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Davis, California

Friday, April 19, 2024

Dining in Davis: Our House Restaurant and Lounge

In Review: Our House Restaurant and Lounge
808 2nd St.
Hours: Monday through Friday 11 a.m. to late Saturday through Sunday 4:30 p.m. to late
Food: ***
Ambiance: ****
Cost: $$

Food and ambiance quality
**** I’m dining here every day
*** Almost like eating at home
** Better than my roommate’s cooking
* Only if I’m starving
$$$$ chancellor $20+
$$$ professor $15-20
$$ graduate student/alum $10-15
$ undergraduate $5-10

Our House is definitely one of the more high-end restaurants to hit this town full of students with a miniscule budget for fine dining. So, I will start with a disclaimer — because of fundage deficiencies, I am mostly unable to get the full experience that the owners intended their diners to have. Consider this the poor student’s review of a classy restaurant.

However, while wining and dining myself regularly feels excessive, somehow roaming the downtown bars once or twice a week is perfectly acceptable. Perhaps another disclaimer is needed here — call it graduation blues. But Our House turns into a bar at night starting at 10 p.m., where the full experience is easily accessible once you get past the line. For this reason, Our House’s pricey dinner options average out with cheap drink specials and food after dark.

The cuisine is fantastic — making the restaurant worth a visit just to see the concept of the menu. If I’m going to pay that much for a meal, I’d like it to be innovative in some way — which the kitchen complies with. They have a very simple menu with not-so-simple food; items paired with unique sauces and sides I have not encountered elsewhere.

Their chicken picatta ($19), for instance, comes with a caper sauce and the fluffiest mashed potatoes I’ve ever had. Their spinach salad ($6.50), with what is simply denoted as “sesame dressing” on the menu, is really a thick, sweet and cooling aioli-type compliment that works really well with the goat cheese and almonds on top. Chicken corn chowder ($5) is overflowing with chunky meat and vegetables, making it really more like a stew you could eat with a fork. There seems to be more than initially meets the eye which made getting the food more of a new experience than just receiving what you expected.

Other food we tried at lunch included the grilled flank steak sandwich ($12, and only painless to pay for because it came with a $1 martini), the cheddar and smoked mozzarella grilled cheese with tomato bisque ($11), a nice take on a classic combination, and the chopped caesar salad with bacon, and mac and cheese ($11). The food itself was flavorful and I obviously enjoyed picking from all my friends’ plates, but portions certainly could have been bigger. With prices that high, I fully expected to take home leftovers.

The drink menu, available at lunch and dinner, is extensive and like the menu, demonstrates the work the owners put into creating a one-of-a-kind experience. I like how they have tried to harness many of the qualities of Davis into the atmosphere — most notably with the bike hanging as decoration from the ceiling but also with their Wednesday Farmer’s Market Muddle drink special. Every Wednesday they create a different drink using whatever ingredients they find at the Farmer’s Market in Central Park — such as a strawberry mojito or lavender-infused lemon drop.

As far as dinner itself, though, I feel it is only appropriate for special occasions. Entreés average upwards of $20 apiece. The gnocchi ($17) and baby back pork ribs ($22) were good, but I would still hesitate to pay three hours worth of on-campus work for something like ribs that my dad will willingly and easily barbeque a mountain of.

My guess is that most of what customers are paying for is the presentation. The tableware is aesthetically appealing, the lighting is pleasant (skylights — yes!) and the servers put a large mason jar of water on your table to accompany your meal. The walls are grey with a unique sort of wood panel assembly as decor and there are mirrors and even some crystal chandeliers on the ceiling. There’s even a baby grand piano and a booth fit for a princess that’s enclosed with curtains draped around it if you want privacy. The food is certainly served in a sophisticated context. It’s all very cute and like something you’d find on Pinterest.

Which transfers over easily to the lounge scene. The only issue I have with the layout is that the dance floor is awkwardly situated close to the doors so that you have to fight through a tight cluster of people when you first walk in. But there’s still enough space for a DJ, which they have on most Thursday and Saturday nights, a center divider to provide a more mellow lounge area and a bar staffed with reasonably attentive (but generous) bartenders. The Food Network is often on their TV — not that I go out to watch TV, but it is a nice touch. The decorators definitely utilized space well making it a comparatively more comfortable bar than, say, the one across the street.

And comparatively cheaper, at that. This place never charges a cover, at least as far as I know, and offers a great list of drink specials on Thursdays. Kamikazes, Long Island Iced Teas, AMFs and more are available for $4 to 5. Each is served in a large 16-oz. cup and is extremely strong, almost too strong. But, as my friends said, having to share a drink because it’s so lethal you don’t know what to do with it is a good problem to have.

The Our House lounge definitely works. The restaurant does too, for a higher price, but I think the experience is one worth having. How many restaurants in Davis will have three people waiting on your every need even when you come in wearing backpacks and only one of you orders food? I appreciate the effort put into creating a location that is versatile and works in the essence of Davis. It’s a great spot for casual drinks, fancy dinner, dancing, or a lunch break between classes. I can say I will be returning.

LANI CHAN can be reached at features@theaggie.org.


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