This Brewery’s Burger is Nothing to Squawk At

Green Cheek Owners Brian Rauso and Evan Price with wife Aubrey Price front industry night. Photo by Greg Nagel

As Barley Forge’s coconut half-shells of the Patsy clapped together like horse-hooves off into the Costa Mesa sunset one last time, the well-used taproom popcorn machine was emptied for some parking lot birds and given a proper burial.

Phil’s Bacon Bits. Photo by Greg Nagel

As sad as it is to see a brewery close, seeing who ended up purchasing the location was quite a thrill for beer geeks near and far. Green Cheek Brewing, which also took over Valiant Brewing in Orange a couple of years ago, won the bid like a Showcase Showdown and seemed to come in with a set of plans so solid that they were ready to open within three weeks, kitchen and all.

House beers are flowing along-side hard-to-find guest taps. Photo by Greg Nagel

Barley Forge’s kitchen staff kept their jobs and were eager to impress their new boss and clientele. “I had them coming out with dishes until the menu was set,” says co-owner and brewer Evan Price, who gave the yay or nay on every item. “One of the first things chef Phil Trotter brought out were these bacon bits, and I was instantly hooked,” he says with a smile. And so am I. There’s something about the sweet, smoky, and spicy combo that combines into a pub superfood that marries perfectly with the house beers. There’s a sweet-hot glaze that binds the thick layers of meat that are so red from smoke they resemble watermelon salad at first glance.

The Green Cheek burger with all the extras, pork belly, runny egg, and grilled onions. Photo by Greg Nagel

The Green Cheek burger was a joint effort, where Evan dreamed of doing a classic smash burger and worked on it for a couple of weeks with the kitchen. “We did patty blends side by side to figure out what beef cuts we were gonna grind in house,” says Evan. After landing on the perfect bun going through four different bakeries, the kitchen got busy working on a burger sauce that would bring it all together. The Green Cheek burger is finished with a blend of mayo, miso, black vinegar, ketchup, and garlic, which gives each bite a nice kick of juicy umami, fat, salt, and beefiness, which can be topped with smoky pork belly and a runny egg.

One of the vegan options: pad Thai cauliflower. Photo by Greg Nagel

When a brewery has a kitchen, they’re also allowed to bring in guest taps as well as wine, cider, and mead, and Green Cheek saw this as a perfect opportunity to highlight things from some of their friends. “Yeah, we’re starting out with Sante Adarius Artisan Ales from NorCal, as well as from Highland Park in L.A.,” says Evan. “Don’t be surprised to stroll in and catch Cellarmaker IPAs, or even beers from Other Half,” he continued. Note that these beers are highly regarded and have never been on tap in Orange County.

Wines are available on tap or by the bottle from the likes of Land of Saints Sauvignon Blanc, Domaine de la Patience – From the Tank Rosé, and bottles of Pinot Noir from the Russian River Valley from Poco a Poco.

Green Cheek’s second location is sure to be a classic for years to come. Catch them at 2957 Randolph Ave., in Costa Mesa.

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