Melville, the New Player in Town

Melville Tavern Good news for craft beer fans on the water-starved Monterey Peninsula: there’s a new player in town.

Saturday night, Colin Ling and his staff threw open the doors at Melville Tavern, located in the former Santa Lucia Café at 484 Washington St. in Monterey. During the drinks-only soft opening, the cooks were busy practicing in the back of the house, with wait staff offering the tasty results to customers free of charge.

Melville owner Colin Ling

Melville owner Colin Ling

This week, Melville rolls out the full burgers, sandwiches and salads menu. At present, hours are 4:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m., seven days a week. Oven-fired pizzas, lunch hours, happy hour specials, weekend brunch, patio service and the website are all coming in the next several months.

Melville inherited six taps, several of which will rotate every two or three weeks and none lasting more than six months. Ling and bartender Kyle Yedlicka kicked off with a craft bottle selection of 20 brands they’ll eventually expand to 35 or 40. Beer, wine and cider choices lean toward California and West Coast, but include domestic and foreign representations.

If you’re a beer lover in San Diego or Portland, where brewpubs pop up more or less monthly, you’re probably thinking we’re a backwater. Actually, our problem is no water. Here on The Peninsula, if you want to add a half bath to your home, it’s not going to happen unless your property has enough water credits.

Melville bartender Kyle Yedlicka

Melville bartender Kyle Yedlicka

If getting an extra sink and toilet is rough, what it takes to build even a small brewery. Monterey’s first brewpub, Peter B’s, got in as part of the Portola Hotel complex. In 2014, local beer lovers feted the opening of Alvarado Street Brewery which exists only because owner J.C. Hill and his father, a resort architect, secured a property with ample credits. And how many brewpubs on the rest of the Peninsula—Carmel, Pacific Grove and Pebble Beach? Zero. Zilch. None. There is English Ales, a nice little brewpub ten miles away on a less-than-picturesque strip in Marina.

Given our reality, bars and liquor stores with good selections are the solution. My favorite is Post No Bills in Sand City, a 15-minute drive. At Cannery Row Brewing Company, no brewing actually takes place, but the beer menu is extensive. Trailside Café, out in Carmel Valley, offers a good variety of craft beers and a nice beer garden. In the short distance between Peter B’s and Alvarado Street Brewery, Crown and Anchor boasts 20 taps and a patio. If you’re looking for liquor stores, Bottles N’ Bins and Whole Foods in Monterey, along with BevMo! in Carmel, all have good offerings. If a basic bar menu will satisfy you, there’s no shortage of establishments in Monterey.

Three days before opening

Three days before opening

So, how will Melville Tavern stand out from the pack? “We hope to become a neighborhood pub,” Ling said when I stopped by earlier last week. “We have a good location, a perfect spot, really. We’re not too close to other bars.” Beers are priced in the $4 to $6 range with wine going for $25 to $40 a bottle or $6 to $9 a glass. Food prices are right in line for the area.

As so often happens, Ling said, “We’d thought we could open in three weeks, but it’s turned into more like three months.” There have been licenses and permits, a visit from the fire marshal earlier that day, a software glitch that still wasn’t resolved and mounds of paperwork.

Ling has a lot going for him. He knows the area, having grown up in Carmel before going off to Marquette University in Milwaukee. Perhaps most important, he grew up with parents who have worked in and owned restaurants since before he was born. Today his father owns Sandbar and Grill under Monterey’s Commercial Wharf. Ling has worked in the business off and on, including a stint managing Turn 12, a few blocks from Melville Tavern.

Opening night

Opening night

The vibe on opening night at Melville was relaxed and comfortable—just what you’d expect at a neighborhood pub. The dozen or so stools at the bar stayed full throughout the hour and a half my husband and I sat at a table sipping a couple beers each and enjoying the complimentary salmon burger and cheese sandwich. The food was excellent and appropriately priced. The staff and Ling checked in with us periodically.

The only thing Melville needs to tweak as they grow is the beer menu. While Goose Island, Red Hook, Ten Barrel and Golden Road brew some very good beers, they’ve all been bought up by ABInBev, the brewing conglomerate that brings you Budweiser. Of the 20 bottled beers and 3 ciders offered on opening night, 10 were ABI products. With so many terrific craft breweries on the West Coast, the hardest part will be narrowing down the choices.

Whether you stop by for dinner or drinks, you won’t go wrong with a visit to Melville Tavern. Here’s raising a glass and wishing them a long life in the neighborhood!

 

 

 

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