Fielders' choice

Venerable Irish pub lands farm-to-table chef

Brandon Brooks has left the building. That building is the firehouse at Liberty Station converted into a combination grocery and bistro that’s the base for SOL Markets (2855 Perry Road). That business went in back this winter and has since undergone some major alterations. Set up originally as a farmers market people can count on to offer artisan foods and farm-fresh produce from around the county on a daily basis plus offer an in-house dining component, it switched to a business that’s primarily an eatery with the market moving into the subordinate role.

In the midst of these changes, Brooks explored an employment opportunity and, eventually, accepted an offer from the owners of The Field (544 Fifth Avenue) to take over the Gaslamp’s stalwart Irish pub. In the immediate future, he’ll be taking over that kitchen, but there’s another layer to this story—the one that made this job especially appealing to Brooks. He will also be responsible for the food component of an upcoming project being championed by The Field owner Daniel Drayne’s son and daughter, Half Door Brewing Company.

Two weeks ago, wrote about Half Door Brewing, mentioning it was being designed to be something similar to San Francisco’s Magnolia Pub & Brewery. As it turns out, though it was on a list of potential motifs they kicked around, that is not the exact concept they are implementing. Half Door, which will operate out of a turn-of-the-century house a block from Petco Park, will be its own place. In the Draynes’ words, "a site for the sore eyes of urbanites.” The food they someday serve will both pair with and be prepared using beer, something Brooks has plenty of experience with, having spent the two years prior to his involvement with SOL at North Park’s Ritual Tavern. He would seem an ideal candidate to head this brewpub’s food component.

The brewing component will be the responsibility of Daniel Drayne, Jr. who, in addition to studying at the Siebel Institute of Technology and homebrewing for some time, has also spent the past two years working at Coronado Brewing Company. Meanwhile, his sister, Stacy Drayne will take her business degree and experience in the family business and put it to use as Half Door's general manager. These two halves stand a good chance of making a formidable whole.

Half Door will be the second brewpub to land in the East Village and the fourth in Downtown overall, joining new neighbor Monkey Paw Pub & Brewery as well as Karl Strauss Brewing Company and Rock Bottom Brewery & Restaurant.

Photo © Mike Pawlenty / Chefs Press, Inc.

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Comments

Brandon is very good cook, but I don't foresee his style meshing well with the Gaslamp ethos. I mean, when he was at ritual he was really into working with a small handful of people and he seemed to be perfect for that environment. Somehow, I can't grasp the idea of a guy like him working in a mock-Irish joint making fish and chips for drunken tourists.

Ian, you're wrong about The Field. They have stellar fish n chips, curry and service. It's one of my favorite places as a downtown resident and it has a standout happy hour. Instead of perpetuating the myth that everything sucks in the Gaslamp, do a little research first. My Irish friends swear by the place and there's always Irish folks in there having a great time! What ignorance.

Brandon. Here are some of the grand statements you've made about the chefs who can't seem to hold a job for more than six months at a time:

Luke Johnson: "The sky's the limit." Six months later the Sky Room fell.

Brandon Brooks: "Brandon Brooks has left the building." Are you referencing The King, as in Elvis Presley? Pump your brakes; a few years ago, Brookes was flipping burgers at the La Jolla Beach and Tennis Club.

Chad White: "A household name." Are you drunk? The guy left THREE restaurant posts in 2012 and yet you keep hyping him up to readers. Hot air, dude. Where will you draw the line?

You're making these friends of yours look more like chumps than champs. These three chefs have worked at a combined total of eight restaurants in a little over one year. Oh, well!

I'm sure they have delicious fish n' chips. It's basically impossible to mess them up. Fry fish. Fry fries. Done.

The fact remains that tawdry mock-Irish is still just that. I mean, come on, corned beef and cabbage as Irish food? That's New England cuisine at its finest and the restaurant is playing to the whimsy of the heaps and piles of Mainers, Mass-holes, and other Sox-hat-wearing yah-doods who flock here on the regular. Believe me, we can smell our own :D

I'm sure it's a fine place to drink a pint and I know that you've reviewed it lovingly in the past, Amy, but you can't bottle and export culture and "Irish pubs" deserve their scare quotes. There's this version of Irish-Americanism, I guess you could call it, that calls for drinking Guinness and wearing green on St. Patrick's Day, but it's a quirky little piece of Americana more closely related to the Boston Celtics than to any islands off the coast of England.

More to the point, you can still love the place. Totes. I never said it sucked. I'm sure it's quite lovely. Not for me, though. Been there, done that. I don't think you really read what I was saying. I just didn't think Brandon would be a good fit. I met the guy one time when I was still working in restaurants and he was really into the low-volume, small-crew atmosphere at Ritual. High-traffic bar isn't going to be much like that, now , is it?

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