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Auburn Ale House serves food, fun and friendship

Mug Club members enjoy special events, bigger beverages
By: Susie Iventosch Journal Correspondent
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When local restaurateurs Brian Ford and Luis Gomez met through a mutual friend two years ago, they exchanged resumés and somehow knew they’d be working together one day. That day arrived nearly a year ago with the opening of the Auburn Ale House. Ford, an experienced brew master, and Gomez, an accomplished chef, joined forces to create a restaurant that boasts an extensive handcrafted beer list, an innovative menu with a dazzling array of seasonal options, and a fun atmosphere in Old Town Auburn. The Auburn Ale House has quickly become a popular watering hole for locals and travelers alike. “This restaurant has really enhanced the quality of Old Town Auburn,” said Katie Mostar, an alpaca rancher from Cool. She and her husband Roger, a pilot for FedEx, frequent the Ale House and thoroughly enjoy the beer, the food and the people. “We’ve made so many new friends here … it’s become our standard meeting place,” Roger said. “And we’re members of the ‘Mug Club!’” Mug Club perks include a personal mug, which remains at the bar between uses; an extra two ounce pour; and special events such as beer pairing dinners and birthday specials. “We’re glad to see the Ale House keeping the old Shanghai (the restaurant/bar that formerly occupied the site) alive,” Katie commented. “There are spirits in here. One morning when they came to open the restaurant, the tapper was completely tapped and the floor flooded six inches deep with American River Pale Ale! They swear they closed everything down tight the prior evening before leaving!” she added. For Colleen Haupt of Half Moon Bay, it was quite a shock when she first discovered the Shanghai was closed. “But, I love this restaurant,” she said. “My husband, Doug, is a huge foodie — a chef by hobby, and we love the food here. Wherever we travel one of our favorite things to do is to eat at the bar and converse with the bartenders, because they always know about the good local places to go.” Manager Randi Revell says he’s “living the dream” working in a place like Auburn. “You can’t beat the location, and our food is not typical brew pub food. It has a definitive California flair that would rival any restaurant in Napa Valley.” Revell says the Auburn community has accepted the Auburn Ale House with open arms and open hearts. “It’s like something you’d see in Mayberry … all we’re missing is the corner barber shop!” Ford is very pleased with the way the restaurant has been woven into the fabric of Auburn in just a short year. “It feels so comfortable — like we’ve been here forever,” he said. “The local businesses have been so supportive. We’ve really enjoyed this first year and hope the second year is even better.” Old Town merchant Linda Robinson frequently dines at the Auburn Ale House with her ‘Dining Divas’ group. “Chef Luis’ cheese loaf is amazing,” she suggested. “Though it’s meant to be shared, I’ve eaten the entire dish by myself!” Gomez has been cooking since he was a youngster. One of eight children, he learned to cook from his mother, Maria, who owned a tiny restaurant in his home state of Zacateca, Mexico. “She first taught me to cook when I was 6 years old,” he remembers. “I would stick my fingers in clay pots over the open fire.” After moving to California, Gomez attended the California Culinary Academy and graduated in 1986. He ran the kitchen at many fine northern California restaurants before opening the Auburn Ale House. He was the chef at MacArthur Park in Palo Alto, Buck’s in Woodside, Café Marimba in Burlingame and Cadillac Bar and Grill in San Francisco. His move toward the foothills began in 1999 with a five-year stint at Sacramento’s Rio City Café and then Cafe Villa De Oro in Sutter Creek. “My background has always been fine dining,” he said. “So, I liked the idea of food that would complement Brian’s beer, and wanted to serve high-end dishes in addition to sandwiches and burgers.” Gomez takes every advantage of local farmers’ markets and relies on locally grown produce to have the freshest ingredients possible. He is also happy to share his recipes with anyone who asks. “If you want a recipe for a dish or a marinade, don’t hesitate to call me,” he offered. Revell said the restaurant-brewery is as ‘green’ as possible, giving local ranchers and rescue horses the leftover mash, a byproduct of the brewing process, and used cooking oil to locals who convert it to biodiesel. Future plans, well, Gomez would someday like to expand to a second location, but he says, “We are very happy where we are now — making friends and becoming a part of the community.” The restaurant will host a birthday celebration. Call or stop by for details. ---------- Auburn Ale House party What: Birthday celebration Hours: Friday and Saturday, June 20 and 21 Where: 289 Washington St. in Old Town, Auburn Call: (530) 885-2537 Web: www.auburnalehouse.com