Anyone who served in the military during a certain era developed either fondness or – more often – contempt for creamed chipped beef on toast, that mess hall staple known derisively by the acronym SOS. For those unaware… no, you really don’t want to know. Let’s just say it’s rare to find those initials on a restaurant menu. Yet there it is – “S.O.S” blaring from the page at Seaside’s new breakfast and lunch hangout, The Butter House.
This is not the indifferent preparation of army lore. A choice of bread is toasted to order and smothered in a velvety blanket of gravy. Perhaps it could use a more generous hand with the pepper shaker, but the kitchen holds nothing back when it comes to cream. There is, however, an apparent SNAFU. Instead of chipped beef, the rich gravy is studded with sausage. And their version of the loco moco calls for the smooth, white gravy, as well.
“My Hawaiian friends said, ‘No, no, no, you can’t serve loco moco with country gravy,’” admits owner Benny Mosqueda. “But it’s more meat on top of beef – it’s phenomenal.” To assuage fans of tradition, the kitchen staff also prepares a brown sauce with sweet Maui onions for the Hawaiian favorite. And as a nod to veterans, the sausage meant for SOS is ground from beef as well as pork.
Clearly Mosqueda enjoys playing around, even creating his own acronyms. The BABBS – short for Bacon, Apple and Brie Breakfast Sandwich – features chunks of green apple and the rest between bread seared with butter. While it may seem like something that resulted from a dare, the combination works. Vaguely sweet and tart, the apple finds something in common with bacon strips, benefitting from the hint of smoke. Melted brie lends a muted earthiness and plush character that blends into the buttered bread. It’s heavy enough for cardiologists to form a line outside, just waiting. Yet the fruit slices through all that fat, allowing you to convince yourself that the sandwich might just qualify as healthy. At least you want to believe so.
“We want rich comfort food,” Mosqueda says.
The Butter House opened quietly in mid-August. At least they tried for a hushed opening to work out the kinks, but ever-growing crowds found them, perhaps drawn by hubcap-sized stacks of pancakes so airy they must be a grandmother’s treasured recipe. You would never guess the golden cakes start with a brand name mix. The secret is a few drops of lemon extract for a bright, sweet batter reminiscent of yellow cake.
There are no such shortcuts taken with the fried chicken. They soak the bird overnight in buttermilk and dress the flour with eight herbs and spices, including a few dashes of cayenne. In the chicken and waffle presentation, this grumbling heat is just potent enough to fend off the approaches of malty vanilla dough and bittersweet syrup.
“It took us 14 tries to get to that fried chicken,” Mosqueda recalls. “We kept adjusting and adjusting.”
As the staff settles in, Mosqueda will extend the restaurant’s menu. But there will probably be plenty of butter.
THE BUTTER HOUSE, 1760 Fremont Blvd. B-1, Seaside. 6am-2:30pm daily. 394-2887, thebutterhouse.com