There are moments in time where technology and tradition come together in a way that just make sense. Barrel Republic, the newest addition to the thriving Oceanside dining and drinking scene is a prime example of that. Besides the fun self-serve wristband technology for the beer and wine, chef Michael Brown has a mainly scratch kitchen going on that is an added bonus. I had a conversation recently with Michael to learn more about his influences and Barrel Republic.
You’ve had quite a career in the restaurant world leading to Barrel Republic; walk me through the road to your current endeavor.
I have been lucky to have a great career. Starting in Baltimore, Md., I got to learn all things seafood and of course the famous crab cake. From there to San Francisco and then Santa Barbara learning west coast style cuisine and eventually worked with Michel Richard. A couple years in Colorado and then Tucson, Ariz., where I was chef for 14 restaurants, prime steak house, Pacific Rim, Italian, French, American, Mexican, Southwestern and four star/four diamond among others. Longing to get back to the beach, I made the move to Encinitas, previously lived in Oceanside 2000 to 2004. Finally I was lucky to connect with Barrel Republic and bring my experiences with me.
You live with your wife and five kids in Encinitas, have any of them expressed interest in a culinary career?
Melissa and I have Curtis (17), Cameron (15), Callie (14), Carlin (6) and Cate (4).
They are “chef’s” kids and love good food, sushi and artichokes are the house favorites. They help in the kitchen yet there is no serious interest shown yet. Melissa is no slacker in the kitchen, known for her breakfast sandwiches.
What are some of your favorite places to eat around town as a family?
Typically local smaller restaurants and bars are preferred. With a large family we don’t get out a ton but enjoy, Regal Seagull, Papagayo, Oggi’s as well as others. Sushi is a once a year endeavor, last time out at sushi lounge the family downed about 200 bites. Wow!
What factored in to your decision to choose Oceanside for Barrel Republic?
After owner Dave Pike had success in Pacific Beach with the first Barrel Republic, He came to offer Oceanside another quality craft beer restaurant, with our unique twist, Self-Serve. Oceanside has been extremely welcoming and supportive.
How would you describe the Barrel Republic concept?
We are a craft beer house restaurant featuring self-serve craft beer, wine and non-alcoholic beverages (kombucha, craft soda, tea and iced coffee) with fresh food. Freedom to pour is our motto!
The wristbands are a unique way to self-serve beer and wine; tell me about the technology behind that and how it works?
Wristbands are used to track the amount of beverage poured and only pay for that amount. The concept is to allow the guests to have the opportunity to taste many craft beverages, and explore new styles or breweries or simply pour their favorite pint.
You’ve taken some steps in the preparation of some menu items that go above and beyond what is expected from a typical bar like smoking your turkey in-house. What is the philosophy behind your menu?
First and foremost is fresh food, we have no freezer in the kitchen. Secondly we wanted to make sharable, interactive with the guests ability to get up and try another beer. Then the fun part of the food and my job, we put a lot of unique twists on our dishes. We make our seaweed crackers, add roasted butternut puree, kale and almonds to our mac and cheese, preserve lemons and pickle tomatoes, brine and smoke turkey, smoke fresh salmon, make smoked mustard and bacon wrap our pork belly. Popular dishes include Crispy Avocado Grilled Cheese, Potato Barrels, Tomato Burrata Shooters, Wild Mushroom Garbanzo Burger. The result is great tasting food, which is also fun to prepare.
Do you have any favorite beers or wine to pair with items on your menu?
The beers and wines change daily as each keg finishes a new variety or brand is put on so you will have to stop by daily for me to happily answer that question.
Anything else you would like to add?
We are currently under construction in Carlsbad for our third location. Open for lunch all week and all food items are under $12. Happy Hour is Monday to Friday from 3 to 6 p.m. and for all Chargers games. We also have brunch on Sunday starting at 9:45 a.m. I should have our first seasonal menu change next month. We will be adding four or five vegan items and a couple more sandwich offerings. I am most excited about the Vegan Wild Mushroom French Dip; this is going to be rad!
Check out Barrel Republic at 215 N. Coast Highway, Oceanside, (760) 435-0042 or online at barrelrepublic.com.
David Boylan is the founder of Artichoke Creative an Encinitas based integrated marketing firm. He also hosts Lick the Plate Radio that airs Monday through Friday at 7 p.m. on FM94/9, Easy 98.1, and KSON. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or (858) 395-6905.