The Globe's Beer Goggles
You'd be mistaken if you assumed the Globe was just another newfangled, fashionably modern gastropub. It may bill itself as that, but when you walk in for the first time, you'll do a double take. You may even go back outside to check the marquee to make sure you're in the right place. The restaurant is less than 2 years old, but the room looks as though it hasn't been remodeled since ABBA were on the radio. Booths with the nauseating color of Pepto and a dive-bar dankness suggest it might be a diner that serves green beans from a can, stale coffee and cold pie.
It certainly isn't, but when you're like me, someone who's used to seeing overdesigned and overhyped coastal restaurants that put architectural plans ahead of menus, you don't expect something that calls itself a "Dine Bar" to be less than hip. But the more you settle into those Carter-era chairs and the more you look around at the grizzled regulars at the bar, the more its outdated looks become endearing, especially considering it's located on Main Street in Garden Grove's downtown, arguably the last hipster-free zone in Orange County. The busiest night for the restaurant is also the busiest for Main Street. Every Friday from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m., the entire thoroughfare is blocked off for a classic-car show that culminates with a halfway-decent Elvis impersonator belting it out in front of the legendary Azteca, quite possibly the only Mexican restaurant in America that doubles as a holy worship site for "The King."
Pizza is on the menu, a holdover from the last tenant, and judging by the fact that almost every table had one, it would seem the Globe's regulars prefer things stay the way they are. That's good because owners Michael Pauwels and Marijke Adam, both from Belgium, don't seem to have any intention of updating the space to look as though it's from this decade. I wouldn't have it any other way, either, though I would veer away from the pizza. This is only the second real Belgian restaurant in OC, after all, so why eat something you can get almost anywhere?
The Globe Dine Bar, 12926 Main St., Garden Grove, (714) 537-7471; www.theglobeoc.com. Open Mon.-Sat., 4 p.m.-1:30 a.m. Dinner for two, $20-$50, food only. Full bar.
Start with a Belgian draft beer poured into a curvy chalice, or try one of more than a dozen Trappist brews, artisan beer produced by a select few monasteries, largely in Belgium. If you're keen on reliving your frat days and are capable of chugging a 70-ounce schooner, the Globe also offers a so-called Chimay Challenge; portraits of the brave souls who've accomplished the feat hang on a wall of fame. But whatever ale or lager you choose, the things to start with here are the Hoppas, the Globe's version of tapas. The rillettes are excellent, small terrines of pork and duck cooked into shreds and left to chill until the fat rises to form a waxy seal. Scrape that off with a butter knife, then spread the pink, nearly melting meat paste on slices of French bread as you would pâté.
Also on this list of bites are candied pecans that shatter into spicy-sweet shards; a warm Bavarian pretzel; and a plate of pencil-thin asparagus drizzled with a syrupy, grain-flecked mustard sauce, then garnished with crumbled prosciutto. Or have the greaseless, hand-breaded, wine-marinated chicken tenders, which are the size of flippers. All are fantastic.
I've yet to try the house-made Gouda croquettes, or the coq a vin, or the charcuterie plate, but I intend to the next time. Any restaurant that serves crepes this buttery and fills them as though they were squat burritos with duck confit, wild mushrooms and melted leeks is sure to also make everything else great—and in generous portions, too. Belgian food, after all, is often described as a cuisine of French quality served in German quantities. This is true of the Belgian frites, thick-cut, home-made fries that come at you in overwhelming amounts. They're fleetingly crisp, not so much golden as browned on the edges, but brought out overflowing from a paper cone when you order any of the entrées.
The frites are perfect with the wonderfully filling beer beef stew—a malty-flavored, chunky, brown ocean of slow-cooked meat hunks, pearl onions and carrots you want to eat in concert with a glass of Leffe Brune, the beer used to simmer the dish. Even the pork-and-veal bratwurst, tucked into a hollowed-out crusty French baguette with a slathering of potent Dijon and sweetly caramelized onions, is served with more Belgian frites than any one person actually needs.
It's about halfway into your piles of fried potatoes that you realize you'll, indeed, need more beer. Perhaps that Chimay Challenge 70-ouncer might not be a bad idea, after all.
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