A friend of mine is a conscious eater who shops mindfully at co-ops for whole foods and organic ingredients. During the summer you’ll find him at most every farmers market. On his own farm he raises goats for milk.
My friend isn’t a vegetarian, exactly, but when he eats meat he does so selectively. And when the craving for a burger comes on he heads for Manzanita’s San Dune Pub.
My friend chooses the Dune because their Piedmontese beef is raised free of hormones and antibiotics. (Piedmontese cattle also carry a genetic characteristic making them less fatty and lower in cholesterol.)
Ethical and health concerns aside, though, the Dune burger is pretty darn good.
Though it stops short of overwhelming, the patty is plump, well-seasoned and, while lean, plenty flavorful. It’s not too greasy, but occasionally it is cooked longer than it needs to be. Regardless, that Piedmontese beef has a distinct character: It tastes clean.
With steak knives pinning them together, Dune burgers come in a variety of models, from BBQ sauce and an onion ring to slathered in chili. My favorite is the Bacon Blue: $13 with potato chips; fries cost extra. I imagine my friend prefers a stock model, sans pig.
To be sure: Dune burgers don’t belong to the fancier, richer “bistro” family. No coffee-bacon jams, pork belly or black garlic aioli here — just plain ol’, crave-satisfying bar burgers.
With hardly any bold or creative reaches to speak of, the rest of the Dune menu follows suit. This woodsy, dark, cabin-like bar is comfortably familiar, and it makes time and room for blue-collar locals, which collide regularly with beach house-renting bachelorette parties and other similarly overwhelming tourist stereotypes. More often, though, the groups coexist in relative harmony. One to party vicariously, my friend might even buy them a drink.
Certainly my friend would slurp up the Prawn Po’Boy ($16). On a toasted hoagie roll cradling grilled prawns and coleslaw, both dripping with the Dune’s slightly spicy chipotle mayo, it’s most everything you want in a Po’Boy: messy, tangy, creamy, supple and comfy. It’s not huge, though. And my friend might feel like it’s pretty expensive.
He’d find it more satisfying than a wrap, though. Essentially chicken sandwiches in tortillas, the wraps might remind him of airport food: slim, dim and overpriced ($13 to $14).
My friend would eat the House Salad ($13), but he might feel as if, for that price, he should’ve gotten more — more care, body and balance. While he might be used to receiving loads of out-of-season tomatoes, he’d wonder why every forkful seemed to include an entire cross section of white onion.
My friend would appreciate that the dressings at the Dune are all house-made. That would go a long way toward his feelings on the salad. (The Mouth is not quite as forgiving.)
He would likely enjoy a bite or two of the rich, salty Smoked Salmon Chowder ($4 cup/$8 bowl) while agreeing that it earns repute simply by trading clams for salmon. He might dabble in many of the fried things — an oyster, calamari, some fries or tots — but it’s hard to imagine him ever ordering them for himself.
My friend wouldn’t, however, dare eat but a smidgen of the delightfully gluttonous hunk of Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie ($6). Even in the name of duty, the oft-unhinged Mouth would require a few friends to share it with.
And, in a location that’s so near to the beach, so susceptible to becoming an all-out tourist trap, that the Dune provides not only space for me to share a piece of that absurd chocolate pie (and then dance it off), or for my friend to use it as a burger beacon, is saying something.