Restaurant Review: Pt. Richmond's Up & Under: Pub grub with California flair
By Jackie Burrell
Contra Costa Times
Posted: 06/28/2010 05:54:17 PM PDT
Updated: 06/28/2010 09:01:39 PM PDT
UP AND UNDER — it's a tactical kick in rugby, the rough-and-tumble sport slowly gaining favor on this side of the pond, and the subject of frenzied fandom in Great Britain, Australia, New Zealand and elsewhere. But in Point Richmond, the term has become synonymous with the small town's newest eatery.
Perched on a triangular lot in Point Richmond's adorable downtown, the Up & Under Pub & Grill is the brainchild of rugby player Nathan Trivers, who has kicked his share of up-and-unders.
Now, after two years of renovations to the historic, bright red building, Trivers spends his days overseeing his dream — a cozy, British-style pub filled with rugby memorabilia, and a menu that combines pub grub with California flair. If you can imagine a family-friendly bar, this is it.
Wood-paneled walls, a pressed copper ceiling and comfortable seating at tables and the bar add to the pub ambience. The walls are lined with historical photographs and rugby jerseys from Trivers' collection and from friends and customers. Even the light fixtures are rugby balls Trivers dismembered and sewed to fit.
A good fit
But the small black jersey that hangs above the bar is special. A young Lamorinda rugby player came in with his family after a playoff game, took one look at the decor and promptly stripped off his still-damp shirt — pausing only to sign it before handing it to Trivers.
"How cool is that?" says Trivers, with a delighted laugh. "That is probably my favorite jersey of the whole place, even though there are a lot of historic jerseys from the '60s and '70s. Rugby is where soccer was 10 years ago. It's still not on the map, but everyone has heard the term. I though it would be intriguing for customers."
Many of them discover rugby for the first time via two flat-screen TVs above the bar that replay the latest games — although those televisions are showing World Cup matches at the moment.
"Customers come in and see this crazy sport, and it takes about five minutes to get the food from the fork to the mouth," he says. "They're in awe. They want to talk about it. And the whole menu is tied in with the positions, the plays. It's a lot of fun. Everybody can be a part of the sport for that moment."
Rugby ball-shaped plates
The menu favors hearty sandwiches, burgers and other pub food, served on bright red, rugby ball-shaped dishes, and nearly every entree has a rugby-inspired name. It's a conceit that would be tiresome with a better-known sport — home runs and strikes? Yeah, yeah, we get it — but we found it charming here, precisely because the names are so odd.
The Hooker, for example, is a forward position, not, you know, the other thing. It's also a quadruple cheese melt with Gouda, Jack and fresh mozzarella on Parmesan sourdough. That's too rich to tempt on this particular day. Instead, we had The Prop, another front-rower position, much like the Hooker — we have no idea what a front rower does, but as Trivers intended, the name makes a great conversation starter.
Whatever The Prop does on the field, it's reinterpreted here as a generous, pulled barbecue pork sandwich ($12.95) with a fresh cabbage slaw topping. Delicious, but very drippy. It came with nicely salted, crisp fries, which we rushed to save from the juicy puddle forming on the plate. We'd definitely order the Prop again, but with a side of extra napkins or a towel.
This wasn't new dining turf for my dining mate — he and his colleagues have made numerous lunch and after-work forays to the Up & Under since the place opened last winter, and everything, he says, has been equally delicious. The list includes The Outside Center (a classic half-pound cheeseburger, as well as one of two center positions on a rugby team), The Lock (sausage, bell peppers, onions and provolone on a French roll — also, a rugby position) and The Eight Man (ditto on the rugby definition, but also a Philly cheesesteak).
Not just manly
Lest you think it's all manly food, Up & Under's menu also includes appetizers, pasta dishes, prawns and salads — including a particularly tempting version with arugula, baby spinach, prosciutto and melon — as well as daily specials. On our visit, the lunch special proved so popular that each of the smoky, grilled pork chop sandwiches ($11.95) was gone by 12:15 p.m. Fortunately, we grabbed the penultimate one at 12:14. It was great — tender and flavorful.
In short, Up & Under's a keeper. There were a few small flaws: The lemonade tasted like Crystal Light, for example, and World Cup vuvuzelas — the noisemakers that sound like mosquitoes on steroids — don't make for nice background music. But it's a pub, for heavens sakes. We weren't expecting white tablecloths or souffles. What we got — great food, prompt and friendly service, and a cozy vibe — was just charming.
Plus now we can talk rugby.
Up & Under Pub
WHERE: 2 West Richmond Ave., Point Richmond.
CONTACT: 510-778-1313; www.theupandunder.com.
HOURS: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Mondays-Thursdays, till midnight Fridays-Saturdays, 4-10 p.m. Sundays.
CUISINE: Bar and grill.
PRICES: $-$$ (entrees run $9-$13).
VEGETARIAN: A quadruple cheese melt, hearty grilled portobello sandwich, and polenta and vegetable entree will appeal to the vegetarian crowd.
BEVERAGES: Full bar, including clever cocktails dubbed the Blood Bin and the Lemon Drop Kick.
NOISE LEVEL: Moderate.
PARKING: Street parking.
PLUSES: This cozy bar and grill offers friendly ambience, great pub grub and plenty of rugby memorabilia.
MINUSES: It's a pub, so get there early if you want to score a table.
DATE OPENED: January.
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$ Most entrees under $10
$$ Most entrees under $20
$$$ Most entrees under $30
$$$$ Most entrees under $40