Styled by Lynn Leishman
No need to wait for a table when there's good food, drinks and easy conversation right here with your friendly bartender. Feeling like someplace modern, old-school or downright classic? Grab a stool, rub elbows and eat alongside the regulars.
Cool glass tile, an inlaid bar and a brigade of marshmallow white stools make Five Eleven feel city slick, but the menu offers some sophisticated takes on comforting favorites. The fish tacos, with firm cod fried in cornmeal batter, are topped with chili aioli and perched atop pickled cabbage with cilantro ($10). Go for the natural pairing and order up a Lagunitas Pilsner, too ($4).
Watching the creative bartenders shake up cocktails will likely pique your curiosity for specialties like the glamorous Ciao Bella with grapefruit vodka, Cointreau and Campari ($9), or the 511 Blood Orange Sour with Templeton Rye ($9).
If you can resist bellying up to the brown sugar pork belly, you're stronger than we are ($12). The rich, melt-in-your-mouth pork with its rich fat find tart contrast in the buttermilk apple slaw. The drizzle of roasted chili sauce adds just the right heat to match the sweet. Keep an eye on specials, too, as new chef Josh Wiley likely has some surprises up his sleeve.
They don't make 'em like the AA Bar & Grill anymore. (That's "double A", by the way.) Hardcore steak lovers swear by this watering hole and Humboldt institution across the street from that other institution, the county jail. Never mind that. Once inside, you can play a little shuffleboard, then set your elbows on the classic horseshoe-shaped bar and settle in for the real deal — a steak for purists.
New owner Mike Munson isn't messing with the formula, either. Larry "LJ" Johnson cuts and grills the marbled masterpieces in the back without any fancy bells and whistles to distract from the flavor of the beef. Maybe a dollop of horseradish on the side. The rib-eye ($24.50), done as you like it, comes criss-crossed with just the right char and takes you back to pre-Food Network simplicity. It comes with soup or salad, and fries or baked potato, but keep room for dessert.
Check the board for homemade cheesecake ($6.50) baked by server Jessica Doyle, who runs Decadent Desserts catering. It doesn't matter what flavor is up there — get it. You'll know you've done the right thing when you hear the sound of your fork going through the creamy, old-fashioned filling and buttery graham cracker crust.
Everyone looks better around the pretty, polished Santa Domingo mahogany bar just inside The Sea Grill's Victorian facade. It might make us friendlier, too — or maybe that's the effect of the complimentary appetizers that show up nightly.
A mango Mai Tai ($11) should help you shift into vacation mode before perusing the menu. Begin in the spirit of luxury with a half dozen Kumamoto oysters from Humboldt Bay, served raw and topped with crème fraiche and scoops of either black tobiko or wasabi tobiko caviar ($15.95).
If you're a fan of rare tuna — or if that Mai Tai just has you dreaming of warmer climes — the Hawaiian ahi beckons, seared with Cajun spices, bright citrus aioli and Japanese cucumber salad ($16.95). You can't go wrong with the pan-seared sturgeon, either ($29.95). The Columbia River catch is served over a stripe of roasted red pepper coulis and basil chimichurri sauce, and topped off with dressed arugula and slivers of earthy Manchego cheese. The Husch Chardonnay ($7.50 glass; $28 bottle) would go very nicely with that, thank you. Friendly, indeed.
511 2nd St., Eureka
Tuesday - Thursday | 5 - 9 pm
Friday and Saturday | 5 - 9:30 pm
Closed Sunday and Monday
316 E St., Eureka
Monday through Saturday
4 pm - 9 pm