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On the Menu: Ocean Beach’s Raglan Public House is a Kiwi palate pleaser

Raglan Public House in Ocean Beach is named after Raglan, a popular surf spot in New Zealand.
(Raglan Public House)
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While traipsing through the wop wops of New Zealand almost two decades ago, intrepid explorers P.J. Lamont and Matt Baker were mesmerized by the cult following of a hole-in-the-wall burger joint in Queenstown called Fergburger, which served gourmet burgers with exotic meats including lamb, venison and swine.

The culinary adventure seekers were instantly inspired and transported the concept of a fast, casual beach burger bar to San Diego starting with Bare Back Grill in Pacific Beach. There was more to come. Each restaurant in the Southern California collection is fittingly named after a town in New Zealand, reflecting the culture and charm they share. Ocean Beach, with a laid-back, beachy tone, is reminiscent of Raglan, a popular surf spot in Kiwi land.

Kyle Jaworski, general manager of OB’s Raglan Public House, which opened in February 2012, said “the culinary scene of Ocean Beach has grown over time. It’s kind of like an island, and I’m proud to be a part of it.”

He credits the restaurant’s success to “capturing the local community vibe and authenticity of recipes while blending unique and quality ingredients.”

Staying true to the spirit of New Zealand’s healthy culinary ethos, Raglan prepares its burgers exclusively using grass-fed, organic beef and as many organic ingredients as possible, along with replicating the homemade aioli and chutney that accompany the burgers.

Raglan's lamb burger and fries
(Raglan Public House)

“The best representation of what we are unique for is the Bare Lil Lamb Burger,” said Jaworski, describing the components of the signature dish, which blends the sweetness of mint jelly with the saltiness of blue cheese, all balanced by the smooth, garlicky flavor of the tomato chutney.

The New Zealand pasture-raised and grass-fed lamb burger is then dressed with sweet, crunchy pickled beets, and spicy aioli is smeared on the bun.

Other New Zealand classics include meat pies of ground beef, lamb and a cheesy gravy in a flaky puff pastry shell, plus fish and chips prepared with a hefty portion of fresh Atlantic haddock beer-battered to a golden crisp and served with house-seasoned steak fries, homemade slaw and tartar sauce, all displayed on a rustic wooden cutting board.

Raglan's fish and chips with homemade slaw and tartar sauce
(Raglan Public House)

Vegetarians can indulge in a spicy black bean patty with choice of traditional burger sauces and toppings; the Feelin’ Randy spinach salad tossed with goat cheese, candied walnuts, cranberries and a sassy balsamic glaze; or the Holy Roller, serving up a slab of grilled or panko-crusted tofu topped with avocado, cucumber, lettuce, tomato, garlic aioli, coconut riatta and a spicy peanut dressing.

To wet your whistle, there’s local craft beer, with new brews offered every day.

Jaworski also touts the brekkie menu, offering such delights as The Cure, served in a skillet blending eggs your way with tater tots, biscuit, choice of bacon, chicken sausage or chicken tenders topped with a homemade sausage gravy.

More-adventurous palates might choose the sassy Chilaquiles, combining poached eggs with seasonal vegetables, hot salsa and fried tortilla chips, or a classic steak and tamale Benedict with a beachy twist.

You can celebrate a happy birthday with a fresh-baked chocolate chip cookie skillet and scoop of vanilla ice cream on the house, and don’t forget to become a member of the Burger of the Month Club through the website or in person at one of the restaurants, offering a freebie with the purchase of any entrée or burger.

There’s also happy hour from 3 to 6 p.m. every day, featuring $5 draft beers, $8 gin and tequila cocktail specials and $6 sliders and chips.

“While the tourist crowd is awesome, we want to focus on doing a great job year-round and take care of our neighborhood.”

— Kyle Jaworski, general manager of Raglan Public House

As every cloud has a silver lining, Jaworski said he’s grateful that Raglan was able to evolve during the COVID-19 pandemic into an outdoor paradise with a sprawling patio and a two-year city of San Diego-sponsored pilot program to create a “streetary” offering a side of salty air and ocean breezes.

“This holds onto the burger-beach-bar focus,” he added, “which was the true essence of the inspiration and dream of the proprietors from Day 1.”

Raglan Public House prepares its burgers exclusively using grass-fed, organic beef.
Raglan Public House prepares its burgers exclusively using grass-fed, organic beef and as many organic ingredients as possible.
(Raglan Public House)

The indoor space, with a cozy bar, warm woods and surfboard light fixtures, equally captures the vision, appealing to visiting Kiwis, OB locals, seasonal tourists who want to know where the locals hang out, and San Diego denizens up and down the coast. Raglan patrons represent a wide cross-section of the community, whether they’re teenagers with friends, families with young children, older folks, and pooches that can chow down on a beef or chicken patty.

“The restaurant’s goal is to make everybody welcome and comfortable,” Jaworski said. “And while the tourist crowd is awesome, we want to focus on doing a great job year-round and take care of our neighborhood.”

Jaworski, who is on the board of the Ocean Beach MainStreet Association and works with the Town Council, strives for Raglan to stand out as a solid representation of the community. “Everybody has OB’s best interests in mind,” he said. “It makes it rewarding and enjoyable to be living and working here.”

The New Zealand vibe trickles throughout San Diego in various locations, with the sophisticated Queenstown Public House in Little Italy reflecting the cosmopolitan nature of the city, the hip Dunedin in North Park, the casual Queenstown Bistro at the UTC mall, and another Queenstown Public House slated to open in La Jolla, replacing the old Karl Strauss location.

Raglan Public House

Where: 1851 Bacon St., Ocean Beach

Hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Fridays, 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sundays. Brunch from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays and 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. weekends.

Information: (619) 794-2304, raglanpublichouse.com

Recipe

Bare Lil Lamb Burger
Medium rare

Ingredients:

• 7 ounces fresh ground New Zealand lamb

• Focaccia bun

• 3 ounces blue cheese crumbles

• 2 ounces mint jelly

• 3 ounces sliced pickled beets

• 2 ounces garlic aioli

• 2 ounces tomato chutney

• Lettuce, tomato and onion

• Salt and pepper, to taste

Instructions:

• Season 7-ounce lamb patty well with salt and pepper.

• Place patty on grill over medium-well heat for 8 minutes.

• Flip patty halfway through cooking. As soon as you flip the burger, spread 2 ounces of mint jelly on the cooked side of the burger (this helps cut the gaminess of the lamb).

• With 2 minutes left to cook, place blue cheese on top of the burger. Mint jelly should have mostly cooked into the patty.

• Toast focaccia bun with butter on skillet.

• When bun is well-toasted, spread tomato chutney on the top half of the bun and garlic aioli on the bottom half.

• Put lettuce, tomato and onion on the bottom bun and top with the lamb patty.

• Place beets on top of the cheese and cover with the top bun.

— Courtesy of Raglan Public House


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