By Vickie Lewis
If you’re not familiar with the sport of Rugby, you may not recognize that “Up and Under” is actually the name of a rugby play. In fact, in rugby, “up and under” is a tactical move in which the ball is kicked toward the opponent’s goal line high enough to allow the kicking side to rush after it and be underneath it when it comes down. If the name didn’t tip you off, step inside and you will soon recognize the rugby theme. You’ll be immersed in rugby memorabilia–rugby lighting, rugby jerseys, pictures of rugby teams, and even menu items named after rugby positions. Collectively, these items substantiate why Up and Under Pub and Grill is known as the “First Proper Rugby Pub” in North America.
So, why Rugby? When I asked this of owner, Nathan Trivers, his initial response was “Why not?” But I soon learned the reason that he chose this unique theme for this venue which he and his wife, Nikki Villa Trivers, opened in Point Richmond over six years ago. Nathan developed a love of rugby years ago while attending high school in the Sacramento area. He began attending practices and embraced the sport, and ultimately played rugby for nearly 20 years all over the world. His rugby experience and love of the sport became part of his being. Another important facet of Nathan’s life was his love of the food services industry. He worked in and around restaurant businesses for years, performing nearly every job imaginable. He always knew that he wanted to open his own place, and had a desire to combine his two passions—rugby and food. His dream became a reality with the opening of the Up and Under Pub and Grill, a unique establishment that has brought the community of Richmond together.
The location at the corner of West Richmond and Railroad Avenues in Point Richmond required two years of restoration before Up and Under Pub and Grill opened its doors. The century-old building has a long history in the Point, having housed numerous saloons and restaurants, as well as a serving as a rooming house and a brothel. The wedge-shaped building, formerly gray, but now painted a deep red color with black and green trim, is hard to miss. The main entry is a large, heavy wooden door, rounded at the top, with a large porthole inset. A large barrel-shaped meat smoker, used daily to smoke the meats served at Up and Under, sits outside the main entrance against the right wall of the building. As you enter the dark-ish interior of the Pub, a long copper-topped bar with seating for twelve extends beyond the middle of the main dining area. Lighting is provided by a twelve-arm brass chandelier hanging in the center of the gleaming pressed-copper ceiling. Lighted wall sconces adorn the walls, and hanging above the bar are light fixtures crafted from re-sewn rugby balls. There is also a beautiful backlit redwood burl “valance” that extends across the top of the bar area, along with two mounted flat-screen TV’s, primarily for sports viewing. The room has brick and wood paneled walls, heavy wood molding, and a wooden floor. Seating consists of 8 booths, and two four-top tables in the main dining area, all wrought from thick redwood slabs. Eight additional tables provide quieter seating toward the back of the Pub, and there is also outdoor seating along the Railroad Avenue side of the building.
My guest and I visited Up and Under on a Monday mid-afternoon. There were numerous patrons at the bar and several sitting outside, and only a few others in the dining area. We were seated and given menus by an upbeat and gracious host named Rob. As we reviewed the available selections, our server, Ali, stopped by to let us know that it was “Happy Hour” and provided us with a second, smaller menu featuring happy hour appetizer selections. The six appetizers on the Happy Hour menu are available every day from 3:00 – 6:00 PM; however, we did not learn whether any of their bar drinks were also discounted during happy hour. The main menu lists Appetizers, Soups and Salads, Sandwiches, Burgers, and Large Plates ranging from $8 to $26. There are also separate listings for Sides and a Kid’s Menu. We immediately noticed that the names of some of the selections seemed quite unusual; for example, sandwiches named “The Hooker”, “The Dirty Hooker”, and “The Wet Frenchman”. There are also burgers named “The Crash” and “The Loop”, and large plates named “The Sin-Bin” and “The Multi Grubber.” We subsequently learned that the names of the menu selections are rugby positions or moves. When Ali returned, we ordered the “Mini Sliders” from the Happy Hour Menu, and each of us also ordered a sandwich—I ordered the daily special, which was Chicken Caprese, and my guest ordered the Wet Frenchman. I chose waffle fries for my side, and my guest opted to try the coleslaw.
The Mini-Sliders arrived first—two mini ground-beef patties topped with Swiss cheese, Siracha catsup, and a pickle, nestled between two generous rectangular wedges of bread, which appeared to be sections cut from a larger roll. The flavor of the meat was very good, but we found the bread to be excessive, although it was very fresh and soft. The Siracha catsup also gave the small bites a slightly spicy flavor. Our sandwiches arrived soon thereafter, and I was pleased with the mound of thick-cut waffle fries that accompanied mine. (Sandwiches typically are served with regular French fries, and waffle fries are available for an upcharge of $3; however, that day, Up and Under was out of French fries, so the waffle fries were available for no extra charge.) The Chicken Caprese sandwich consisted of a thin, pounded chicken breast cooked in a balsamic reduction and was topped with mozzarella cheese, tomato slices, and basil. It was served on a soft sweet French roll. The Wet Frenchman was also served on a soft French roll, and consisted of house-smoked sliced beef brisket, sautéed mushrooms and horseradish cream, and was served with a side of au jus. A bowl of fresh coleslaw was served on the platter with the sandwich.
My guest and I ate one half of each sandwich and also shared the sides. Of the two sandwiches, we both preferred the Chicken Caprese, as the balsamic reduction gave the sandwich a great flavor. Although the chicken breast was very thin, it was tender and easy to bite into so that all flavors could be savored together. The thick waffle fries were crisp outside, but soft inside and were very hearty and enjoyable. The chicken portion could have been a bit more generous, as there seemed to be more bread than sandwich filling. Similarly, the amount of beef brisket on the Wet Frenchman was very thinly sliced and was rather sparse, such that the bread seemed excessive. The creamy horseradish provided good flavor but my guest and I agreed that it could have used a bit more. The au jus was a good accompaniment, and was not salty like some tend to be. The coleslaw was fresh and crisp, with a mild flavor—not too sweet or vinegary—and the generous portion was a nice sandwich accompaniment.
When we’d finished our meals, Ali brought us dessert menus, and told us about some of her favorite choices. I decided to order the Chef’s Special, which was Bread Pudding topped with a caramel sauce and a scoop of homemade vanilla ice cream. My guest chose the Seasonal Peach Cobbler, which was served warm with sliced peaches at the bottom, topped with a freshly made puff pastry and a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Both were beautifully presented, were large enough to have been shared, and neither was excessively sweet. The puff pastry on the cobbler was light and flaky and completely covered the warm peach slices. The thick bread pudding had a good flavor and was filled with sweet currants; however, I found it to be a bit less moist than I prefer, in spite of the caramel drizzle.
Up and Under Pub and Grill has a casual and fun atmosphere with lots of visual stimulation, plenty of drink and menu choices, and a friendly and helpful wait staff. At capacity, the noise level gets pretty loud, especially if there is a popular sports event being televised. I initially visited Up and Under during one of the Warrior’s Championship games, and there was standing room only and the fans were cheering wildly. But during non-peak times, you can enjoy a relatively quiet, leisurely meal in a trendy, upbeat neighborhood establishment. You can walk around and check out the collection of local and international rugby jerseys, photographs, and artwork that cover nearly every square inch of wall space. Don’t miss the non-rugby themed, eclectic décor, such the life-size Sphinx, carved eagles, and what appears to be a huge diving helmet right inside the front entrance. Finally, take a moment to enjoy the colorful mural of Point Richmond that brightens the back wall.
Up and Under is open seven days a week for lunch and dinner. On Saturday and Sunday, they open one hour earlier to serve breakfast. The bar remains open daily for at least an hour after the kitchen closes. The Pub has a private banquet room upstairs (known as the “Up and Up”) that is available for any special occasion, which can accommodate approximately 55 guests depending on the table configuration. They also offer catering services from 20 – 1,000 people and gladly customize the catering menus to meet customers’ needs. Those interested in reserving the banquet room or contracting catering services should contact the Pub for more details.
Finally, if you’re really hungry and have a daring spirit, Up and Under offers you the opportunity to take the “Scrum Burger Challenge.” Six of their heartiest sandwiches and burgers are prepared and stacked one upon another, topped with a fried egg and waffle fries, and served with a side of Chili Cheese Fries—together, a $65 value. The challenge is to consume the “Scrum Burger” and Chili Cheese Fries within 45 minutes (no sharing) and the meal will be free! Success earns you a free T-Shirt and your picture on the Wall of Fame. Only two weeks before our visit, one female patron took the challenge and finished in just 22 minutes! Can you beat that? I know I certainly could not! But here’s my challenge to you—check out Up and Under Pub and Grill for some good food and drink in a unique, friendly venue in historic Point Richmond. You might just become a regular “Grubber”! Enjoy!