Eureka! is scheduled to open in Berkeley Oct. 28 at 2068 Center St. The grand opening will be in November.
Starting in 2009 in Redlands, Southern California, the Eureka! enterprise has established itself as a burger restaurant with a higher-end atmosphere and gourmet food at an affordable price. All items on the menu are handmade and locally sourced; for example, “the french fries alone take 24 hours to prepare,” said Robert Suzuki, one of the owners of Eureka!.
“Every single one of our onion rings is battered by hand,” he said. “Those little efforts here and there make a difference in the final product — you can really taste it. Besides, it’s healthier to have something not from a box.”
However, what really sets Eureka! apart from other burger restaurants is its “brown bar” with 30 craft beers on tap, two wines on tap, 21 small-batch American whiskeys and a vodka, gin, tequila and rum that all come from small family-owned breweries and distilleries in The United States. The drink menu actually varies by location, because each Eureka! carries beers from the local breweries nearby, and one-third of the beers on tap are changed weekly so regular patrons can always try something new.
When mentioning the whiskey selection at Eureka!, Suzuki beamed with pride. The bar offers rare finds such as the Pappy Van Winkle bourbon and the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection, which are not listed on the menu to avoid being sold out too quickly. All whiskeys in the house are made in the United States, but the team travels all over the country to search for unique-tasting whiskeys that have the flare of overseas products.
“Traditionally, American whiskies are pretty sweet and not smoky, but some people prefer the smokiness of scotch,” Suzuki explained. “So we found a product from the Corsair distillery in Tennessee … (the owners) import peat from Scotland and beachwood from Germany to make their whiskey.”
In terms of concept, Eureka! is all about being American. In 2009, when the economy was struggling, Suzuki and his partners noticed that burger restaurants were still doing well — more burgers were consumed per week than any other type of food. That year also witnessed the comeback of many small distilleries and the beginning of the local craft-beer scene in California. Eureka! was developed around these concepts, as the “burger is America’s quintessential food, and craft beer and whiskies are America’s quintessential drinks,” Suzuki said.
Eureka! will be open from 11 a.m. to midnight during the week and 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. on Friday and Saturday nights, serving food and drinks all until closing so customers can “have a clean and fun place for late night dinners.” In addition to live music on Wednesday nights, there’s “Steal the Glass” on Thursday nights, in which a brewer comes to the restaurant and brings a glass with his logo, and if you buy his beer, you can take the glass home. With this event, local brewers can mingle with guests and talk about their beer, how it was made, what was put into the beer, why they chose it and more. “It becomes more like a community than a restaurant,” Suzuki said.
Even before opening, with its tables and floor still spotted with measuring tapes, power cords and various construction tools, Eureka! in Downtown Berkeley already breathes a welcoming vibe. The restaurant front is fully open, and the interior bathes in a warm brown color of reclaimed yacht wood, promising casual good food and a good time.
If you’re in a nostalgic mood, try some Michter’s at the bar — as the story goes, it was the whiskey George Washington gave his troops before the Revolutionary War at Valley Forge.
Mai Truong is the editor of Eating Berkeley. Contact her at [email protected]