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Restaurant: 36 Handles Pub
Address: 1010 White Rock Road in the Montano Center in El Dorado Hills
Hours: Open daily from 11 a.m. until it closes, which varies
When the recently opened 36 Handles Pub used to be called Kinnee O’Reilly’s I couldn’t wait to eat there.
I walked through the door and the décor just oozed class and authenticity. If the owners spent this much time on making sure the furnishings and the ambiance were first rate, I thought, then the food should be pretty darn good.
I was wrong. Way off the mark, as a matter of fact. I was with my daughter that day, who ordered a kid’s version of a shepherd’s pie. I ordered the bangers ‘n’ mash, ‘cause if a restaurant wants to call itself a pub then it better have the following three things: a dart board, a large selection of brews and bangers ‘n’ mash.
While my daughter enjoyed her pie (sort of; it was “just OK,” she said), I was absolutely stunned by the poor quality of my bangers ‘n’ mash. The banger was ice cold and so was the mash. The gravy, an important element in this dish that ties the whole thing together, was watery and tasteless.
So when my friend suggested we go visit the 36 Handles Pub, I was skeptical.
I know the owner’s two other establishments (Relish Burger Bar, located in the same plaza, and Bidwell Street Bistro, in Folsom), and have had pleasurable dining experiences at both, multiple times. But still, once bitten twice shy, as the saying goes, but I am also easily convinced, so we went.
Aesthetically speaking the place hasn’t been touched. I mean, why would anyone want to? It was perfect before.
The staff was buzzing about and all were wearing giant smiles, which was quite a change from the dour faces that greeted me the last time.
A good start, I thought.
My friend ordered a BLT with a side order of fries and I ordered — gulp — the bangers ‘n’ mash.
I am, indeed, a brave and trusting soul.
Now the last time my daughter and I waited almost an hour for our sub par dishes; this time our server brought the order to us within 20 minutes.
Truthfully, I really, really enjoyed my order this time around. All was as it should be. The banger was large and juicy, the mash fluffy and smooth, the gravy thick and plentiful, and everything had outstanding flavor profiles. This was something I would definitely order again.
But here’s where the train went off the rails a bit.
I looked over at my companion and asked how he liked his BLT. Usually I get enthusiastic grunts between gulps but this time I got a shrug of the shoulders.
“What’s the matter?” I asked, and he told me that things weren’t all rosy on his side of the table.
For one thing, the bread wasn’t toasted, at all. Second, the ratio of ingredients was all out of whack: not enough lettuce, a miserly amount of tomato, etc. There was a good serving of bacon but in this case it wasn’t enough to salvage the sandwich as a whole.
Then he told me that the fries were just oozing grease and tasted as though they were cooked in very old oil. Not so good, at all.
He had eaten here before and very much enjoyed the fish and chips, except when questioned he seemed to remember having the same issue with the chips the last time.
36 Handles is a recently opened restaurant by a seasoned restaurateur. I have had the fries at his other establishments and did not find them greasy in the least. And, like I said, my meal this time out was fabulous. But I trust the palate of my friend like I trust my own and I feel I must offer this constructive criticism in the hopes that these oversights will be corrected.
I have high hopes for this place and strongly believe it will succeed. El Dorado Hills needs a good gastropub.
36 Handles is located at 1010 White Rock Road in the Montano Center in El Dorado Hills. It is open daily from 11 a.m. until it closes, which varies. The phone number is 916-941-3606.