3 out of 5 stars
If there’s one thing Riverside never fails to provide it is culture (and bipolar weather, but that is another article). Heroes Restaurant and Brewery, nestled between the Mission Inn and the Riverside Art Museum, combines a bar with a western aesthetic and a restaurant with a more modern style. Heroes offers an atmosphere more than the stereotypical western Cracker Jack, cold beers and banjo strumming in the back.
I stumbled my way through the rain across the restaurant’s outdoor patio, only to find sawdust sticking to my boot. Sprinkled with sawdust and mist, the large-scale patio was adorned with strings of lights and pillars of plasma TVs. “Welcomes” came from every direction when I entered the building. To the left, short walls were covered in western artifacts, such as newspaper clippings and family pictures from the 1860s (the longer you stare, the creepier they get). That room was filled with bar stools, picnic-clothed tables and a deli, shining in the corner.
The room to the right was much wider and had higher ceilings, from which hung a wagon carriage with lights entangled in it. Over the semi-truck-sized bar, wall-to-wall plasmas showcased ESPN and highlights from the previous night’s Heat versus Hawks game. Vodka, whiskey and bourbon bottles glowed with neon green and blue in the floor-to-ceiling-high liquor library behind the bar.
I took a corner seat near the deli and peered over the extra treats while glancing at the menu. A server soon placed two packets of peanuts on my table as well as a 32-ounce mug of ice water. At first I thought I must have looked really parched to get a glass big enough for the creepy family in the picture next to me; however, all drinks are served in this $3 mug with free refills. “Check out our Deli for our old school drinks!” the menu suggested. Three types of root beer, old-fashioned bottled Cokes and Jones sodas priced at a non-refillable $2.50 kissed the inside of the right case. Just below that was their dessert menu, which held a sample of their strawberry cheesecake and chocolate cake that made my sweet tooth throb.
With a menu that held burgers ranging from a chorizo burger to the Hawaiian, I had to ask the server what was the most popular. Her suggestions, such as the Reuben, California chicken club and the Brisket sounded great, even though each item was priced between $11 and $14. But once her finger traced over the UCR symbol with the words “The Highlander Chicken Sandwich” — a charbroiled chicken sandwich with avocado, sun-dried tomatoes, mayo, diced tomatoes and lettuce served on pumpernickel bread — I gave her my menu with a Scotty-spirited decision. (Come on, you cannot just pass up a sandwich named after your school without trying it, right?) All sandwiches came with a side of steak or curly fries, tater tots, or, for $2 extra, a cup of soup or salad.
During the short waiting time, the tables soon filled up with business officials, presumably on their lunch break. Many walked in for a quick bite to go, others enjoyed their company over a tall beer from the 18 selections on tap. All except four beers on tap were imported, such as Newcastle and Corona; domestics included Bud Light and Miller Lite. I found out that, in the next few weeks, Heroes will serve four of their own house-brewed beers. Other alcohol options remain in every vodka you can think of. If it wasn’t behind the bar, it was found in the liquor case on display.
My plate soon arrived. A monstrous mound of tater tots with bits of parsley dwarfed the sandwich, making it look like a deck of mere index cards by comparison. Olives pierced with toothpicks kept the sandwich stacked together. The first bite had everything in it: a great battle of textures with the creamy avocado and gummy sun-dried tomatoes as well as the charbroiled chicken that I could taste the barbecue flames with its freshness.
However, I found that the majority of its height came from seemingly neverending folds of lettuce and a block of tomato. I ended up defacing the sandwich to get rid of the excessive lettuce (but hey, if a guest likes a salad stuffed between their bread, they can leave it in). If it wasn’t for the tater tots as a side, the meal probably wouldn’t have been big enough to meet its double-digit price. Also, apart from the unique pairing of ingredients, the sandwich may have been one could make at home. Nevertheless, for a plate as a whole, it was somewhat successful. And with an atmosphere like that, prices may be worth it for a night on the town.
Tables were filled by the time I was presented with my check on a tiny clipboard. I made my way out, taking in the last of the decor. I was left with the goodbye of the sign outside that read, “See you tomorrow!” Despite the higher prices for the meals, Heroes offers a vibe perfect for a night on the town with friends with a thirst of a good drink.