In these recessionary times, it’s great to see new places open–we all need to get out once in a while.
Paon opens in Carlsbad. It features California French cuisine and a well-stocked wine bar in a luscious setting. The people behind this venture include Steve Barr and chef David Gallardo, both of the award winning Winesellar & Brasserie. Buzz hopes to get a peek very soon.
Small Bar, just opened in University Heights. The same owner as Hamilton’s Tavern in South Park thought a grown-up bar in the area–no over-the-top weird cocktails, just 40 beers on tap and a full bar for those who might want a Manhattan–would be fitting for the neighborhood. Bar food includes Hamiltonesque burgers and more. The website isn’t quite up and running but it’s at 4628 Park Ave., open daily from noon (10am on Sunday) til 2am. 619-795-7998.
Little Italy is one quintessential neighborhood with a unique mix of retail, residential and restaurants, all within walking distance of each other. The heart of this bustling area supports pizzas, empanadas, sushi and a corner pub, Princess Pub & Grille.
Lots of outdoor seating makes for good people watching as throngs of tourists and locals walk their dogs and kids along the street, especially on weekends. The Princess website boasts that it is the original British pub in San Diego, having opened in 1984. Inside you’ll find a large bar with comfortable chairs, lots of pub “stuff” on the walls for décor, and a lot of noise especially with the music turned up and people talking over it. It’s a happening place with a good vibe. Their menu while featuring fish and chips and bangers deviates to also include such things as baby back ribs and blackened Pacific salmon Caesar salad with Parmesan, not exactly my idea of authentic English pub grub. But as my sidekick remarked, they cater to a broader clientele given the location.
We ordered fish and chips and determined the chips, while thickly cut, were too soft and less flavorful than Shakespeare Pub & Grille in lower Mission Hills. For me, the fish batter also could have been crisper. The side of curry sauce for the chips is long on hot chile in the mouth, and reminds me of chile rather than a distinct curry. A meal of chips and curry is $6.50. I did like the Scotch egg as it was served warm, wrapped with flavorful sausage meat, cut in half and served with Branston pickles (a a finely chopped crunchy chutney of carrots and other vegetables flavored with vinegar, onion powder and lemon juice). 1665 India Street, Little Italy, 619-702-3021, www.princesspub.com.
One of my favorites for authentic pub experience, is Shakespeare Pub & Grille, located upstairs among the mini collection of restaurants on India and Washington Streets that include Mexican, Japanese, Thai, Middle Eastern and a wine bar and bistro. This very English pub sports dark wood tavern décor, wrapped with windows and simple wood tables. Out on the umbrellaed wood deck, my pub crawling pal and I sat on green plastic patio chairs and noted the dull roar of the I-5. The noise isn’t bothersome–consider it a version of white sound and inside seating can be noisy.
The menu includes shepherd’s pie (a melange of ground beef, vegetables topped with mashed potatoes and cheese), fish and chips (homemade), a few sandwiches, roast beef and bangers and mash (that would be potatoes and peas), among other things, none of which will bust your budget. Tap and bottled beers along with a full bar, make this venue a good hangout on a hot afternoon.
English chips typically are thick, not the skinny, limp wisps we call fries here in the states. At Shakespeare, those chips are long, crisp, thick and fleshy, and a meal at $4.95. Curry sauce can be ordered separately for $1.50 and must be something the English picked up when they owned India. This mildly spicy dipping sauce comes in a bowl and is a nice change from the usual catsup or malt vinegar. Scotch eggs are served hot or cold, and our server said typically they are cold. Now I happen to like cold sausage, but if you don’t, order it warm, as the sausage is wrapped around the hardboiled egg. Branston pickles with the quartered egg and sausage make a good mouthful. My half pint of black and tan (Bass and Guiness) washed it all down quite nicely. 3701 India Street, Lower Mission Hills, 619-299-0230, www.shakespearepub.com.