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First Look: Urge Gastropub Oceanside & Mason Ale Works

Dec 21

urge_01When Urge Gastropub opened in Rancho Bernardo in 2010, it did so before culinarily focused neighborhood spots with robust craft beer programs were the norm. Being such an exception, there were few models for the since-storied restaurant’s owners to follow. So, fueled by their personal passion for ales, lagers and something a cut-above, the trio winged it. As such, there are things they say they would do differently from a design perspective if they were to do it over again. And though it’s not a complete reboot, those items are addressed (and then some) with the larger, coastal second-coming of their flagship, Urge Gastropub and Whiskey Bank (2002 South Coast Highway, Oceanside), which is scheduled to debut on the corner of Vista Way and the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) before the end of the fast-elapsing year.

urge_04Ownership says they’re not into chains, so they relished the chance to take over a former bank building with architectural bones that dictated the installation of something unique from Urge Oceanside’s RB predecessor. Co-owner Grant Tondro likens the two restaurants to his fraternal partners Nate and Zak Higson—they’re obviously related, but not twins. The bar area is larger in Oceanside and lined with stylish black-on-black wallpaper that make flat-screen TV content pop. The menu will retain 40% of proven favorite items from the original restaurant, while incorporating seafood dishes and other new offerings from Urge corporate chef Boyd Kerr (whose résumé includes the Cohn Restaurant Group, Landry’s and his current eatery, Escondido’s Intertwined Bistro and Wine Bar).

Mason Ale Works brewmaster Mike Rodriguez

Mason Ale Works brewmaster Mike Rodriguez

And oh yeah, there’s a brewery! Mason Ale Works occupies the north side of the building, housing a 10-barrel Premier Stainless brewhouse, six 10-barrel fermenters, more than 30 barrels (mostly red wine, currently, with plans to expand into more vino and spirits) and a cold-box fitted with eight 10-barrel bright/serving tanks. Mason is headed by Mike Rodriguez, a veteran of Port Brewing Company/The Lost Abbey and Boulevard Brewing. So far, Rodriguez has brewed up a hoppy blonde ale, pale ale, and Citra and Simcoe dry-hopped red ale, but by the time the Oceanside brewpub is open and in full-swing, a saison and Citra-hopped double India pale ale figure to be on tap as well. Also on this week’s brew schedule is an imperial stout bound for rye whiskey barrels.

Beer production at the brewpub is legally limited to 5,000 barrels per year, which should prove plenty for the venue, which intends to have around six house beers on tap at a time and distribute its brews throughout San Diego County. The other 41 taps will feature an assortment of quality ales and lagers like the array at Urge’s RB bar. An additional tap will dispense cold-brewed coffee. Urge’s ownership is also excited about its craft cocktail and whiskey programs. The former will utilize a premium well, while the latter will consist of nearly 300 whiskeys lining a library ladder-equipped wall behind the bar. Many of those are of the bourbon and rye variety, but they have procured some interesting whiskeys from Japanese distilleries as well.

urge_03The bar itself seats 70 via tall seating, including 800-pound communal tables crafted from single pieces of Indonesian ironwood. Hanging Edison light-bulbs create separation from the main dining room, which is lined with repurposed cork material from Miramar-based Cali Bamboo and lit metal arrows spelling out the infamous “Konami code” from the Nintendo Entertainment System’s heyday. There is seating for 70 in that area, consisting of a mixture of cushy banquettes and wood tables outfitted with en vogue schoolhouse chairs. An additional 70 seats are available on an L-shaped outdoor patio lining PCH. And unlike most businesses on that thoroughfare, Urge Oceanside is equipped with a great deal of parking, roughly 60 spots in all, making the new western terminus of San Diego’s famed “Hop Highway” (the stretch of State Route 78 leading east to Interstate 15) both attractive and accommodating.

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