Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Operation Athens, Georgia: Meet Catch 22's Richard Miley

From craft brews to delectable fare, Richard and his Catch 22 gastropub are no joke! 

As many of you know, I love to get my travel on both domestically and abroad as much as possible to do (a-hem!) beer research and inform you on the hot spots to hit up. Oddly enough, I never really got a chance to explore Athens, Georgia, as much as I wanted to and it’s like an hour away from my digs in Atlanta! Well the time has come and man did I have a ball! All of the beer-centric spots that I could visit in Athens showed me much love and I honestly can’t wait to go back.
Before I headed to the home of the Georgia Bulldogs, I asked my homey Dustin with Terrapin Beer Co. (which is based in Athens) for his suggestions during their special media night at The Fred, and the first spot he said I couldn't miss was the Catch 22 gastropub just a few minutes outside of the city. My man Dust said the food was phenomenal and their beer selection was on point. “Say no more,” I responded, packed my camera, and headed there the next day right before they opened.
Catch 22 was tucked away at the end of a shopping center just off Parkway Boulevard. Richard Miley, the owner and head chef, was a tall dude probably in his late 20s decked out in a black Dickies shirt and matching shorts, baseball hat, tattooed arm sleeves, and a full beard. I knew right away we would get along when he greeted me at the door. After exchanging a pound (handshake), he showed off the chic bar, polished wooden high tables; his collection of shelved hard-to-find beer bottles; large photos of brew-related scenes adorning the walls; his kitchen which he boasts possesses no microwave and a freezer solely for ice cream; and taps for both wine and craft beer. After introducing me to his smiling staff including Chef Dan Cora, he hoped I was hungry because they were about to stuff my face to the point of crying for mercy. I happily obliged.
Once we sat down, Richard—who delivers a soft spoken, yet serious demeanor fused with a vibe of cool—gave Dan a nod to bring out some of Catch’s signature dishes, we poured a bottle of Terrapin and Cigar City’s Southern Slice lager collaboration, and we got to talking about his history in the culinary industry, the Athens beer scene, upcoming events, and his plans for the future. I am only going to show pictures of the absolutely phenomenal food served during each question because describing it would not do it justice. Read on.

Ale: Where are you from and what brought you into the beer scene particularly in Athens, Georgia?
Richard Miley: Originally, California. I lived all over the place including Hawaii, Arizona, Florida, North Carolina, and Afghanistan. I’m a former Marine and visited Georgia before I moved out here. Loved it! Chops &Hops brought me to Athens and the beer scene kinda found me. Hanging with the crews from Five Points Bottle Shop, Trappeze, Aromas, Terrapin, and Owen Ogletree with Brewtopia when we first opened Chops. They taught me a lot about beer, the scene in Athens, and beyond. I really wanted to help me step up my food and beer side so this was perfect.  

Nice! Those are all my homies too. Talk to more about opening Chops and now Catch 22, the differences with each spot.
Filthy Fries with beer cheese, 
confit garlic, and bacon.
Chops has been open for four years now and it’s a craft beer-centric steakhouse in Watkinsville, Georgia. Then I wanted to help the craft beer scene around the Athens area which is what happened with Catch 22. This allows me to be myself and express what I want in a restaurant. Plus, it’s for people who don't want to drive to Watkinsville for my food; Catch 22 is closer to Athens so everybody can visit. There’s nothing close to the same menu at either spot, but the quality is always the same with me. People understand what I create food-wise and get excited about coming to this new spot.

And the brews? I am already digging your selection.
Yep! I try to put out the beers that are a little more craft. If there is a limited supply, I want some of it. We have 24 on draft and they are all rotating. No domestics [cheap-ass adjunct macrobrews]. That’s a different clientele.

Word! So in your own words, define what a gastropub is and what makes Catch 22 so different.
Awesome Street Tacos. Today was lamb with the works.
To me a gastropub is where you can go get quality food, beer and wine; it’s the better bar food with an emphasis on quality. I like people who know about good food, beer and wine; the ones who know about quality and what it costs to have it, which I don't charge for. That frozen patty shit is not right. This is fresh and you can tell the difference for the same price. We don't have a freezer or microwave in Catch 22, nor am I going to get one. My pastry chef wants a small one for ice cream, but I’m pretty sure that is not going to happen.
My business partners came up with the name Catch 22 and I created the concept based on what I thought the area needed. It’s like sitting in a downtown Atlanta joint but without the downtown prices.

I hear ya. Well there is one thing, your awesome $22 Burger, but I know why. It’s that gangster! Talk about that.
The $22 Burger. Crazy!
Ha! Thanks Ale. The $22 burger in my opinion is the best burger in Athens and top 5 in Georgia. I’m that confident in it. It has Dijon, arugula, special grind ground beef, Marissa cheese which is specifically a cave-aged sheep’s milk cheese, bacon mayo, and foie gras on our housemade popcorn bun. It is a thing of beauty. I don't get excited about my food a lot but this one is one of them that does it. Every time somebody orders one, it’s awesome.

It’s absolutely bananas. I think your rank is right on. Let’s talk more about the Athens beer scene.
Flights are served on slate art palates. Dopeness.
Absolutely. I love the Athens beer scene. Every year it just gets better. This year, two breweries are opening up in Athens—CreatureComforts and my boys at Southern Brewing Company. Both are gonna be good for Athens. Maybe we’re trying to be as good as Ashville one day in the future with the growing vibe of this town. Five Points Bottle Shop, Trappeze Pub, Aromas, Volstead—an upcoming Georgia Brewery-only restaurant—Royal Peasant, Five Bar, and Last Resort [Grill] to name a few are some of my favorite places to go eat. 

We are going to have to check those out! So what are your upcoming events?
The Mac & Cheese with a
Cheese Nips coating. Whoa.
Let’s see, on February 13 we have a special Terrapin Mosiac Cask; on March 1st is the Ramen Noodle Cookoff in town at CINÉ with a few other restaurants; a secret date for a bottle share at Catch 22 that you and I are working on [Word!]; the Classic City Brewfest on April 13th; and on April 16 is our Terrapin/New Belgium Beer Dinner featuring more than a dozen beers and five courses at Catch 22. There are a couple more events in planning for this year, plus maybe another restaurant in the next few years. I might take this one to Nashville, Greenville or Charlotte.  

All of those cities are blowing up in the beer world so I feel you on that. As for our bottle share, it’s going to be crazy! Okay, let’s close with what you think are the best beers you’ve had in the last few months.
So far this year, the Terrapin Cinnamon Roll'd Wake N' Bake and Cigar City’s Life is Like... 

Good calls! Okay, let’s do the shameless plug and get back to sippin’ and grubbin’.
Cool. Okay Cruisin’ For A Brewsin’, follow us on Facebook at Catch22 Gastropub and Twitter at @catch22gp. Things are always getting changed on the menu so I try to keep social media updated with what is going on.

No doubt! Now let’s get our sip on!
Bet!

Honestly, Catch 22 has the most inventive and delectable fare I have ever had at a gastropub. From the creamy Mac & Cheese topped with a coating of Cheese Nips to decadent desserts direct from a pastry chef, you simply have to come here throw down. Of course, the beer is top notch as well often served on art palate-shaped slates for folks write what they want in chalk (see above). Dope! Plain and simple, go here. (1021 Parkway Boulevard, Athens, GA)

Stay tuned as Rich and I do some more Cruisin’ For A Brewsin’ in Athens hitting up Five Points Bottle Shop and Aromas. Plus, I get a sneak peek of Creature Comforts’ brand new brewery, sip one with Owen Ogletree and the Beer Wench at Copper Creek, and kick it with the Terrapin Beer Co. to judge their new employee brewing challenge!

Cheers!
Ale

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