Review: Richmond's BoilerHouse offers good food, great views
By Jackie Burrell
Contra Costa Times
Posted: 02/01/2010 12:00:00 AM PST
Updated: 02/02/2010 10:35:45 AM PST
IT WASN'T ALL that long ago that Richmond's waterfront was a bustling, war-era industrial zone. Military tanks rolled off the assembly line in the old Ford factory, and Rosie the Riveter's namesakes enjoyed one of the most gorgeous views in the Bay Area, if they could spare the time to look.
Now, lucky diners can take all the time they need — and enjoy a pint and a slider or two with that expansive view, too — at the BoilerHouse Restaurant, a casual little diner and bar that practically defines the term industrial chic. The boilers and pumps are still there, and industrial pipes traverse the high ceilings. But the old automotive assembly line has given way to small groupings of tables, an inviting bar scene and a comfy vibe that manages to be cool and cozy at the same time. And the Bay view — oh, that view! — is framed by walls of mullioned windows.
It's not a white tablecloth/sommelier kind of place. You waltz up to the bar to order, grab a flag for your table, then wait for your food to arrive. The menu features all-American, gastro pub fare — rib-eye steaks, burgers and simple roast chicken. And all that ambience comes with a Denny's-size price list. Lunch for two is less than $20. Dinner might set you back $30, depending on whether the two of you are drinking soda pop or a RosieRita, a Rosie the Riveter-inspired margarita with a splash of cranberry.
So here's the thing: The prices are worth it for the view and atmosphere alone. To get a thick Niman Ranch burger or a tasty taco platter too is icing on the cake — or perhaps, guacamole on the taco. And that this exists in a part of the East Bay not exactly known for great dining options? Hey, the food merely had to be decent and I would be a happy camper.
But it was better than decent. It was good. Soft, fresh tacos — well-spiced chicken chunks, steak, carnitas or vegetables nestled into double-layered fresh corn tortillas, brimming with house-made salsa and sizzled bits of onion — were a delight ($5.50 for two at lunch, $8.50 for a dinner-size portion; generous dollops of guacamole add another dollar to the tab). At the bartender's suggestion, we opted for one chicken and one steak taco, both yummy. They came with plump red beans and a Spanish rice that were tasty, but could have used a little more zip.
A half-pound Niman Ranch burger ($8.50 for lunch, $10.50 on the dinner menu) came perfectly cooked and tucked into a fresh, soft roll. Add-on possibilities for a dollar or two more include a choice of cheeses — Swiss, cheddar, provolone and Danish blue — as well as avocado, grilled onions, sauteed mushrooms, bacon and even a fried egg. The french fries that accompanied it were divine: crisp, golden and perfect.
It was a taco and burger kind of day, but we were also tempted by the rib-eye ($14.50), fish and chips ($12) and some of the pizza options, including a barbecue chicken version ($9.50 for a small, $18 for a large).
In addition to the lunch and dinner menus, the BoilerHouse offers a pub-fare menu from 3 p.m. on that includes fried calamari ($7), quesadillas ($5.50) and Texas-style chili ($4.50). Special events at the BoilerHouse and the Craneway Pavilion next door include a Beer and Chocolate extravaganza Saturday, and a big Super Bowl party the following day. They're bringing in a viewing screen of epic proportions — a 260-inch LED wall.
Come spring, the patio will reopen and weekend brunch service will resume. That glorious view will still be there, but fog-free.
A note about parking: The street address for this restaurant takes you to the parking lot entrance, but you won't see the sign until you're practically on top of it, and you won't see the restaurant from the street. Check in with the security guard at the gate — and yes, it's a little odd, but considering that you're about to enter a warehouse parking lot in a seemingly deserted part of town, a guard gate is a splendid idea. Drive straight back, hang a right and look for the building at the end with the smokestack on top. Go in, order up and drink a toast to Rosie the Riveter.
· FOOD: **1/2
· AMBIENCE: ***
· SERVICE: ***
· WHERE: 1414 Harbour Blvd. South, Richmond.
· CONTACT: 510-215-6000; www.boiler
· HOURS: 11 a.m.-2 p.m. and 3-10 p.m. weekdays during winter; weekend brunch resumes this spring.
· CUISINE: American gastro pub fare.
· PRICES: $.
· VEGETARIAN: Vegetarian taco, pizza and pasta options.
· BEVERAGES: Interesting cocktails, beer by the bottle and on tap, California wines by the bottle and glass.
· RESERVATIONS: Accepts reservations, but they may not be necessary.
· NOISE LEVEL: Medium to loud.
· PARKING: Free lot behind the restaurant.
· KIDS: Plenty for kids to love.
· PLUSES: Fantastic views, cool industrial-chic vibe and wallet-friendly appeal.
· MINUSES: It's a little hard to find, and that security guard in the parking lot is a bit off-putting.
· DATE OPENED: July 2009.
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$ Most entrees under $10
$$ Most entrees under $20
$$$ Most entrees under $30
$$$$ Most entrees under $40