At Central City Brew Pub + Restaurant in Surrey, BC, finely crafted beer is just the beginning. “Fifty percent of our business is food business,” explains executive chef Carl Sawatsky. “We’re right in Surrey’s new downtown centre, just steps from the Skytrain, and exceptional food is really a driver for us.”
By Lawrence Herzog
Using their award-winning Red Racer craft beers, Sawatsky and his team make their own beer-cured bacon with free-range pork bellies, a beer syrup created by reducing stout, and a barbecue sauce. They’ve also created a gin-infused panna cotta crafted with in-house spirits.
Pizza dough is made from scratch, as are fresh pastas, soups, sauces and desserts. “If we cannot make it ourselves, we go out and find people who will grow it or make it the best they can for us,” he says. “Going to the small producers and growers is one way we separate ourselves from the pack.”
They work closely with local growers, like the Veggie Patch in Langley, to grow heirloom ingredients specifically for the restaurant, including tomatoes, banana peppers and fava beans. “Varieties that they might not ordinarily grow, but that we can use to elevate our dishes to an exceptional level,” says Sawatsky.
The pork bellies for the beer bacon come from Johnston’s Pork from Fraser Valley farms; herbs are grown at Barnston Island; honey is from the Honeybee Centre. “Connecting with local producers opens doors for events, and last year we did a fundraiser for the Langley Farmers Market,” he adds. “It helps us to build profile and network. Going to the markets is a good way to find new sources, like Farm House Natural Cheeses, who make our stout cheddar.”
With 240 seats inside and another 30 on the patio, Central City Brew Pub + Restaurant is a big gathering space, and the menu reflects the diversity of its clientele. “We have chicken wings, brick-oven roasted specialty pizza, and the usual gastro-pub fare. We’re adding more items inspired by the diverse multicultural face of this region, by the beer we make, and by seasonality.” To thicken the sauce for the butter chicken, the chef uses barley malts, and the cod is battered with pale ale.
The core menu changes twice a year (spring/summer and fall/winter), and is supplemented with feature items to take advantage of seasonal offerings from local suppliers “to keep things fresh and lively. It’s important that we stay consistent with quality and have the main dishes customers expect, and then change our menu items around that,” Sawatsky says. “It’s an approach that works very well for us.”
So well that they’re opening a second location in Vancouver this year.
Central City Brew Pub + Restaurant’s top tips
- Go for quality by making as much in-house as possible and building an excellent supply stream for seasonal ingredients.
- Visit your local farmers markets to find outstanding new suppliers.
- Find inspiration by being creative with great regional ingredients, beer and spirits in your menu items.