The Refuge: Reviews

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The Refuge: Reviews | restaurant info + video | full episode video

Christopher Powell
Name: Christopher
Occupation: College Student
Location: Palo Alto
Favorite Restaurant: The Refuge
Reviewed The Refuge: Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The Refuge, my refuge for pastrami, is exactly how I would run a restaurant. The servers seem happy to be there, that’s how I know how great The Refuge is. The atmosphere is that of a cool Belgian bar with brewery tin signs inside. The first time I ate there they were playing The Clash and they had a Giants game on the bar TV. They have what is arguably the best pastrami in the Bay Area and very likely the west coast (I can’t speak for New York pastrami). Their pastrami is amazing, it has got all of the amazing spices and flavors one wants from pastrami but with a juicy, tender, smokiness that you just cant get from pastrami at most sandwich shops and delis. This pastrami makes me upset when I try to eat other pastramis- it’s ruined a lot of pastrami that I used to enjoy and really love. Now all I want is The Refuge’s pastrami. I have left other restaurants saying, “Wow that appetizer and beer was around $14 together, I could have gone to The Refuge and stuffed myself with an amazing meal for almost double”.

The pastrami burger is a juicy, tender, and perfectly cooked hamburger topped with literally a sandwich worth of pastrami, then smothered with Swiss cheese, Russian dressing, and sauerkraut. I did not like sauerkraut until I ate it on my pastrami burger, now I wouldn’t have that burger any other way. And boy oh boy do they bring the fancy beer to the party. They have what seems to be every Belgian beer: Chimay, Duvel, Chouffe, Delirium, as well as an extensive amount of ciders and even mead. The Refuge has it all, great food, great drinks, great staff, they will even make you a half sandwich if you’re not that hungry or just in a rush.

Joan Rosenberg
Name: Joan
Occupation: Marketing Director
Location: Oakland
Favorite Restaurant: Little Shin Shin Restaurant
Reviewed The Refuge: Tuesday, April 9, 2013

When I saw that The Refuge specialized in house-made pastrami, I wasn't sure that there would be anything for me to eat since I am a recovering vegetarian who only eats chicken and fish. I knew I would have to bring a meat-eater along to complete the visit at a place like this. Not only was there plenty at The Refuge for me to choose from, but the options were delicious. Some of the dishes we had were hit-or-miss, but all had very complex flavors. The house-made pickled veggies were outstanding and the Barbacoa Nachos (with beef on the side) were extra tasty. A lot of the beer and a couple of the ciders were made locally and were super delicious. From the outside this place has a friendly, neighborhood vibe, with plenty of free two-hour parking in the area. The host was friendly and even though the place was packed, we were able to get a table for three right away.


The staff are all attentive, friendly, accommodating and very knowledgeable of the extensive beer menu that they offer. The place was a mix between a restaurant and a pub and is certainly a beer drinker's paradise with something for everyone. I travel up and down the 101 a lot and would definitely go back there if I was in the area or wanted to watch the game on a Saturday.

Scott Shafer
Name: Scott
Occupation: Journalist and Radio Host
Location: San Francisco
Favorite Restaurant: Canela Bistro and Wine Bar
Reviewed The Refuge: Wednesday, April 3, 2013

The Refuge is a cross between a Jewish deli and a sports bar. The night we were there it was packed – line out the door – and the TV above the bar was showing a college basketball game. It’s a casual place with a lively atmosphere and a very unpretentious feel. The wait staff is friendly and knowledgeable about most things, but a little inattentive. For example we had to ask on two different occasions for silverware.

The beer list is extensive and definitely a highlight. The waiter knew his beers! The wine list left something to be desired. It was well priced, but there wasn’t enough information. For example, they had a Cab blend, a rose and a Syrah with a description but no information on where it was from. California? France? Italy? Who knows?

The first courses were the best. The scallop salad has a nice spicy hot flavor, but the waiter didn’t know what that was (he said pepper, but I don’t think that was right). Nonetheless, the seared scallops were very tasty and went nicely with the peanut dressing. The coriander carrots were perfectly done with a nice butter herb flavor. Unfortunately it was downhill from there. The cheesesteak and the pastrami sandwich were both dry. The pastrami was too lean, fat = taste! The coleslaw was also surprisingly dry and needed a little more mayonnaise. The French fries were OK – but nothing special. Despite all that, we were too full for dessert. Most of the items looked really heavy, like bread pudding and a root beer float. The one thing that tempted us: the chocolate pot de crème. But again – no room!