Jeff Smith 4 p.m., March 30
The Foundry: I'll Take a Mystery Bag!
According to the bartender, the Foundry has been open for about six months. The place is an unexpected melange of craft beer (to keep up with the North Park neighbors), bar food, and Vietnamese cuisine; which is an interesting combination to say the least.
The atmosphere inside was very convivial on a Sunday afternoon. A few people had gathered around the bar, most of whom were eating something. This was a good sign for me since I had come with a deep and abiding hunger, not just a powerful thirst. There was plenty of talk across the bar, a few video games to play, and a vibe that was friendly and laid back.
The tap list had a pretty good selection of craft brews for between five and seven dollars, and a bottled list of equal stature. The beer selection had a somewhat different feel than a lot of places in the neighborhood. There were beers from breweries like Magic Hat that you don't always see on draft in town for whatever reason.
Fun was being had, too. The bartender had created a bunch of "mystery bags." Filled with random bottles of beer and labelled with a price between four and eleven dollars, the mystery bags were providing entertainment to all the guests. People kept ordering them, sometimes with delightful results, other times disappointingly. It was a cool trick that will hopefully stick around. I didn't have the fortitude for another beer, but I would have totally bought a mystery bag.
I think the Foundry used to be a pizza place, and pizza is still on the menu. Single-topping slices are just $2.50, and specialty slices are $4. Whole pies start at $16 and wend their way upwards as complexity increases. A slice of the Sunday breakfast pizza--topped with tater tots, bacon, and sunny-side up eggs--was pretty satisfying alongside a double IPA. It was scorching hot and not too skimpy on the bacon. The crust was on the thicker side and there was a lot of cheese and sauce and toppings, so definitely not a minimalist's slice.
An order of soft-shell crab tacos ($8) had been dressed up in a way that was part banh mi (Vietnamese-style sandwiches that use a lot of crispy veggies) and part Baja fish taco. The combination of crunchy cabbage slaw and sweet salsa needed only a little touch of the readily available Sriracha to spice things up a little bit.
An $8 bowl of pho (Vietnamese noodle soup) with well-done steak and beef tendon took the Vietnamese undertones of the Foundry to the forefront. The beef broth for the soup was very richly flavored, although it was only improved by a generous splash of syrupy Hoisin sauce and fiery Sriracha from the bar. There was a shortage of meat in the bowl, and what steak there was had been cooked a bit too long. The plentiful noodles were a bit clumped together, but proved to be delightfully chewy and flavorful once extricated from themselves. The soup wasn't on the level of the better pho places that start to crop up when you go about forty blocks east, but it was generously portioned and a very unexpected treat for a North Park bar menu.
With its chill ambiance, friendly service, and interesting bar snacks the Foundry merits a return visit for sure.
2859 University Avenue