For this review, I’m not going to bury the lede. With the exception of the vegan chocolate cake, I did not love the food I tried my first night at Golden Road Pub. But that doesn’t mean I’m not recommending the place—I do wholeheartedly. In fact, I’m looking forward to bringing all my friends with me the next time I go. This is the kind of pub where you want a big, noisy group because it is a big, noisy place. Actually, it’s gigantic.
The indoor space resembles an airplane hangar furnished with metal chairs and picnic tables. If you think it’s as utilitarian as a Costco food court, that’s because you haven’t found the two ping-pong tables and the life-sized Connect 4 board that fully occupies one corner. If Karl Strauss, which is down the street, is the buttoned-down neighborhood preppie, Golden Road is that disarmingly charming surfer dude who always invites you over to hang out and says, “Mi casa es su casa.”
On the patio, I saw families playing cornhole on the lawn and couples trying their best to not topple an oversized game of Jenga. Everyone was chugging ales, lagers, porters and stouts as string lights dangled overhead. Even on nights when the wait for a table lasts an hour, Golden Road has so much space to spare it never feels crowded. The area is bigger than some city parks. It’s hard to overstate its size, and it’s not done expanding. Right now, Golden Road’s patio encompasses about 5,000 square feet. Later this year, the restaurant will add another 20,000 square feet to incorporate fire pits, a hammock lounge, a children’s play area and a dog park. It’s estimated that by the time it’s all finished, Golden Road Pub will be able to accommodate somewhere close to 1,000 people.
Golden Road purchased the property—in an industrial area right across from Anaheim Stadium—in 2015. Back then, the plan was to make this lot the brewery’s main production facility. But when Anheuser-Busch InBev acquired the company in 2016, Golden Road’s founders changed course. Since its parent corporation now allowed Golden Road to allocate production elsewhere, that freed up this building to become a restaurant and small-batch brewery.
The founders hired Henry Tran, formerly of TAPS Fish House, to helm the kitchen. And to supply the 40 beer taps that dispense all the Golden Road staples and experimental flavors developed on site (such as ales aged in wooden barrels normally used for bourbon), they enlisted master brewer Victor Novak. After making a name for himself as the brewer at TAPS in Brea, Novak has been with Golden Road since 2014. And now, with full command of this facility, Novak has not only become the resident mad scientist of beer, but he’s also the muse to Tran’s cooking.
The trouble with the meal I had was that I ordered the things only a critic would order. There was the short rib pot pie, which looked incredible at first. It started with a cast-iron skillet of brown-ale-braised stew with carrots and pee-wee potatoes. On top, subbing for pie crust, there was a lattice of puff-pastry strips. But digging in, I found the stew oversalted, the meat as chewy as pencil erasers, and the mushy potatoes waterlogged. I should’ve known better and stuck with the pub standards of burgers and fish and chips.
Instead, I went further into the unexplored. I decided against the usual fried calamari and took the vegan option made with young coconut meat. It was breaded and deep-fried to look exactly like, well, calamari. And for the first few bites, it had an oddly convincing texture to squid, especially shellacked in its wasabi-mustard aioli dip. But it wasn’t enough to stop me from craving the real thing for the rest of the night. I should’ve tried the fried avocado tacos. I hear it’s a hit at Golden Road’s other restaurant in LA, which also boasts a menu that has a vegan option for almost every dish.
This brings me to that wonderful chocolate olive oil cake, which also happens to be vegan. Light but rich, crisp on the outside but warm and moist on the inside, it was one of the best restaurant desserts I’ve had in years. It went extraordinarily well with ice cream as well as the pint of Irish Stout I drank, which my friendly waiter said I’d like if I liked Guinness. He was right.
If I had more friends with me, I would’ve ordered a few more glasses and more food that goes well with it. I would’ve stayed long into the night, maybe play a round of cornhole with full knowledge that my spatial abilities will inevitably suffer the longer I stay.
Golden Road Pub, 2210 E. Orangewood Ave., Anaheim, (714) 912-4015; goldenroad.la. Open Sun.-Wed., 11 a.m.-midnight; Thurs.-Sat., 11 a.m.-2 a.m. Shared plates and appetizers, $6-$14; main dishes, $10-$19. Beer available.
Edwin Goei was born on the island of Java, grew up in La Habra, studied in Irvine, and eats everywhere. Before becoming an award-winning restaurant critic for OC Weekly in 2007, he went by the alias “elmomonster” on his blog Monster Munching, in which he once wrote a whole review in haiku.