While driving to Arby's a few months ago to try a new fast food promotion with my friend Zach, I noticed 38° Ale House. A few days later I looked it up. It seemed like a place I would like. They have dozens of different kinds of beer available, and a menu that reminded me of Gordon Biersch. But I usually only eat fast food in Alhambra; if I'm going out to a sit-down establishment I stay around Pasadena or South Pas.
The other day Elizabeth took the day off work to go to the DMV and I went with her so that she wouldn't be completely bored. (You know something is boring if someone wants me to accompany them for entertainment's sake.) We were there a little over two hours - although we felt lucky that it only took that long - and afterwards she offered to buy me lunch anywhere I wanted. ("But let's not get too crazy," she added. I wasn't sure if this meant I shouldn't suggest someplace really expensive or I shouldn't suggest something that actually is crazy, like a lunch buffet at a strip club. But I did not ask for clarification.)
It was a beautiful day and we both felt like going somewhere more than a few blocks from our place, so I suggested 38°. We got there a little after noon. We were greeted by a friendly hostess and and even friendlier guy behind the bar. There were only a couple other tables occupied in the place, and they sat us next to one of them: two businessmen, one of whom did not stop talking the whole time we were there, even when he had food in his mouth. (About how great an athlete he was in high school, about how much beer he drinks, about all the people he knows at other companies. Just a complete jackass. His dining companion may have uttered ten words in 35 minutes.)
I was impressed with the beer list: several Belgians, Deschutes Black Butte Porter, Abita Purple Haze, etc. Of course, I ordered an iced tea. There was a time when I loved having a beer or two at lunch. Now it just makes me want to take a nap. Getting older sucks.
I had seen several pictures of their burgers, both on the internet and the weekly ads we get in the mail from the restaurant, and they look great. I fully intended to order one, until I saw the "BBQ Beef Short Rib" sandwich, with a homemade smoked porter barbecue sauce and spicy cole slaw. There was no question I had to try that. Elizabeth ordered the mussels and fries.
I laughed when my sandwich arrived. I'm not sure if I have ever been served a taller sandwich. This thing might have been seven inches high, at least half of that being the top bun. I prepared myself for the possibility that I would just be eating the meat. Fortunately, it was a very soft brioche bun, and just by holding it in my hands it decreased in height by quite a bit. It was very tasty. I have ordered short ribs and short ribs sandwiches at places for twice the cost of this and they have been full of fat or salt. This was neither. The homemade barbecue sauce was interesting, an almost burnt-coffee taste (but in a good way, if that makes sense). I liked it, although it couldn't compare to the Black Butte Porter barbecue sauce I had at the Deschutes Brewery in Portland a year ago.
The fries were really good, too. A little more time in the fryer would not have hurt, but overall I really liked them, spiced with garlic and served with aioli. Elizabeth loved her mussels. I didn't try any but I did have several tastes of the broth, and it was great. Much better than I make, I fully admit.
I really liked 38°. The food was good and the service was very good. The bar area has plenty of seats and flat screens TVs. I don't know if I will be back for a meal - there are always new restaurants to try - but I could see myself grabbing a beer and watching a game here sometime.