Come for Brophy’s cheesesteak, stay for the sports (and scampi).
Thursday, November 8, 2007
Life is good when you’re wit it. And it only gets better when you’re wit-wiz it.
“Wit wiz” is the best way to roll when it comes to Philly cheesesteaks in Monterey County, as in “wit” onions and Cheez Whiz (or “wiz”). This melting-in-admiration evaluation comes from a more credentialed source than this cheese-obsessed soul, who, truth be known, gets ecstatic just seeing multiple cheeses and grilled onions in one place. It comes ratified by a most trusted Philly philanderer, a PA native that drives all the way to San Jose to get quality cheesesteaks.
The secret to its greatness is as layered as the masterpiece itself: perfectly peppered thin sliced rib-eye; soft bread from a source that hands-on owner Joe Cingari keeps secret, lightly sizzled on the grill; then the clincher: cheese, including both the American Swiss white cheese and the Cheez Whiz, just like so many soldiers in Jersey and Philly do it (only, true to the great debate, they may or may not add peppers).
But there’s a lot more than the cheesesteaks—which are $9.95 with steak fries or salad, $1 more for big greasy homemade onion rings—to recommend this place, including an expansive “upscale tavern” menu, though guests have to stomach the dollar-Carmel markup on most everything. On a handful of visits I’ve come away happy with the service, atmosphere and pub grub.
Cingari and his partner/wife Lynn have kept all the qualities that made the former Kinger’s Klubhouse a fresh addition to the Carmel-by-the-Sea landscape, beyond the simple act that it provided the quiet town a rare sports bar. The clean interior with polished wood floors, white-and-brown paint and scenic golf holes (including a full-wall mural of the seventh at Pebble), the dice cups, and the flatscreens are all there, but the Cingaris have enhanced the food and are “ever expanding” the wine list in keeping with Joe’s experience as a wine industry veteran.
On a handful of visits my running mates and I have covered most of the menu, with the exception of the imposing “tavern plates” (rib-eyes, New Yorks, shepherd’s pie, fish and chips, $10.95-$20.95). On each visit, I saw Cingari make a point of visiting each table of the roughly 700-square-foot space.
The appetizers are as good as they are diverse. The Nacho Libre ($7.95) offers worthy pub fare, as do the potato skins ($7.50) and calamari ($8.95). Things like Kobe beef sliders ($9.95), prawn scampi boat ($10.95), steamed clams ($9.95) and ahi tuna ($9.95), meanwhile, all reflect the upscale tavern effect Cingari’s after. The sliders are decent, but the slices of fresh seared ahi, with a great wasabi-mango treatment, and the large gulf prawns and little neck clams, which are both prepared in a homemade white wine and garlic sauce, are excellent. Negotiating some extra garlic bread for dipping would be good—the sauce is that outstanding.
From the burger mix I’ve tried the teriyaki burger ($9.95 with fries), a huge burger with a monster slice of pineapple. There’s also a patty melt, portabella, a veggie and, nicely enough in a hamlet known more for fancy stuff like foie gras and stuffed pheasant, stadium dogs with sauerkraut, onions and relish ($6.95). The fish tacos a colleague tried (with rock cod) were massive and well supported by all the fixins, but ever-so-slightly fishy. The clam chowder ($3.95/$5.95) is forgettable. The salads, including the beef tostada salad ($9.95) are solid; the recommended chicken parmesan sandwich respectable ($9.95 with fries).
Cingari’s set up some popular nightly specials like hospitality night (Sundays), Monday Night Football ($1 hot dogs), $1 taco night (Tuesdays) and ladies night (Wednesday), which is good because they dent the standard sticker on call drinks that usually run $6.25-$7.50. A co-ed colony of friends and I came in on ladies night, which allowed our girls to score some premium drinks for $5 and a smaller version of the tasty Luau salad (from a menu of six salads, it comes dressed in a pineapple mango salsa, with crunchy Asian noodles and seared ahi, normally $14.95), for just $5.
The liveliest times to go in the near future will likely be Monday nights for some dogs and Monday Night Football, or on an NBA game night to watch Monta Ellis do something downright gravity defiant for the Golden State Warriors while sipping one of the eight beers ($3.75-$4.75) on tap. It feels good in there, especially once the wiz hits your lips and you realize you’re really wit it.
Fourth and San Carlos, Carmel • 11:30am-close; kitchen open until 11pm. • 624-2476 or brophystavern.com