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Best of Olympia 2019: Well 80 Brewery and Brewpub

Readers' Pick: Best Bar Food

The “Oktoberfest” bratwurst is served over grilled onions and sauerkraut with a side of German mustard. (Credit: John Ferri)

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On a recent weekday, the lunch crowd at Olympia's Well 80 Brewery and Brewpub covered all the demographics the year-old establishment aims to serve.

Upon entering the bright, open space with exposed beams high above, a large, all-ages area occupies the right half of the room. There, at large, low tables good for high-chair access, a mix of retirees and families with kids dine, chat and play.

Near the entry, on a cozy couch next to the warmth of the tall stone fireplace, a woman sips a glass of wine while tapping on her laptop. In the bar area, a row of two-seat booths is full of professionals on lunch hour. Lined up at the actual bar, the college-age crowd cheers on their favorite European soccer teams on TV.

A big part of Well 80's draw, naturally, is the beer. The carefully curated selection of new and old-world styles with a Northwest take is the work of head brewer Paul Pearson. With a brewing background forged at Fish Brewing and Rogue Ales, among others, it's no surprise Pearson's beers here are superb.

Of course, "It's the water," in terms of fresh artesian well water perfect for brewing Well 80's excellent lineup of in-house brews. But here, it's also largely about "the food," which is presented in a concise, well thought-out menu of elevated pub fare that features pizza, burgers, sandwiches, snacks and sides -- all of which make it our reader's choice for Best Bar Food in Olympia.

"A lot of the food-side inspiration came from Danny Meyer of (New York's) Gramercy Tavern and Shake Shack -- not only in the menu, but in the philosophy of running the business," explained Well 80 owner Chris Knudson, who also operates the Casa Mia Italian restaurants.

The inspirational Meyer is a New York restaurateur known for building quality businesses with staying power in the volatile restaurant industry. For Knudson, therefore, part of following that philosophy means carefully sourcing ingredients, some of them the same ones used by Meyer's restaurants.

That starts with quality beef from the same purveyor. Even the basic Well 80 burger is what drive-in and "fair burgers" aspire to be when they grow up. The "Oly Style Drive-In Burger" -- with grilled onions, yellow mustard and cheese -- is basically the same recipe, but with decidedly upgraded meat quality. The patties are made from Pat LA Frieda brand premium ground chuck and short rib. Add bacon and avocado to make it an "All Out Drive-In Burger."

Another item sourced specifically by Knudson is the slightly sweet, buttery, semi-dense Martin's Potato Roll, on which all burgers are served. The roll has been recognized as one of the best burger and sandwich buns in America since it came onto the market in the mid-1950s.

Same with the "Oktoberfest," made with Fontanini brand bratwurst, from the famed Italian sausage maker adept at German meats as well. Presented over a steamy bed of grilled onions and sauerkraut, instead of a bun, the brat is served with a German pretzel, which by itself is available as a beer-perfect snack.

Chicken nuggets? Forget that. Well 80 serves tender, tempura-battered Chicken Bites accompanied by roasted pineapple habanero dipping sauce.

Even the popcorn here is above the norm. Cleverly called "Pubcorn," the perfectly popped kernels are coated with tangy chili-lime salt.

Knudson says although the quality of ingredients and attention to detail is there, it's not about going gastropub-level gourmet.

"We're just trying to do things well, and be consistent with it," he explained humbly.

It's a formula that has been working since Well 80's opening last March. Knudson said a one-year anniversary celebration is planned for March 23.

WELL 80 BREWERY AND BREWPUB, 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m., Sunday-Thursday; 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m., Friday-Saturday, 514 Fourth Ave. E., Olympia,360.915.6653,

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