Community and Comfort Food: Ed’s Mudville Grill, Clayton, California
A winner since its debut in the 1990s, Ed’s Mudville Grill couldn’t help being a San Francisco Bay Area success story. Following two years of planning and preparation by Ed Moresi and his wife Stephanie, the popular sports bar opened in Clayton, California in 1994. Ed Moresi, who had previously spent nearly 20 years at Skipolini’s Pizza, understood the restaurant business inside and out. And his wife Stephanie and their sons Dominic and Nicholas instinctively knew how to make their customers feel like they were part of their family — a tradition which continues today under the leadership of Dominic, who took over as general manager in June of 2007. (Baseball-loving Nicholas was signed the year before by the Houston Astros.)
A quarter of a century later, customers are still greeted warmly by wait staff as they step onto the old West-style boardwalk that rings the perimeter of the Mudville Grill and its adjacent businesses, and are ushered to indoor or outdoor tables, depending on individual diner preferences and seating availability. Patrons include kids popping in after school for fries and a coke, families sitting down for solid, healthy dinners or, later in the evenings, singles swinging by for nights out with their pals.
A large, diverse menu with appetizers ranging from Bavarian soft pretzels to calamari, macho nachos, and potato skins; chili burgers, onion rings, and other old-school sports bar standouts; brisket and pulled pork sandwiches from the grill’s smokehouse menu; and healthier fare such as salmon sandwiches, salads and turkey burgers, keeps customers coming back again and again — and again. Even soccer moms can depend on support — thanks to a “Little Leaguer’s” menu that serves up “Eddie Spaghetti,” grilled cheese, chicken strips, and tummy-warming mac ‘n’ cheese.
So, when The Contemplative Traveler©™ paid a visit to Ed’s Mudville Grill one recent afternoon, she wasn’t looking for mindful dining so much as relief from the relentless sun. Utterly parched, she opted for inside seating and immediately ordered a tall, cold glass of Stella Artois, a pale, Belgian beer which remains one of the most popular thirst quenchers worldwide since it was created by Sebastian Artois. A Brew Master with the Leuven Brewers’s Guild, Artois had presented the smooth, golden lager as a Christmas gift to his fellow Leuven residents during the early 1700s, christening it “Stella” (the Latin name for “star”).
Surrounded by large screen TVs while seated directly to the right of a small shrine to baseball great Joe DiMaggio (and increasingly refreshed by each sip of her Stella as she mulled over the grill’s surprisingly large number of appetizers and entrées), The Contemplative Traveler©™ quickly got into the sports bar spirit of her visit. Ordering from the menu’s Dawg Pound section , she selected the Giant Dawg, a half-pound, bacon-wrapped Wrigley-style hot dog, which came with grilled onions and peppers on the side, as well as fries. Thanks to the staff’s efficient food preparation and service, the dog presented the perfect, bite-after-bite snap, offering up a juicy inside with rich flavor amplified by the bacon, grilled onions, and peppers. And the fries had that “stadium fry” taste that makes even the heartiest of sports fans forget there’s a game in progress. But it was the amount of food, deceptively small on the large platter, which delivered the biggest surprise. Huge and rib-sticking, the portion sizes created the pleasant, “I’ll just linger over my comfort food, resting between bites while I watch the game” experience that truly is only ever found at a Cheers type of establishment where “everybody knows your name” and the owners and their staff are “always glad you came.
If You Go:
Ed’s Mudville Grill
6200 Center Street
Hours: Typically open daily by 11:00 a.m.
Cost: Appetizers range between $6 and $11; salads between $6 and $15; sandwiches between $8 and $13; and burgers and other entrées between $12 and $16.