3120 Euclid Avenue, City Heights
It starts with a bet.
I’m looking up at the beer blackboard. Twenty-one choices of brewskis on draft, from Julian’s American Hard Cider to Greenjack Ripper barley wine. Huh. That’s one I’ve never heard of.
Marlyn comes up. Works here. Sees me staring at a choice she’s written on the board: “Dupont Fôret Organic Saison.”
“Bet you a beer that the hat should be over the ‘e’ and not the ‘o’ in ‘Fôret’?” I say. I know: arguing the number of angels on a pinhead. But I’m figuring this is French for “forest,” and the little hat is used so they don’t have to bother pronouncing the “s.” That’s what my favorite teacher, Mrs. Carrad, told us, anyway.
“You’re on,” says Marlyn.
She disappears behind the counter while I look at the food menus. Then she pops back around the counter with a stool.
“Give this man a beer!” she shouts. “I just lost a bet.”
“Look, I was kidding,” I say.
“Give the man a beer!” she insists. “He won fair and square — which one are you going to have?”
Well, jeez. “Greenjack Ripper, I guess.” It’s a barley wine from the UK. Costs $7; $6 during happy hour. But I’m drinking for free.
Wow. Guess that’s the kind of place this is. Woodstock lives at Nate’s Garden Grill!
I head out to the veranda.
This place sits in the dusty yard of the organic City Farmers Nursery on Euclid. I came here — humped it all the way up from Fairmount — because, okay, this place has been here a while (it’s named after nursery-founder Bill Tall’s dad, Nate), but new people took over a couple of months back and made it a bar-eatery. Bottom line, I can’t resist a happy hour with flatbreads to die for. Plus those 21 draft beers.
At first sight, the place is beautifully rinky-dink. Corrugated iron, timbers of different lengths and colors, rusty hanging lanterns, and a bike rack separating the head and tail of a wooden horse. Sign reads: “Park your bike or horse here…”
Inside’s like some joint out in the Mojave Desert. Think of that cantina, the Happy Bottom Riding Club in The Right Stuff. You expect Chuck Yeager to come swaggering in, dissing “Spam in a can” astronauts.
So, I head out to the veranda and find a seat and take a sip of my Greenjack Ripper barley wine. (Delish — it’s an ale, but called “barley wine” because it’s as strong as wine; like, “wine made out of barley.”) I look south toward a hillside dotted with trees, gardens, and animal corrals. All part of the nursery. Just 50 yards away, we’re in the country.
I see there’re only 15 minutes left of happy hour (4:00–6:00 p.m., Tuesday–Saturday), so heads down.
Main menu goes from a $4 pan of roasted pistachios to a $10 grass-fed burger to a $14 salumi-and-cheese board.
Seems the happy-hour prices apply only to the three flatbreads, normally $9 each, but now they’re 50 percent off — so, $4.50. The MeatMen flatbread has pepperoni, mozzarella, and tomato sauce; the no-name second one has potato, pancetta (pork-belly bacon), house-made ricotta, plus harissa (a spicy North African spread); the third has rapini (think: lettuce meets broccoli), caramelized onion, blue cheese, and a garlic mix.
The guys at the next table have ordered up a storm — they’re not worried about happy hour. Jared and Jim. “We live just up the hill. This is our go-to place,” says Jim. They have a bratwurst with “apricot cranberry mustardo” ($8.50); two bowls of delicious-looking chili with black beans, onions, and I don’t know what-all else ($3 cup, $6 bowl); a little frypan of roasted pistachios ($4); and a bowl of chips that comes with the bratwurst. Plus a Seamus O’Hara Irish Stout ($4.50 during happy hour, normally a dollar more) and that Dupont Organic (organic!) Saison beer ($5.50/$6.50).
“It’s all good,” Jared says.
I decide on the potato-and-pancetta-flatbread. Then I watch a cook pour a buttery liquid over a huge ear of corn he’s been steaming in a pot at the outside grill. “I steam it so it retains its liquids,” he says. And he drops it straight down over the flames.
Wow, gotta have one of those. Turns out, it’s a happy-hour special, too. All of $2.
Pretty soon this waiter, George, is bringing out my corn and then two long flatbreads — one for Jared and Jim, one for me. Man. Mine’s popping with chunks of spuds, that pancetta, and white ricotta — they make it here — all on a long, lush, oozy bed of red harissa sauce. I can’t believe that all this is only $4.50.
It’s the ricotta and the harissa that make it scrumbo, the light and dark sweetish tastes.
Oh, and the corn is crisp, nicely burned, but squelchy, too. The steaming. The butter. And sweet? Perfect.
“I’m the bartender sometimes, but I was hired to be the gardener,” says George. “They got me a Winnebago, so I can live at the job. It’s great. Our goal is to grow a good percentage of our own stuff right here at the nursery.”
Turns out he went to Alderleaf Wilderness College, in the Cascade Mountains, where he learned all about permaculture, cooking, sustainable everything.
This gal stops by to say hi to George. Kelsey McCune. “I’m the goat herder,” she says.
Oh, man. This is crazy. As in crazy-good. We’re back to goat-herding too? Nymphs and shepherds? I check to see if she has cloven hooves and pan pipes. Kelsey says she’s part of a small collective that looks after three goats here. “Two are young, one’s a milker. I make cheese from the milk.”
Guess they sell the cheeses to the restaurant.
Then this big guy, Lance Smith, comes by. He got this whole thing going with his friend Allison Strand. He’s been a friend of Bill Tall for 16 years. Bill gave them a “good lease,” he says. Has a deal with Bill’s chooks: “We give them the food scraps, they give us the eggs.”