Part II in a series
By the East County Eaters
Week 2: Alpine Beer Company Pub (Alpine) and Vine Cottage (La Mesa)
September 11, 2014 (San Diego's East County)--Last week, we opened our Best Happy Hours in East County series by focusing on some premier locations for cocktails. This week, our eager team of eaters and drinkers hit the road once again, this time bringing you reviews of a local brewery’s pub that’s one of the most popular watering holes in the backcountry, along with a European-style bistro with a wonderful wine bar and some of the best happy hour food deals in town.
Alpine Beer Company Pub: True "hoppiness"
2351 Alpine Blvd., Alpine, CA; (619)445-2337 (BEER); https://alpinebeerco.wordpress.com/
You know you’ve found a great brew pub when its patrons include pros in the beer and wine business. Such was the case when I stopped by the Alpine Beer Company Pub (located next to their brewery). The manager of a sports bar down in El Cajon was bellied up to the bar wolfing down wings and beer; a local winery owner and his vineyard crew also stopped in for a cold round during happy hour, held Tuesday through Friday from 4 to 6 p.m.
All draft beers are $3.50, a dollar off the normal rates. There are daily pub specials, such as taco Tuesdays ($4 for pulled pork, beef brisket, smoked chicken or veggie options), wing Wednesdays which include a $13 pitcher of Alpine beer, and Thirsty Thursdays (half price wine bottles, trio of sliders and any side dish for $10.95).
We were fortunate to stop in the day they debuted a new brew aptly dubbed “Exponential Hoppiness.” With an 11.25% alcohol content, this gives you max buzz for the bucks. One glass is all you need—cold and delicious. You can also opt for a beer flight if you prefer to sample several of the brewery’s locally made craft brews.
No need to wait for Oktoberfest to savor bratwurst and beer. Though not a happy hour special, one of the best deals even at regular price ($10.95) here is the Brewer’s Plate, a veritable mountain of cheeses and choice of chicken or bratwurst sausage. You can pick four from a list of cheeses that on this occasion included darby sage, cranberry, pepperjack, smoked gouda, cheddar and asiago. This platter, which had ample fare for two, also included pepperoncinis, crackers and fresh fruit.
Located in the mountain town of Alpine yet conveniently just 10 minutes east of El Cajon, the Alpine Beer Company Pub has a welcoming if sometimes boisterous atmosphere (music of Bob Dylan and Credence Clearwater Revival made us feel right at home).
Great beer and hearty food on an affordable budget served up by friendly staff – true “hoppiness” indeed! No wonder this place is always packed.
For an added treat, you can also stop by the Alpine Beer Company's brewery next door for tastings as well, making this a beer lover's best bet.
Vine Cottage Bistro: For lovers of fine wines and foods
6062 Lake Murray Blvd., La Mesa, CA (619) 462 -1425; www.thevinecottage.com
If you’re looking for a wonderful wine bar and restaurant with knowledgeable sommeliers, super deals on gourmet foods and a European flair, look no further than this gem in La Mesa.
Happy Hour runs all day on Sundays and Mondays, and from 3:30 to 6 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays with discounts on all wines as well as draft beers.
This is a great chance to savor something you’d normally have to splurge on. Our “wine gal” went for a Foppiano Petite Syrah and also enjoyed some very fine zinfandels here on past occasions. Our “beer guy” gave a thumbs-up to the Mother Earth Weizenbock.
Vine Cottage has some of the best deals we found on food that’s a far cry from the standard wings-and-sliders happy hour fare. All of their flatbreads are half off during happy hour, and you can also save $2 on any first plates, as they call their appetizers.
We sampled—and loved—a flatbread topped with figs, carmelized onions, prosciutto (an Italian thin-sliced meat), roasted pistachios, aged balsamic vinegar and normally served with bleu cheese, though due to our taster’s allergy they graciously substituted mozzarella. Heaven!
Another delectable treat is the tostada de pot-au-feu, which consists of shredded beef shortribs, cartots, tomatoes, cream sauce, and a cilantro-chili sauce that’s zesty but not too hot for those who shun fiery foods.
We also recommend the coconut carrot soup with orange and ginger cream, as well as the fresh, local black mussels served with Yukon gold fries.
If you haven’t been here in a while, there’s a new owner who took over in October. He’s been in the business since 1994, including fine dining establishments in San Francisco and San Diego.
The ambience here also takes you away to a different world with faux-stone and vines, wood beams and plaster walls, evoking the feeling of a elegant European bistro.
Choose from wine bar seating, a cozy restaurant or an outdoor patio with heaters at the Vine Cottage Bistro--a perfect place for lovers of fine wines and foods to while away an afternoon or evening in any season.
Read Part I in our Best Happy Hours in East County series here.
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