Surprising pub fare in Davis
When my friend suggested that we go to Five Horses Tavern, a restaurant and bar in Davis, for dinner, I was rather skeptical of her choice. As a pescatarian, I am never too enthusiastic about the food at establishments that pride themselves in their alcoholic beverages. When beer is center stage, a restaurant’s food menu often plays a supporting role (if not wholly neglected).
Indeed, bar food tends to be greasy and severely lacking in the vegetarian department. As expected, Five Horses had an expansive drink list and offered classic tavern bites including three types of wings. However, what separated this dive from its boozy brethren was its shockingly gourmet fare and ample vegetarian options.
To start, we ordered the fried calamari, an appetizer that successfully revamped conventional tavern eats. Not only was the calamari well executed (not rubbery in the least), it was also interspersed with cubes of mango and accompanied by a ginger dipping sauce. This may sound like an odd pairing, but the juicy sweetness of the fruit and tang of the vinaigrette were refreshingly complementary to the squid.
In the same vein, the kitchen put a fancy spin on some other comfort foods. Lobster and pork belly gave mac and cheese and pizza a unique twist, while raw honey dressed up a traditional fried chicken sandwich.
I eagerly anticipated my entrée, the “grazing plate,” after being pleasantly surprised by the first course. My order was quite good, in spite of its unappealing name. The plate contained a colorful smattering of veggies, including quinoa, pumpkin puree, roasted squash, sautéed Swiss chard, and one of my favorite foods: Chinese broccoli! Again, I was shocked by how flavorful and well prepared my dish was. In addition, I had a bite of my friend’s “okra gumbo,” a stew of peppers, onion, garlic, beans, and wild rice; it was equally as delicious. I didn’t taste the “pato loco,” a burrito filled with duck, pork belly, wild rice, onion, Swiss chard, and scallions, but my friends gave it high marks.
While Five Horses Tavern exceeded expectations, it is important to keep in mind that this was no difficult feat (given that my expectations were quite low). Though I undoubtedly enjoyed the meal, this restaurant would not be my go-to dinner establishment. The food was a tad overpriced in my opinion – my plate cost $14 and “bread and butter” was a $4 appetizer. Everything from the atmosphere to the food was good but not exceptional. Then again, a bottle of one of their 130 types of beer might have changed my assessment.
In all, the Tavern is worth a visit for carnivores and vegetarians alike, but it should not be a priority.
Food (taste): B
Food (presentation): B+
Cover photo source.