Eureka!: Watch Out, Back Abbey
If you thought the Back Abbey made the best burger in town, it’s time to reconsider. Eureka! Burger just opened up shop last month down at the Packinghouse and is giving our former favorite burger joint a run for its money.
When you walk in the front door at Eureka, it’s hard not to stare at the wall behind the bar. It’s covered with a tantalizing menagerie of beer taps from all over the American West. The décor is distinctly Californian: modern, wood-paneled, and laid back. In keeping with the beer and atmosphere, the cuisine is Californian as well. Innovative burgers and sandwiches dominate the menu, complemented by a variety of mostly meat-based starters and salads. Prices are very reasonable: beer on tap goes for five or six dollars a pint; entrees are between nine and twelve dollars.
The service is excellent. Our host and servers were friendly, prompt, and attentive, and the bartender was a first class beer geek - in the best sense possible. The beer on the menu is organized into groups with fun names like “Hopocalypse,” for bitter beer, “Brunettes and Redheads” for brown and amber ales, and “Motor oil” for porter and stout. It’s an eccentric, but effective way to help you get a feel for what you order. There is a selection of bottled specialty beers behind the bar as well. Feel free to ask for help with your selection of beer; there is something to complement every dish on the menu.
The portions are large enough that you don’t need an appetizer before your entrée, but the Eureka Truffle Fries sounded worth a try. The plate came out quickly and well-presented. To my disappointment, the fries were not as crispy as I like and tasted plain, but the sauce was delicious. Truffle and gruyere work together to make a complex earthy richness in balance with a pleasant, ever so slightly spicy finish.
The fries hadn’t been out ten minutes when our burgers came. The plates came out looking like the cover of an issue of Bon Appétit. Burgers come with a side of fries, or for a little extra, salad, onion rings, cole slaw, or “sweet honey cinnamon potato fries.” The onion rings were crispy and delicious. Unfortunately, the fries remained unimpressive, but both thick handcrafted patties were cooked to perfection: crispy on the outside and tender medium rare on the inside. The buns were perfect: flavorful, well-textured, and sturdy enough to stand up to the burgers. In the Fig Marmalade burger, marmalade makes a sweet offset to an otherwise smoky burger piled with thick flavorful bacon, bitter arugula, and melted goat cheese. The Cowboy Burger’s explosive trifecta of flavor from house-made beer barbeque sauce, shoestring onion rings, and more thick smoky bacon overwhelms the cheese, but you won’t mind. The burgers at Eureka! are the best you will find in Claremont.
Although I was about ready to burst, I had to try dessert: Fried Ice Cream Sundae. All in all, it wasn’t worth the effort. The flavor was fine, but the fried caramel exterior got soggy quickly in the whipped cream and, though the menu mentioned mint, the flavor was nowhere to be found.
Should the Back Abbey be afraid? I don’t think so. Eureka! still has some dishes to improve before it can call itself a better restaurant. Pommes frites and funnel cakes over at the Back Abbey are doubtlessly better than the fries and dessert at Eureka! Burger. Nevertheless, It replaces the Back Abbey as my go-to beer and burger spot in Claremont. The service is better, there is a larger selection of burgers and, though the beer menu isn’t as diverse as the Back Abbey’s, it's large enough to keep my attention and is less expensive. When it comes down to it, Eureka! serves better burgers and bargain pints. And at Eureka!, a burger is all you need.
The low down: This place has got it going on. Stick to an entrée, swap out the fries for another side, and buy a craft beer to match. You won’t need more food.
It tends to be busy, so call ahead for a reservation.
580 W. First St.
Claremont, CA 91711