Making a long-delayed return to Poway craft beer bar and resto
Last week, I shared news on a special barleywine being brewed by Karl Strauss Brewing Company to celebrate the five year-anniversary of Poway bar and restaurant Phileas Foggs (11385 Poway Road, Suite 100, Poway). In doing so, I found myself hungering for a visit to the venue, a place I hadn’t been in ages. What I found was a small but stable place with quite the commitment to craft beer and plenty of customers lapping it all up.
Upon entry, I selected what I deemed the perfect seat, a stool at a table with a clear view of the beer list, which was projected onto the back wall and rotated between an inventory of the 20-plus brews on tap, advertisements for upcoming events, and shots of notable menu items. Such beer board alternatives are becoming quite popular. The first technological upgrade of this type I spied was at Portland, Oregon’s Bailey's Taproom, where a patron designed a computer program that allows the current tap list to appear on a TV screen and provide the vital statistics for each beer and up-to-the-second updates on the level of each keg as well as what beers will go on once a keg kicks. Phileas Foggs’ is nowhere near that sophisticated. In fact, two taps displayed as empty and weren’t updated during the hour I spent there, but still, it’s a nice way to keep patrons from walking up to a board or relying on a less reliable printed menu.
After spending way too long deciding what beer to go with (3 Fonteinen Oude Gueuze, in case you’re curious), I turned my attention to the menu, a mix of popular local bar snacks—quesadillas, hot wings and the like—and classic English dishes including pies, black pudding, bangers and mash, and sausage rolls. It was the widest variety of across the Pond pub fare I’ve seen outside of London. When I asked the waitress about the venue's English bent, she told me the menu is the product of Phileas Foggs’ owner, who is particularly passionate about the pie recipe. Apparently, nobody is allowed to prepare them but him.
The pies come with a variety of fillings including minced beef, chicken and mushrooms, and corned beef and potato. I went with the classic steak and kidney. It came to the table free of any accoutrements or garnishes. It didn’t need any. The golden brown entrée looked good enough to fill in as a mascot for the delicacy. Once broken open, a slightly moist mixture of glistening, savory beef and plump chunks of offal spread onto the plate. The kidneys were cooked well and brought on some of the metallic iron flavor one expects from that organ, but it was subtle and easily tamed by a dab of brown sauce. A yank’, I’ve never been terribly fond of brown sauce, but thought it worked perfectly in this scenario. The best part of the pie, hands down, was the flaky crust. Not too thick, but sturdy enough to hold in all that meaty goodness without getting too soggy, it was all one could ask for.
The missus and I also split a pair of appetizers, loaded potato rounds and a sixer of hot wings. Phileas Foggs prides themselves on their wings and offers a variety of sauces ranging from just plain hot to Chinese sweet BBQ sauce and honey pineapple teriyaki. We went with IPA mustard and, though it tasted fine, but it was so overwhelmingly spicy (in the way horseradish is cutting as opposed to the manner in which chili peppers are scorching) that it felt like my nasal passages were going to split open. That’s simply too imposing to qualify as palatable. To put it in perspective, their Foggs Flaming Hot Sauce—the hottest they’ve got—wasn’t as spicy and was good enough that I used it as a condiment for my taters (tasty baked potatoes sliced into thick discs and presented in a nicer fashion than any pub potato app’ I’ve ever seen, then toppped with cheese, bacon, and jalapeño sour cream).
For a packed Friday night, the staff was not only swift, but friendly, informative, and abundantly patient (it took me over 10 minutes and way too many waitress inquiries to select that gueuze…thank you, Chelsea). I can easily see myself coming back for another weekend start-up session, and it won’t take me years to do it. I need some black pudding and a sausage roll!