The Old Towne Brewing Co. is a fun place to throw back a few on Saturday night while listening to some great local bands. Come Sunday morning, the tunes are still coming but the emphasis switches from beer to brunch.
The Gremoli Dixieland band gives a "Big Easy" feel to this old-fashioned pub, which is housed in a restored train depot in Old Towne Orange. Just steps from the Metrolink tracks, the excitement of the trains and the Mardi Gras music make this a good place to while away a lazy morning.
The restaurant was formerly a Santa Fe Railway train depot, built in the late 1880s but rebuilt as a Works Progress Administration project in the 1930s. The trains stopped coming to the depot in the 1970s, and it stood neglected until Metrolink began its route through town in the late 1980s.
By the early 1990s, the property was bought by the city of Orange, which was looking for a developer. In walked James Geurin, who bought the property, refurbished the building and created the Old Towne Brewing Co.
Anything on the huge "all day" menu can be ordered for brunch, in addition to the half-dozen egg entrees available. The brunch items come with endless trips to the continental buffet table, which offers fruit, croissants, sweet pastries, salad and dessert.
Or the buffet can be ordered by itself for $6.95. On the brunch list, the steamed salmon in a dill cream sauce with rice is a hearty and delicious meal, marred only by the side of undercooked broccoli, zucchini and cauliflower.
Also a good bet is the huevos rancheros, sunny-side-up eggs with a spicy red sauce and cheese between two flour tortillas. The black beans are loaded with flavor and are a perfect accompaniment to eggs and potatoes, which are made with chopped onions and peppers and fried to a crisp. Whenever possible, choose the potatoes over the rice option.
Don't waste time with the roasted vegetable omelet. The vegetables are not roasted and the omelet isn't good enough to carry the meal by itself. Eggs Benedict comes with the traditional poached eggs and ham, but the hollandaise sauce rescues the dish from banality with its bite of lemon. New York steak and eggs are fine if you like red meat in the morning.
Aside from a few fried items, most of the entrees are made fresh daily. The fish is "just caught," according to manager Mike Hickman, and the delicious fresh halibut fish and chips is evidence of this claim.
Other good bets on the main menu include penne Italiano, which is pasta tossed with spicy sausage, green peppers, onions, mushrooms and sun-dried tomato sauce. The vegetable burger is a hefty patty with cucumbers and garlic herb mayonnaise.
Regulars recommend the chicken tortilla soup, the grilled breast of marinated chicken topped with caramelized onions, and roasted red peppers with herb cheese on a baguette.
Hickman said the all-day entrees were put on the menu "because they taste damn good with beer." I haven't been able to drink the stuff since I mixed it with lemonade a long time ago, but connoisseurs consistently praise Old Towne Brewing Co. for its exceptional ales and lagers.
Brew master Tucker Fleming is proud of his "hand-crafted" Preservation Porter, Mad Dog Magruder's E.S.B., Panther Pale Ale and harvester American Wheat Ale. Regulars swigged 15 barrels of the pub's Old Towne Oktoberfest and Old Towne Holiday Ale shortly after it was poured from the vats to the taps.
On weekends and at happy hours, waiters with fistfuls of frothy pitchers maneuver through the crowd with the popular Preservation Porter and Panther Pale Ale, which are always available.
Don't miss the unexpected burrito on the dessert menu. No one does to bananas and burritos what the brewery does. The creation of the restaurant's first chef, the caramel-covered burrito is a mixture of bananas, chocolate chips, candied walnuts and brown sugar, wrapped in a flour tortilla, battered and deep fried to a golden brown.
It doesn't sound nearly as good as it tastes, which is heavenly. All the desserts--the creme brulee, the chocolate espresso cake and the white chocolate bread pudding--are exceptional.
Old Towne Brewing Co., 186 N. Atchison St., Orange. (714) 744-4182. Brunch served from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Jazz band starts at noon. Menu items range from $6.95 to $18.95; brunch items range from $6.95 to $11.95.