I walked into Eureka! last Friday and sat down with my bag, pulling out my laptop to draft up some articles for work. I began writing, and after a while, I began wondering why no one had taken my order yet.
I got up to use the bathroom, and a man sitting at a nearby table let me know that, in fact, the restaurant wasn’t open yet. Oops. My bad.
Even though I had very rudely, albeit accidentally, showed up 20 minutes before Eureka opens for the day, he let me know that I was welcome to stay and that he could take my drink order, which I of course very much appreciated. Even though it was 100 percent my mistake, they did me a favor and let me stay, which is more than I would have asked for.
I’ve gone to Eureka for beers before, and have even had a cocktail or two there. The options are endless, and everything I’ve tried there is great, but 10:40 a.m. is a little too early to start hitting the bottle, in my opinion. I decided to go with something alcohol-free.
I ended up ordering the “signature” lavender lemonade, which I highly recommend for those who love strong botanical liquors like gin. Instead of serving up an overwhelming, syrupy drink like I had feared, Eureka delivers a slightly bitter drink. It resembles a good cocktail, visually and taste-wise.
After the kitchen opened, I had my lunch order taken by Yessenia, who was also extremely gracious about me being there before the restaurant actually opened.
It was a difficult choice to make. The deviled eggs on their appetizer menu are one of the best bar snacks I’ve ever had — creamy, mustardy, and topped with smoky pancetta. I’ve eaten them many times, and I don’t think I could possibly get tired of them, but I wanted to try something new.
It was a hard choice between the salads and the tacos. Each dish is filled with bold complementary flavors, and they all sounded interesting. Ultimately, I decided to go for California’s greatest food tradition and get the blackened fish tacos.
They were wonderful, with spicy charred whitefish smothered in a zingy mango slaw and served on corn tortillas. Despite the smattering of diced mango, the tacos are well-balanced and not overly sweet. They aren’t painfully spicy, but they do have a pleasant kick.
The tacos come with a side of tortilla chips and salsa. The salsa container is much smaller than I had hoped, but I ate every last drop. It’s a pretty mild fire-roasted sauce, dark-colored with bits of char and tomatillo throughout. I could probably have eaten three containers of it.
After I finished munching on my chips and went back to working on my laptop, Yessenia came by to see if I needed anything else, then let me know that she wasn’t going to rush me, which I appreciated. I ended up paying and scramming to get to an interview I had for another article, but I liked that I had the option to stay if I chose to.
I was considering going back to Eureka for drinks later. Seriously, their beer selection alone is too tempting to pass up, not to mention the array of mixed drinks on the menu. Unfortunately, rain started pouring down. Drivers in Irvine aren’t always the most attentive, I assume due to them mostly being too used to using Tesla Autopilot — and there are always more crashes when it’s raining.
I ended skipping my Eureka revisit that night, but I did go back the next morning with a group for their famous brunch. Our waitress suggested we try the cold brew coffee they had on hand, and I’m glad we did. The coffee was made by ThunderKing Brewing Co. and came in a slick black-and-gold labeled brown bottle, like a fancy craft beer. It didn’t just resemble one visually — the smooth taste indicated that the same amount of care as a small-batch IPA is put into ThunderKing’s coffee.
I ordered the chilaquiles with a fried egg over-hard, which was fine. I wasn’t a huge fan of the sauce-to-dish ratio, by which I mean that the bottom half of the dish becomes a sauce-and-tortilla slurry pretty quickly. Regardless, I got pretty full off the top half — the portion sizes are great here. I wouldn’t order it again, but it was still a good breakfast.
The main highlight of the breakfast menu seems to be the cheap mimosas and bellinis, but their French dip sandwich is also a winner. The meat quality is noticeably high, which is a welcome change from your typical diner-style dip. It’s juicy on its own, but the salty, flavorful jus served on the side is still a fantastic addition.
By default, the French dip comes with fries and a few dipping, which I tried and can also vouch for. They’re crispy, salty and nicely seasoned. There’s nothing gimmicky about them, they’re just good.
Overall, I’d have to recommend Eureka to anyone who finds themselves near the UCI campus, especially if they’re a fan of interesting beers. The back of the restaurant features a long row of taps — the longest I’ve ever seen — and a floor-to-ceiling blackboard with more beers listed on it than I can count.
It’s a great rest stop to enjoy a creamy ale or a bright, bitter IPA — just make sure you wait until they’ve opened to grab yourself a seat. I’d recommend them for any day when you feel like being cozy, especially if you’re feeling snackish. Like I said earlier, it’s not my first time around the block, and it’s always nice to pair an alcoholic beverage with their appetizers. I love gin, but I’m not much of a liquor fan besides that; however, the word on the street is that their selection of small-batch whiskeys is also worth checking out.
Whatever you choose to order, it’s going to turn out fine. The service is fantastic, friendly and quick, and almost everything on their menu is pure gold.