Belmont Shore's 2nd Street is modern day Bohemia, filled with diverse, artistic, and unique shops and restaurants throughout the strip. So a gastropub residing in such a trendy setting would be expected. Gastropubs boasts being a pub with character, ambiance, great beer selection, and food that help create conversation and memories. Is Tavern On 2 the gastropub 2nd Street has been waiting for?
The place is a unique looking building smooshed between two other restaurants. An outside patio is encased behind metal fencing, and a hostess welcomes you to come into the restaurant. As you are seated, you notice the brick motif on one wall, where blackboards are hung with chalked menu items and specials - a norm it seems for gastropubs. Low lighting dimly lights the interior, and simple square tables make up the dining room floor. There is a bar near the kitchen where eight beers are proudly displayed on tap. Most of the beer you won't know, but luckily, this is where knowledgeable service comes into play.
The servers you encounter are well informed and inviting to questions about the menu. They allow you to sample quick sips of the different types of beers until you are satisfied with the libation of your choosing. They speak enthusiastically of the different types of food created in the kitchen, and inflect with notes of passion you receive from someone who takes pride in the place they work. When someone who eats at a restaurant on a regular basis enjoys the offerings of the kitchen, the food must be good, right?
Well, let's just say they have the right idea, but not necessarily the right execution. Gastropub dining is known for creating intricate and complex flavors using locally grown, organic food. Though the food should be fresh, there should also be bursts of flavor with each bite. Unfortunately, the flavor department didn't get the memo. Let's start off with the oxtail poutine. Oxtail might not be a common ingredient in American cuisine, but it is well known in other parts of the world. Because the oxtail is usually braised for hours bone-in, the flavors should be coming from both the braising sauce and meat itself. Add it to poutine, a Canadian born concoction consisting of fries smothered with gravy and topped with cheese curds, and you should be getting a worldly experience with this dish. Sadly, it falls quite short. The oxtail lacks flavor, being bland and adding nothing to the dish. Although the fries are cooked perfectly crispy, you'll be searching for the cheese curds to add any type of kick to the dish.
Then comes the burgers. Though the menu boasts some truly fantastic burgers, when they arrive, flavor again becomes an issue. They do look quite gorgeous at first arrival. A firm bun with ingredients falling out of the confines of the burger boundaries, these burgers are served with potato chips. The potato chips are a first strike. Although they seem made in-house, they don't add much to the overall meal. In fact, if you've had the poutine and seen how wonderful the fries are, you'll be wishing the burgers came with those perfectly crisp, golden fries instead. Moving forward, you'll take a bite and though you get a mouthful, you'll be bothered by something. It's a feeling of overcompensation. A feeling of disproportion. When you finally put your tongue to it, you realize the buns are too thick and overwhelm the items between them. Strike two. Finally, as you're half-way through your burger, you eat but you aren't satisfied because you realize it isn't simply the bun being too thick or dense, but there really isn't much seasoning on the ingredients themselves. Even with the Dynamite Burger, a burger that boasts intense spice and not intended for "the faint of heart", aside from the sauce, the meat itself doesn't stand on its own. Strike three and as they say in the ol' ball game, "you're out".
As gastropubs are, because they offer a menu that supports the local communities, the prices are a bit on the higher side. All the burgers hover around the $12-$15 mark. This isn't that awful, except for the price and quality you're expecting, it doesn't match the end product you receive.
It's a shame to give Taven On 2 such a mediocre rating. You'll want it to be an experience you never forget, but unfortunately, the remembrance isn't because of high quality, but high disappointment. Though the ambiance is nice, the service is excellent, and the beers are varied, the food itself just isn't up to par with the rest of the restaurant. Sadly, this restaurant might be better suited to consider themselves a pub with a decent menu selection instead of a gastropub.
Tavern On 2
5110 E 2nd St
Long Beach, CA 90803