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Davis, California

Sunday, October 24, 2021

Dining in Davis: The Gunrock Pub

The Gunrock Pub

The UC Davis Silo

Hours: Monday through Friday 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Price: $$ out of $$$$

Ambience: 3 stars

Food: 3 ½ stars

Service: 3 ½ star

Eating at the Silo isn’t generally considered fancy eating – for most students, it means a quick lunch at Carl’s Jr. or Taco Bell. With those surroundings in mind, I have to admit I was a bit skeptical that anything close to an actual full-blown restaurant was there, let alone on the UC Davis campus.

And so I entered the doors of the newly-christened Gunrock Pub (formerly the Silo Pub) not knowing what to expect in terms of food, service or general ambience.

I was pleasantly surprised.

A short wait before getting seated gave my friends and me a chance to soak in the surroundings – entirely wooden floors, noticeably new furniture, simple and subtle decorations and the inviting chatter of a dining area that was just full enough. The crowd, from this writer’s perspective, was generally older – upperclassmen and a sizeable group of middle-aged to older adults, presumably faculty and other university employees. Although the atmosphere was casual, my friends and I, with our hoodies and oversized backpacks, felt a bit underdressed.

The manager, Shawn Carnes, greeted us immediately and we were seated within a few minutes. We whet our appetites with some complementary fresh-baked rosemary bread and olive oil with balsamic vinegar made right here in Davis. The balsamic vinegar had a kick of apple that gave the mix a distinctive, sharp and original taste that differentiated it from the usual combination found in many Italian restaurants. I remembered that the UC Davis bookstore sells the same olive oil, and after my sampling I resolved to buy some of my own in the near future.

After a detailed look at the relatively small menu (18 items, six of which are salad options and another six of which are sandwich choices; the remaining six are miscellaneous specialties), I went with the appropriately-themed Centennial Tri-Tip sandwich with a side of garlic fries.

The tri-tip sandwich was mouthwatering: a generous amount of tri-tip steak medium cooked, caramelized onions, sliced bell peppers and melted Swiss cheese on warm, fresh ciabatta bread. I love each of those ingredients on almost any dish – the fact that Gunrock had them all in a single plate was a treat for my palate.

Then came the supposedly garlic fries. They were good as far as fries go, although the menu description was a bit misleading. First of all, from my admittedly novice perspective, they were seasoned curly fries almost exactly like those from Jack in the Box. My friends and I had trouble detecting even a slight garlic taste.

The French fry misnomer was forgivable (I happen to like Jack in the Box fries) and all in all, the portions were large and the quality excellent.

One of my friends ordered the Grown Up Grilled Cheese, which is possibly the fanciest grilled cheese sandwich out there; it comes with Gruyere and fontina cheeses, sun-dried tomato spread and fresh basil on rosemary bread – a far cry from Wonder Bread with American. At $8.50 with a choice of soup, fries or greens, it’s not as cheap, either. I like to think of grilled cheese like I do PB and J: simple and homemade, by definition. But for those who are willing to shell out the extra dough for a deluxe “grown-up” version, the Gunrock’s take on the classic won’t disappoint.

My other friend ordered the Mrak Pesto Chicken sandwich, (the second item of three with a UC Davis theme, the third being the Silo Turkey Pepperjack). The focaccia was missing some of the “rich homemade pesto aioli” spread bragged about on the menu, but the issue was quickly redressed once she ordered some extra aioli on the side.

We finished off our feast with the Gunrock’s “Happy Endings” truffles, which were a bit pricey at $2 each. They were nothing too special as far as truffles go, but they did satisfy our sweet tooths, and a uniquely flakey crust layered between the shell and the filling added some interesting texture.

Including tips, drinks and dessert our bills came out to just under $15 dollars each – not cheap, but worth every penny.

Adding to the experience was the fact that much of the Gunrock’s menu items include campus produced or locally grown items (like the olive oil), giving the environmentally-conscious gourmand peace of mind. Other Earth-friendly measures include biodegradable to-go containers and new, energy efficient lighting.

Unfortunately, due to current legal statutes, I wasn’t able to sample the alcoholic beverages at this fine dining establishment. But, befitting the title of pub, the menu did boast a wide variety of choice, including seasonal beer selections and Mondavi Chardonnay.

As an undergraduate student on a budget, I wouldn’t go to the Gunrock on a daily basis (they don’t take meal swipes), and since it’s only open 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. on weekdays, you definitely should plan ahead. But if you’re looking for a classy place to eat, don’t go downtown – the Gunrock Pub is just around the corner.

ANDRE LEE can be reached at features@theaggie.org.

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