3hree Things: Why Haven Gastropub Has Become My Haven

Watch out for 3hree Things every Tuesday, where Riley Breckenridge, drummer of Orange County's favorite local alt-rock band Thrice, gives his take on life in Southern California as an OC native.

Disclaimer: While my last two 3hree Things were far-and-away my most widely read pieces (Thank you for all the feedback and linkage.), I've decided to put the cynicism on the back burner for this week and write about something that I actually like. Rest assured, the vitriolic rants will return soon. Plus, it's too damn hot to be angry. (It's 106º in Orange at the time of this writing.)

I moved from The Bubble (Irvine) to Orange about four months ago, and because I am a gluttonous turd that loves stuffing his increasingly fat face with all types of food and pouring copious amounts of craft brews into my mouth hole, I've made it a point to eat at Haven Gastropub at least every other week. 

During weeks that I've set my dietary discretion aside (read: most of them) I've even been known to gorge myself in Haven's friendly confines a couple times a week. (Lest you doubt me, I have a slow-growing belly that looks like a trash bag full of mashed potatoes as proof.) 

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I realize that I'm probably preaching to the choir here, since the restaurant was voted as 2009's Best New Restaurant by OC Weekly readers, but I wanted to use this week's 3hree Things to profess my hopeless yet willful addiction to three things at Haven.

1) The Jumbo Prawns 

Skewers of jumbo prawns wrapped in applewood-smoked bacon, sitting on a bed of cheese grits, garnished with rustic tomato salsa, and drizzled in cilantro oil. 

Fact: Bacon makes everything better. I'm convinced that you could wrap a turd in bacon and it would be delicious. I'm a sucker for sea bugs (shrimp) and the cheese grits are a perfect, hearty, slightly-spicy counter to the to saltiness of the bacon. The rustic salsa and cilantro oil keep the dish from feeling too heavy. 

I ordered this dish the first time I ever set foot in Haven, and it was so good that either the lady or I have made it a point to order it almost every single time since. If I didn't have to eat it in public, I'd probably lick my plate clean.

3hree Things: Why Haven Gastropub Has Become My Haven
Dave Lieberman

2) The Haven Burger 

No. 27 on OC Weekly's ongoing list of the Top 100 Favorite Dishes. It's a delicious, perfectly-cooked-to-order, hand-formed beef patty topped with pickled red onions, roasted red peppers, arugula, St. Agur (bleu) cheese. I have hated blue cheese for as long as I can remember--because it treats my palate like I imagine a goat shart might--and this burger has actually made me a blue cheese convert. I'm fully on board.

Like any burger worth a damn, it's a messy, juicy, and is totally satiating without leaving you so full that you hate yourself. It's plated with a pile of perfectly-cooked (and never soggy) herb dusted fries and homemade ketchup. 

For the past two years or so, The Crowbar's Hangover Burger had been my favorite burger in OC, but The Haven Burger blows it out of the water, hangover or no hangover. I'm eager to see if there's a burger of it's caliber and price range ($11) that ranks any higher on OC Weekly's list. I can't see it happening.

3hree Things: Why Haven Gastropub Has Become My Haven

3) The Beer List 

If you've ever read my blog while I'm on tour (or had the misfortune of seeing me sans shirt), you've probably noticed that I am a huge fan of beer. 

Haven's beer list is flat-out amazing. With 70-plus bottled beers, and an ever-changing list of fourteen or fifteen brews on tap, I'm pretty sure I'll end up with cirrhosis of the liver before I can try them all. That's not gonna stop me from trying though. 

If you can't make up your mind on which beer to enjoy a pint or three of (and I wouldn't blame you if you couldn't, because they're all so good) you can get a beer flight of four selections from the list in 5 oz. glasses. 

I can thank Haven's extensive beer list for introducing me to my favorite brewery, Bear Republic, and my favorite beer of the moment, the Bear Republic XP Pale Ale; a very drinkable, remarkably smooth Pale Ale that isn't so floral that it tastes like you're sucking on a bag of potpourri.

(Bonus) The Bread Pudding 

Brioche, rum-soaked golden raisins, and salted butter caramel ice cream. This is too good to put into words. You'll just have to try it for yourself. I can guarantee you won't be disappointed. The homemade caramel ice cream is one of the best ice creams, of any flavor, that I've ever had, and almost makes me wish that the Haven folks would open up an ice cream shop in the Orange Circle.

Now I've just got to figure out a way to convince my metabolism (and bank account) to make it possible for me to eat at Haven five nights a week.

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