Restaurant News & Reviews

Folsom’s Grist Beer Hall is going out of business; here’s what our reviewer had to say

Who has the most beers on tap in Sacramento?

The Bee surveyed dozens of Sacramento watering holes and consulted industry workers and experts in a quest to determine which bars had the most draft beverages. Here are the top-ranked spots as of early June 2018.
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The Bee surveyed dozens of Sacramento watering holes and consulted industry workers and experts in a quest to determine which bars had the most draft beverages. Here are the top-ranked spots as of early June 2018.

Folsom’s Palladio, gleaming and sprawling, offers shopping galore and plenty to eat — but both retail and food are mostly chains.

A few locally owned exceptions, however, stand out, among them Grist Beer Hall, a pleasant place to revive if you’re worn out from shopping or just in the neighborhood. Easygoing and easy to like, Grist has 50 rotating taps with a dizzying array of sours, IPAs, and more.

However, diners and drinkers don’t have long to enjoy it. Grist announced Wednesday it will be going out of business Jan. 30.

Although beer is the emphasis and there are lots of big TVs for watching games, the food is considerably better than average sports-bar fare. Grist is clearly part of the new wave of restaurant-taprooms, analogous to Sacramento’s The Other Side or Urban Roots — albeit not a brewery. Owners Zachary and Heather Zamarripa (Heather, the executive chef, is a veteran of 36 Handles in El Dorado Hills) are locals who created a community-spirited spot in the middle of the big shopping center.

You’ll find no mozz sticks or jalapeno poppers from the freezer here. Instead, think sausage rolls with from-scratch puff pastry and housemade sausage (the menu’s runaway hit) and fried-to-order chicharrones with coriander salt.

Guests order at the counter, and communal tables, booths and high-tops offer plenty of casual seating options. Though service is laid-back and the staffers have an exuberant, irrepressible air, it’s also quick and professional.

Despite any mildly cheeky attitude, servers know their stuff, especially the beer list. Fifty taps, which rotate often, is a lot to memorize, but every staffer I talked to had solid recommendations and insightful commentary, particularly about the large range of fruity sours.

Many selections are local or local-ish, including some from Rocklin’s Moksa, but a plurality of the list hails from San Diego’s Modern Times. Happily, all the beers are available in half pours, letting guests try more options. I especially enjoyed two sours from Modern Times: the unusual, long-aged The Fruitening, which includes blackcurrant and zinfandel must, or the lighter Fruitlands Rosé Edition, a millennial pink gose-style beer. For those who like something heavier, there’s also an impressive array of stouts.

Ordering at the counter also permits a flexible eating style, which befits a menu whose strongest offerings are snacks and small plates. Food comes out fast, and you can leave a tab open for adding to your meal or your drinks.

One of my favorite items was a simple bar bite, the spiced chickpeas. Crunchy and piquant, with a generous bowlful served up for just $3, these might be the ideal beer snacks. Those cloud-light, sizzling chicharrones, though could give them a run for their money.

The chicharrones had a perfect balance of salt and spice, which made the fries — heavily oversalted on one visit — a bit of a disappointment. The salt attack continued when they served as the base for poutine, making the stout-infused gravy far too saline.

The sausage rolls — which our server told us were inspired by the owner’s English roots and are made in house from scratch — made up for it. I’d eat these any day, with any beer: a juicy, porky spiced sausage and flaky, buttery puff pastry.

The kids’ menu offers a pig in a blanket with the same pastry, and I wouldn’t say no to that either. A word on the kids’ menu: it’s not long, but the choices are pretty good and made from scratch, making this a fine choice for families despite the beer theme.

Some of the so-called small plates are not so small, like a plate of roasted cauliflower and shisito peppers, drenched in a syrupy sambal chili sauce. This dish had a lot going on (if you’re shy of heat, beware), but was hard to stop eating.

The hearty entrée list, which is heavy on sandwiches, had hits and misses. My “Cali street tacos” had well-spiced and flaky grilled fish nicely offset by tangy house slaw, crema and pickled onions, but the cold tortillas and an unnecessary sprinkling of fries in the tacos undercut that success.

A juicy, medium-rare lamb burger was well spiced and got an unusual boost from earthy-sweet beet relish. Its slick of mint jelly was sweeter than it was distinctly minty, but the overall effect was good.

A lemon pesto chicken sandwich on focaccia skewed a little heavy thanks to oily herb focaccia, and could have benefited from pounding the chicken breast to make it tenderer and thinner to bite into, but had a good flavor and meaty bacon. Pork banh mi and a club melt are also among the sandwiches on the menu.

Sandwiches come with a choice of fries, side salad or soup. The latter was a thick, meaty lamb curry soup on my visits—unusual, with ground meat and cubes of bread soaked in the hearty broth, but warming and delicious. The side salads came with a mustardy, zippy vinaigrette obviously made with care and fresh croutons. A pity that on one visit the greens were wilted, but it may have been a fluke.

A few flatbreads, including one vegetarian offering, give cheese lovers a clear option. Cheesesteak-themed Philly flatbread wasn’t exactly refined, but tender sliced tri-tip, peppers and melty cheese made a tasty combo.

The big list of sweet stouts — many with chocolate or bourbon-barrel aging — might be plenty of dessert for hopheads, but dessert lovers can grab ever-changing ice cream sandwiches or a brownie skillet. I had to laugh when I asked the server about the latter. She made a face and said the previous day’s, a cranberry blondie, had not been good, but she would check what it was that day. She returned with an air of relief to say it was a regular double chocolate brownie and would be delicious. I appreciated her honesty, though her employer might not have loved her sense of discretion, and I ordered the brownie.

The brownie, a modest and deeply chocolatey square with crispy edges topped with a rich scoop of vanilla, was indeed good. It was a funny example of the ubiquitous skillet-service trend, with the brownie marooned in the middle of the round cast-iron pan. Nothing wrong with it, but usually I expect something to be served in a skillet because it was cooked there.

Still, the dessert looked cute and tasted good and freshly made. I’ve seen plenty of fancier restaurants try to get away with worse brownies.

That’s kind of the way things go at Grist. Based on my visits, it’s better than it needs to be for food to go with beer, and a worthwhile, welcoming option for Folsom locals and visitors.

Grist Beer Hall

310 Palladio Pkwy, Ste 713, Folsom. 916-693-6480. Gristbeerhall.com.

Hours: 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Sunday-Wednesday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Thursday-Saturday.

Beverage options: Extensive beer list, including numerous sours and a range of styles; tightly edited but appealing wine list.

Vegetarian friendly: Not especially, as most of the dishes include meat, but there are a few salads and veggie appetizers.

Gluten-free options: Yes: not a huge number, but they are marked on the menu online (though not the to-go menu offered at the restaurant).

Noise levels: On the loud and echoing side when full up with enthusiastic beer drinkers, but tables are well spaced.

Ambiance: Laid-back and inviting, with a familiar rustic-industrial look (think subway tile, raw wood, cast concrete counters), big TVs for the sports crowd, cheeky signs and cozy booths. Though Grist occupies a prime corner location in Folsom’s upscale Palladio shopping center, inside the restaurant it feels like a standalone spot.

Overall

½

A solid Folsom option for beer lovers and those seeking fresh, thoughtfully presented pub grub. The vibe is convivial, the beers are excellent and wide-ranging and the food is mostly pleasing, with a few real winners (those sausage rolls).

Food

½

The beer-friendly fare is largely from scratch and inventive, with hits like a beet-topped lamb burger, fried-to-order chicharrones and succulent sausage rolls, but missteps like oversalted fries and soggy poutine can mar a meal.

Service

The bubbly staff is impressively familiar with the extensive, frequently changing beer list and brings an irreverent spirit to order-at-the-counter service.

Value

Hearty sandwiches and entrees are nearly all under $15, beers are available in reasonably priced half pours as well as full glasses, and a crowd can get a lot of small plates to nibble for not a lot of cash.

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