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The Refuge

Your Rating: None
The RefugeThe Refuge
19 Ratings
The RefugeThe Refuge

Type: Bar, Eatery

963 Laurel St
San Carlos, California, 94070-3916
United States

(650) 598-9813 | map

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Added by oggg on 01-03-2009

View: Place Reviews | Events
User Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 19 |  Reviews: 11
Reviews by GJ40:
Photo of GJ40
4.1/5  rDev +2.5%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4.25 | service: 3.75 | selection: 4.25 | food: 4.25

A fantastic Belgian beer bar with amazing Reubens! The garlic fries were great too. I've been dying to get there since I saw it in DDD. And I wasn't disappointed. They gave a great tap list and some impressive rare/vintage bottles. But they could do better with managing the foam on their pours. i saw too much spooning it out and pouring from one glass to another. But still Great atmosphere, beer and food.

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More User Reviews:
Photo of brewnme
4.3/5  rDev +7.5%
vibe: 4.25 | quality: 4 | service: 4.5 | selection: 4.5 | food: 4.25

Photo of cherche
3.99/5  rDev -0.2%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 3.75 | service: 4 | selection: 3.75 | food: 4.75

Photo of Piglet_rulz_da_yard
4.3/5  rDev +7.5%
vibe: 3.75 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4.25 | selection: 4.25 | food: 4.5

Photo of AgentMunky
2.79/5  rDev -30.3%
vibe: 3 | quality: 3 | service: 1.5 | selection: 3.25 | food: 4

Really snobby borderline rude servers who will judge you if you just try to sit at the bar and drink beer. Not very knowledgeable either. Place is pricey and filled with wine bar-esque clientele. I have seen a Mikkeller beer on tap at The Refuge for $9/25cL when the same beer is selling literally next door at Ale Arsenal $6/12oz.

Pastrami sandwiches are $17, but holy god they are amazing. Bottom line, don't come here for beer, just pastrami.

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Photo of EMV
4.34/5  rDev +8.5%
vibe: 4.25 | quality: 4.75 | service: 4 | selection: 4.25 | food: 4.25

The Refuge is one of those truly cool little places that you always hear about but never quite seem able to find. It's tucked away in sleepy San Carlos... right outside of San Francisco. Their selection of Belgian beers is simply phenomenal... with a great tap list (lots of stuff I'd never even heard of) and an even larger bottle list (with even more obscure and bloody expensive stuff). The food menu is limited, but they get a 4.25 just for the Pastrami sandwiches alone (seriously one of the finest sandwiches I've ever had... just amazing). Not much for the vegetarians though and my wife was unimpressed. The've got a very nice little seating area, and if you've got a hankering for pastrami and Belgian beer... this is hands down the place. The only drawback is the price. Then again... you get what you pay for.

 827 characters

Photo of Geoffq
3.94/5  rDev -1.5%
vibe: 3 | quality: 4.25 | service: 4 | selection: 4.25 | food: 3

over priced snobby food just ok

31 characters

Photo of hambone
4.25/5  rDev +6.3%

Photo of jraisner
2.75/5  rDev -31.3%

Photo of Paccamacca
4.5/5  rDev +12.5%

Photo of RBassSFHOPit2ME
3.5/5  rDev -12.5%

Photo of topoisomerase
4.11/5  rDev +2.8%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4.5 | service: 3.5 | selection: 4.75 | food: 3

I sure do love The Refuge. having a Belgian beer bar so close to home? yes, please! the food selection isn't ideal for me being primarily vegetarian but i am a big fan of their two veggie sandwiches as well as of their pickled veggies. the beer selection is fantastic, from their constantly varying draft selection to their bottle list. if you're mid-peninsula and in search of great beer, stop here. it's also great to sit outside when the weather is nice.

 457 characters

Photo of ToriBug13
3.88/5  rDev -3%
vibe: 3.75 | quality: 4 | service: 3.75 | selection: 3.75 | food: 4.25

Amazing food with fantastic beer selection! This place really has everything- from servers who know their brews to an incredible pastrami burger to Underberg. I think their beer selection is fun, they have great Belgians along with some different domestic craft beers. Only drawback was the price, but as a treat this place is the perfect place to go!

 351 characters

Photo of Afty
4.33/5  rDev +8.3%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4 | selection: 4.5 | food: 4.5

My wife and I went here for the first time on Friday. My short review is: excellent beer, very good pub-style food, but too expensive.

My reuben sandwich was excellent, but it cost $16, and it didn't include fries. Beers were $8-10 for 8-10 oz. pours (though often in the correct glassware). They had lots of interesting Belgian and Belgian-style beers on the list, though. I had a Deschutes The Stoic and a Saxo blonde.

I feel the Refuge is overpriced by 20-30%. With the current pricing, I can really only justify coming here on special occasions. Which is sad, because I really liked this place.

 602 characters

Photo of Gambac
4.33/5  rDev +8.3%
vibe: 3.5 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4 | selection: 4.5 | food: 5

Yelp sent me here after searching for pastrami. Pastrami plus Belgian beer seemed like a big win, so went here with the parents for lunch

I'm with other reviewers about the bar/cafe hybrid attempt. It definitely didn't work for me. We were inside, and give the brightness of the day, the outdoor light was often distracting. I've heard they are moving to a new location, so hopefully this will be less of a problem.

Ended up sharing a St. Feuillen Saison and Leffe on tap, both very tasty. Split two sandwiches, literally to die for. As much as it is a beer bar, it takes a back seat to the pastrami. You won't regret getting the sandwich, even at the price they are asking.

In the end, the expense will keep me coming less frequently than I'd like, but for pastrami, this is the new go to. The Belgian beer will be a happy bonus

 832 characters

Photo of weirdo513
4.63/5  rDev +15.8%
vibe: 5 | quality: 5 | service: 4.5 | selection: 4 | food: 5

The Refuge is an oasis tucked away in the horrible landscape of suburbanesque bud/miller/coors bars that litter the area. Their beer selection is top notch and their food is incredible.

I have to recommend their burgers, in particular the 'World's Fair Ohio' and the 'Mushroom & Brie Burger'. Both are delicious and easily place the refuge above any burger I've had in the bay area.

Be warned that if you have any vegetarians in tow, they will be unhappy with the menu selection. As there is virtually nothing of substance for them at this Meat & Beer Establishment.

Great selection of Belgians that you can view on the menu at their website. The selection changes from time to time, but not so often as to be obnoxious. I do wish the beers were priced a little more reasonable, as a night here drinking with friends shouldn't be such a serious financial commitment!

 883 characters

Photo of largadeer
3.5/5  rDev -12.5%
vibe: 3 | quality: 4 | service: 3 | selection: 3 | food: 5

This place is tough to review, because while there are great things about it, it's prohibitively expensive. The beer selection is decent, largely Belgian or Belgian-influenced, with roughly 20 rotating taps and a variety of bottles. Both are priced obscenely high, with an average draft price of around $8 for an 8 to 10 ounce pour. On the bright side, they put most all the beers in the appropriate glassware, which I appreciate. Moving on to the good things, the food is absolutely delicious. The pastrami sandwiches and burgers are some of the best I've ever had, and while expensive, are worth every cent. In the end, however, I tend to come here for the food and skip the beer.

 682 characters

Photo of photomike
4.3/5  rDev +7.5%
vibe: 3 | quality: 5 | service: 4.5 | selection: 3.5 | food: 5

Hit up the Refuge on the generous suggestion of my dad, who had heard great things about their pastrami and wanted to buy me lunch. It did not disappoint.

While the vibe is somewhat lacking, it isn't horrible. An open wall leads to a patio that brings in a lot of light--a great thing for lunch, an odd thing for a room decked out in Belgian beer signs. They went for the decor of a bar with the building of a cafe--somewhat unsettling for some reason.

The quality of food and service here is top notch, however. The young waiter was surprisingly knowledgeable about the beers they served, and even offered a good suggestion to pair with our shared sandwich.

We ordered a reuben with a "big cone" of fries. While the cone of fries weren't Belgian-style as I had hoped, they were ok. The sandwich, on the other hand, was amazing. With the fries, the sando was easily big enough for the two of us, and I have no qualms about saying that it was the best pastrami sandwich I have ever eaten.

The beers here are all Belgian-style, and represent a decent selection under that umbrella. Wits, Saisons and quads were all represented on draft, among others. Food wise, the selection was somewhat weak, but understandably so. Variations on the pastrami sandwich and burgers made up most of the menu.

All said, the prices here are fairly outrageous. I understand the need to price house-cured pastrami at a premium, and trust me, its worth every penny, but 9 bucks for 330ml of draft saison is somewhat tough to swallow. Even with a shared sandwich and just one beer apiece, our bill came in over 40 dollars with tip.

A good place that is close to greatness.

 1,658 characters

Photo of oggg
4.13/5  rDev +3.3%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4 | service: 4 | selection: 4.5 | food: 4

My non-BA buddy and I visited The Refuge on a Wednesday for a late lunch. When we arrived at about 1:30pm, there were still a few tables of patrons still dining (and having beer). The Refuge is on the southern edge of the downtown area, so it's a quick walk to lots of restaurants and stores. Outside there were a few tables out for people trying to get that last bit of the recent heat wave.

Inside, I'd guess there are probably about 4 booths and 6-8 tables. The bar could probably seat 10? The beer list is all Belgian or belgian-style, and actually almost all Belgian. See the website for the beer list -- Gouden Carolus, 4 Chouffes (Mc, La, Houblon, N'Ice) Chimay, Hoegarden, and Allagash among the almost 20 taps. Good range of beers, from light to heavy, light to dark, sweet to bitter, at least one sour beer, and at least two mainstream beers (chimay/hoegarden). Small bottle list, I believe. Beers are served in appropriate glasses, which means the pours are smaller (10, 12, 14oz?). My friend had the Allagash White and I had the Gouden Carolus D'Or, and both tasted fresh.

We had the house-made pastrami for lunch. The pastrami is thick as opposed to say, Togos or The Hat. It's very tender, fragrant, and has a touch of spice. Delicious. I had the slaw and the Russian Dressing whereas my friend had the mustard. The rye bread is soft yet hardy enough to stand a little soaking by the slaw juice. The potato salad was average. The fries were fresh and golden. Very satisfying meal. The sandwich is medium sized -- we were hungry and shared an add-on order of fries.

The decor is somewhat minimalist, although there is plenty of color going on. There's some sort of abstract angel painted on the wall behind the bar -- perhaps we are taking refuge in its wings. The place is clean. It has one or two TVs.

Value: I love everything about this place except it is damn expensive. $13-16 for a pastrami sandwich, $3 for fries, $6-9 for a beer. I think we split a bill of $57 for lunch!

 1,999 characters

The Refuge in San Carlos, CA
Place rating: 4 out of 5 with 19 ratings
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