Eric Surface, of Mt. Tabor Brewing Company, loves to talk about his passions: family, friends, food and, of course, beer.
But don’t let his friendly demeanor and casual attire fool you. There is nothing laid back about Surface. He has exacting standards and works hard to meet them. He started brewing beer with some friends about 10 years ago at a house in the Mount Tabor neighborhood in Portland.
One of these friends, Alex Otoupal, has fond memories of those early days. “We had lots of good times in the early days, brewing on Saturday mornings and snow days with the fellas.” He confirmed my suspicions that under the laid back exterior, Surface is a driven perfectionist. According to Otoupal, “He thinks big and works hard. His persistence in getting the breweries off the ground is remarkable. I have tons of respect for his ambition and his grit in sticking to what he sets out to do.”
Mt. Tabor’s new pub in Felida fills a large, sunlit, corner space. Distressed wood that runs around the sides of the restaurant (salvaged from old semitruck decks) gives the room a warm, lived-in feel. At the back of the room is a wood-fired oven made in Bremerton — fueled exclusively with almond wood from California and Madrone from Southern Oregon. Surface chose these woods because they impart a balanced amount of wood-fired taste to the food.
A passionate foodie, Surface brews food-friendly beer. “Since we are a brewery and a pub, we’ve got to make it about the beer and the food. We’ve always brewed this way. You know, you think white can, black letters — beer. Not crazy one way, not crazy the other way. It’s just your all-around every day beer.”
I sampled several beers on the menu and found them to be well-balanced, crystal clear, and food-friendly like old-school-mowing-the-lawn beer carefully tweaked to satisfy artisan beer lovers (and everyone else). Wanting to focus on the beer, Surface carefully chose his general manager, Collin Petersen, and head chef, Zach Burkett.
Burkett’s time at Lapellah is obvious in his skillful use of local produce. The concept for the roasted carrots came from Surface’s kitchen. He roasted carrots and drizzled them with a bit of honey for his children. Burkett took this concept and created a dish of carrots with a bit of their green tops intact, sprinkled with brown sugar, broiled and placed over a bed of chèvre, then showered with hazelnuts and chopped parsley.
The sausage plate and the house made pretzel exhibit Surface’s long-term goal of having everything made in house. The sausage is ground, spiced and cased in house. It is studded with fennel and red pepper flakes and served with house-made red onion pickles, house-made pickled jalapeños, grainy mustard and a spicy mustard mixed with horseradish. The pretzel is scratch made and blanched in beer (currently winter ale) before it is baked, sprinkled with flaky Jacobsen salt, and served with beer fondue and Eastside stout whole-grain mustard.
Good food isn’t fast and this pub is very popular. Surface values his time at the table with friends and family and doesn’t want pub customers to feel rushed. I came for lunch on a Tuesday and there was no wait. If you are coming for dinner or happy hour expect to wait a bit (maybe 30 to 45 minutes). Trust me, this place is worth the wait. Once you have a table — it is yours to share with friends and family to leisurely enjoy their company and the best beer and food in Clark County.
Rachel Pinsky can be reached at at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Facebook and Instagram @foodcouverusa and on Twitter @foodcouverusa1.