Monday, October 17, 2011

Les Caves de Awesome!

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Four years ago, my friend Chris told me that he was leaving a stable job with the largest chain of brewpubs in Oregon to help open a new establishment in Corvallis...Block something or other.  I recall thinking that he was nuts to follow a pipe dream, after all, his new bosses -- Nick and Kristen Arzner -- while experienced in the restaurant industry had little to no experience as proprietors.  Well, two months later I found myself helping install a brewery, 650 pound fermenters and all, on a drizzly December day in 2007 and the rest was history.  Block 15 Restaurant and Brewery opened in Spring 2008 and quickly became the most popular brewpub within a 100 mile radius, known for creative brew and unique food.

Last winter, when Chris started talking about a new project Nick and Kristen had cooked up in a vacant coffee shop next door to Block 15,  my ears and palate perked up.  If this new venture were to experience even 50% of the success of Block 15, we were all in for a treat...a fact I confirmed in person last weekend.  Allow me to introduce Les Caves Bier & Kitchen ("Caves"), a European Bier Tavern in Corvallis, Oregon.

The first thing I noticed walking through the doors of Caves was that it was Sunday, and well, they were open.  I've come to take this fact for granted in Seattle but in Corvallis, an open restaurant on a Sunday is worthy of note.  According to owner Nick Arzner,

Les Caves is modeled as a European Bier Cafe and will share the same community and environmental commitments as Block 15.

Walking through the doors of Caves, I felt like Harry Potter apparating to a different time and place. Chic, modern, but cozy, Caves features a bar made from beer barrel staves, a relatively intimate seating area, and a prominent beer fridge. I also couldn't help spending a minute reflecting with Nick on the success of the business. Four years ago it was a rag-tag group of friends and family renovating the joint next door; the luxuries of filling a needed hole in the Willamette Valley dining scene brought the ability to engage Metzger Green Build to do the heavy lifting on this project.

As authentic of a beer bar as you'll find in the Pacific Nortwest, Caves brings influences from Belgium, Great Britain, and Germany in both menu and beverage selection. Beer Curator Drew Salmi selects world-class beers for a 16-tap rotational draught list, including a IPA and Saison brewed by Block 15 exclusively for Caves. But wait, there's more! Did I mention the bottle list? No? Well, you'll find over 100 bottles from near and far, including a delicious Oakshire Brewing Hellshire bourbon aged barley wine that I found to be rich, sweet, and toasty and awesome during my visit.  If you're looking for rare beer this is the place to be.

Oh yea, they have food too. Cracking open the menu you'll find a feature of local agriculture, from scratch cooking, in house baking, and divergent choices ranging from simple pub snacks to date-worthy entrees. Since Rick and I don't make it to Corvallis all that often, the whole gang got together for the visit to Caves and we appropriately ordered pretty much one of every appetizer on the menu. Bier Bread Pretzel...awesome with the stone ground mustard. Salt Cod Fritters, who doesn't like salt, cod, and fritter? The surprising highlight of that portion of the meal was a crispy crab deviled egg. For dinner I thoroughly enjoyed a Rabbit Leg Confit with a house made sage biscuit that can only be described as orgasmic. The menu rotates frequently based on what's fresh, so keep an open mind and you'll not be disappointed.

A place that is you'll be just as comfortable grabbing appetizers and beer on a random Wednesday night after a long day of work as you will all gussied up for a hot date on a Friday night, Caves has great things to come. As with any new establishment, there are a few kinks being worked out but never fear, all signs are pointing to awesome and I can't wait to visit again. I almost forgot...they serve brunch as well on weekends! Buttermilk Stout Pancakes and a Bloody Tequila Maria? Sold! Actually, I'll take a mimosa...but you get the picture.

Les Caves Bier & Kitchen
308 SW 3rd Street
Corvallis, Oregon

Les Caves, Bier & Kitchen on Urbanspoon

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