Dining Review: Go for the Story, stay for the applekraut

Story Tavern boosts Burbank and beer in equal measure. It's like walking into a history lesson where there's artisanal beer on tap. You're sipping your cider with Dr. David Burbank looking over your shoulder. The portrait of the eccentrically bearded dentist who in 1886 sold the land that would soon bear his name hangs at the head of the room just to the left of the stone fireplace. Black and white photos of Burbank in earlier decades cover the wall, including Story Hardware, where Burbank's first mayor sold hammers and nails — at the same address where Story Tavern now sells bangers and mash.

But you didn't come just for the history lecture, did you? You came to sit in a gorgeous, oaky dining room at a long, mission-style wood table on a chair that would fit in an Arts and Crafts bungalow. You came to watch the guy at the next table create a quick but detailed drawing by maneuvering a pen in both right and left hands while the black and white film "Pork Chop Hill" plays silently on the wall beside him. (Perhaps the ambidextrous artist's drawing will hang with the many others over a booth near the entry.) You came for the European-influenced menu that's still whimsical enough to use tater tots as an ingredient.

With more than a dozen beers on tap (double chocolate stout, anyone?) and many, many more offered by the bottle, Story Tavern won't leave you dry. You wine drinkers can get your Syrah or your pinot gris as well. And if you just want to leave full and satisfied? There's shepherd's pie. That ought to do it.

The appetizers are a trip, geographically speaking: Belgian-style mussels, pulled pork sliders on Hawaiian rolls, a board of Italian meats and cheeses and Greek olives, quesadillas, and for a bit of Americana — tater tots.

We went the Irish route, with boxtys, potato pancakes that Story serves with green onions and a slightly spicy sour cream: crisp, salty disks with a tender, steaming interior. What's that sexist old Irish ditty? "Boxty on the griddle, boxty on the pan. If you can't make boxty, you'll never get a man."

The "Irish nachos," though they look like something a ravenous 14-year-old dreamed up, are still a fun way to start a meal. They're nothing more than potato chips topped with cheddar, bacon, sour cream and green onions. Take away the potato chips and substitute tater tots and you've got Totchos, a menu oddity we had to try. As much as tots call to mind memories of school lunch trays and the brilliant "Gimme some of your tots" scene from "Napoleon Dynamite," they're just too mushy to work as a nacho base. We'll stick with the chips.

On two visits, we ordered the bangers and mash, but each time the waiter came back and apologized that they were out of bangers. No matter, the bratwurst sandwich will do. The juicy German sausage is served on a French roll and topped with a delicious and sweet applekraut.

Story offers four versions of macaroni (actually rotini) and cheese. We tried the house specialty, with caramelized onions and applewood bacon: rich, creamy, smoky. The shepherd's pie had a nice vinegary tang to the beef, and perfectly cooked peas added that welcome little pop to each bite. Swiss cheese and a bit of gravy give a nice lift to the mashed potatoes on top.

The BLTA sandwich had thick slabs of applewood bacon and hefty portions of smashed avocado that were just too much for the toasted wheat bread to hold. Messy, but delicious. The applekraut drew us to the Reuben and its marbled rye, Swiss cheese and flavorful corned beef. Story should package the applekraut and sell it in markets.

The Mac Attack sounds like something you'd only order on a dare. It's a half-pound patty, juicy and flavorful, topped with Swiss cheese and a massive portion of rotini and cheese. I savored the bites my teenage dining companion allowed, but I can't imagine eating this whole burger. It can be done though; I've seen it. That burger was history.

What: Story Tavern

Where: 150 S. San Fernando Blvd., Burbank.

When: Sunday through Wednesday, 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Thursday through Saturday, 11:30 a.m. to midnight.

Prices: Appetizers, $5 to $11; salads, $9 to $12; burgers, hot dogs and sandwiches, $4 to $14; mac and cheese, $6 to $8; entrees, $12 to $15; desserts, $3.50 to $7.

More info: (818) 567-4200, storytavernburbank.com


REBECCA BRYANT is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Newsday and Caribbean Travel & Life.

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