going to the movies, we decided to unwind by taking advantage of happy hour at Chart House lounge, where we’d last gone in 2009. The popularity of the bar—or maybe it’s the terrific view of the marina and the setting sun from almost any vantage point—is reflected in all the ‘Reserved’ tables against the windows. It also helps to have a good selection of pupus to go along with the specially priced alcoholic beverages, including a popular drink called Guy Tai, presumably named after the bartender whose special mai tai is made with two kinds of rum and served in a 16-ounce glass. Pupus (appetizers) include fish & chips, oyster shooters, ahi limu poke, ahi wontons, spinach salad, escargot, pork chops, fried rice (with or without kimchi), edamame and pasta with shrimp and scallop scampi. Their unique offering is what is called Kimmi’s firecracker unroll, basically a sushi that hasn’t been rolled, flat rice piled with spicy poke, onion and shredded nori.

We decided on three other pupu items: fried calamari (crispy but chewy, served with horseradish chili sauce, light on squid flavor, ☆☆½), Caesar salad (plentiful, nice dressing, ☆☆½) and garlic chicken (thigh pieces richly sauced with garlicky teriyaki flavors, attached skin supremely crispy, sprinkled with white and black sesame seeds, ☆☆☆½). The lychee martini was insipid (☆☆), but it was easy to see why Guy Tai is so well-liked though it was a bit heavy on the fruit juices (☆☆☆).

Caesar salad

Garlic chicken

Fried calamari

It was a very pleasant way to spend the hour just before sunset.

Chart House Waikiki
1765 Ala Moana Blvd, Honolulu, HI 96815
(808) 941-6669

Sunday Fried Chicken at Brave Horse Tavern

When Amazon moved its headquarters from the imposing, ex-VA hospital building atop Beacon Hill to the soon-to-be industrial park at the southern end of Lake Union, it dramatically changed the economy and redevelopment of a section of town that had been characterized by light industry, small businesses and warehouses. Not only do employees of Amazon now work and live in South Lake Union (SLU), but eat here, too, as restaurants quickly opened to take advantage of the concentration of young, well-paid high-techies. Local restauranteur extraordinaire Tom Douglas was one to jump on the bandwagon. To go along with his other endeavors elsewhere in Seattle, he now has three places in SLU: Serious Pie & Biscuit, Cuoco and Brave Horse Tavern.

Sunday would seem to be the ideal time to go to any of these, for on any other day of the week, they’re packed with Amazonians and other diners who appreciate the goodness that Douglas consistently produces. There is also another incentive to eat at Brave Horse Tavern (located above Cuoco)—buttermilk fried chicken dinner that is served only on Sundays. Four of us split the dinner, smorgasbord of bar snacks, house-made pretzel and beers.

Tonight alone, I counted 34 beers on tap, most of them from West Coast microbreweries, which can be ordered in 12- or 16-ounce glasses or in a pitcher. Three of us individually chose Dos Borrachos Mexican Lager, Thai Fi Basil Pale and Rio’s Rompin’ Rye Ale. A good selection of ciders is also available as well as cocktails, wines and a long list of stiffer drinks. This place is not lacking for ways to get buzzed.

Brave Horse makes its own soft pretzels baked in a brick oven. By itself, the pretzel was very good, but the tavern gives you a choice of several accompaniments, including smoked peanut butter and bacon that one of our party ordered. Personally, peanut butter is on my list of prefer-not-do. I do like it in sauces used in southeast Asian cooking. But, I have to say that Douglas’ smoked version with bacon was remarkably good paired with a pretzel straight out of the oven, deeply browned and as good as a freshly made soft pretzel should be (☆☆☆½).

Brick oven pretzel with mustard, smoked peanut butter and bacon

Brick oven pretzel with smoked peanut butter and bacon

The tavern’s equivalent of an antipasto plate is its smorgasbord of bar snacks (☆☆☆). Outstanding were the house-made kielbasa, pickled vegetables and onion dip. Not quite so lofty were deviled eggs, pretzel chips and trail mix. Least impressive was an ale cheese that seemed curiously bland. Sliced apple and Rainier cherries completed the snacks.

Smorgasbord of bar snacks

Smorgasbord of bar snacks

It’s not clear why Douglas doesn’t offer fried chicken every day. It could be that the kitchen would be overwhelmed by orders on any other day but Sunday. The chicken is that good (☆☆☆☆). The flesh is supremely moist, encased in a perfectly seasoned and crunchy batter that hints of herbs. My first bite released juices that ran down my fingers and onto the plate. The sides changing seasonally, tonight were served (in Southern style) waffles, grilled corn and watermelon. The waffles were almost the chicken’s equal (☆☆☆½), studded with bits of bacon. The corn was blackened too much for my health-conscious comfort but tasty nonetheless, and I will probably not have a juicier melon all year.

Buttermilk fried chicken dinner

Buttermilk fried chicken dinner

Brave Horse Tavern can accommodate lots of people. The interior space is huge, filled with long tables for communal dining. We were the only ones at our table, and we would have enjoyed our own “space” just as much dining al fresco at individual round tables outside. There have been complaints about the extraordinary noise levels when the place is packed and even shouting at your companion is not a guarantee of being heard. Shuffleboards and darts, not to mention beers and plenty of good noshes, encourage customers to hang loose. You must be 21+ years old to enter. This is a fun tavern and another win for Tom Douglas.

Related posts of other Tom Douglas restaurants

Brave Horse Tavern
310 Terry Ave N
Seattle, WA 98109

Like this on Facebook