Thursday, January 2, 2014

Mekong is for Beer Lovers

We drove down to Mekong Restaurant in Richmond this week. The Vietnamese restaurant has been voted the Best Beer Bar in America for two years running. Proprietor An "Mekong" Bui's passion is craft beer and it shows in his restaurant, with the "Mekong is for beer lovers" and "Beer is the answer" slogans prominently displayed throughout.

The large draft selection is replete with hard-to-find beers. The crowded menu board behind the bar lists too many interesting beers to try in one short visit. We took a table in the dining room area and enjoyed a tasty Vietnamese dinner with our beer. The food menu is as extensive as the beer menu, though not being well-versed in the cuisine, I simply scanned for familiar ingredients, seasoned with enticing sauces. My shrimp and scallop dish with onions and a spicy oil was quite delicious. But, it was the beer that motivated the drive south.

Both Colleen and I opted for Gingerbread Stout from Hardywood Park Brewery. The pitch black Milk Stout has a mild, sweet vanilla and spice aroma. I found the aroma to be unexpectedly muted. The "gingerbread" did show itself in the flavor. The dark chocolate and roasted coffee flavored stout is enhanced with the tastes of gingerbread cookies; ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon, molasses. The spiced aspect is not overwhelming, but grows as you drink the beer. The finish is somewhat bitter and astringent.

Gingerbread Stout and Oak Aged Yeti.
Social media photo by Colleen.
Another Virginia brewery, Center of the Universe, was represented on the beer menu by a beer with the intriguing name of El Duderino White Russian Milk Stout. As I was contemplating ordering another beer, I went back to the bar area to see if I could find An. I wanted to say hello since we'd never met in person. As soon as I introduced myself, the affable An remarked that there was a beer I had to try. He poured me a glass of what I suspected was El Duderino, which he confirmed. I took the glass back to our table and shared it with our party.

El Duderino White Russian Milk Stout is an interesting beer, and we had a hard time describing it. It was as dark as you'd expect from a milk stout, but the flavor diverged from the expected. There was some sweetness, and there was a burnt coffee flavor that predominated. A little vanilla and a hint of booze came through in the finish. This jury is still out on El Duderino, perhaps a side-by-side comparison to a proper White Russian is in order.

It was fortuitous that Great Divide Oak Aged Yeti was also on the menu at Mekong. Last week I enjoyed a glass of Yeti at Capital Ale House and remarked at the time I'd like to enjoyed the barrel-aged versions again. While at Mekong, our friend Checkered Flag selected the Oak Aged Yeti, and I got to steal a few sips of that as well.

In a coincidence that will be appreciated by the shooters reading this, as I was releasing my inner teenager and "checking in" on Facebook, I learned that we were "600 feet" distant from Colonial Shooting Academy. I am not very familiar with Richmond, and while I'd heard about this gun store and range, I did not know exactly where it was located. We all had a laugh realizing how close we were. Had we known, and planned accordingly, we could have visited the range before dinner! I now know there's a shooting and beer-related field trip in our future.

Dinner finished, we headed out for our drive home (first driving past the aforementioned shooting range.) When we had arrived for our early dinner, there were just a few tables occupied in the restaurant. As we left, at the normal dinner hour, there was a line of people going out the door waiting to get in to Mekong. Even on a Monday evening, folks seem to be ready to find out that beer is the answer.


  1. Another restaurant that just opened, also has good beers at reasonable prices...for a restaurant.

    BOKA BOKA, on Starling, in Richmond.

  2. By the way, next time you come to Richmond, email me and I'll buy you a beer.

  3. Cargosquid, thanks for the tip, I'll check BOKA out sometime.

    We'll definitely try to catch up sometime.


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