My interview series with brewmasters not only provides insight about the people who make some of the best beer; the producers have also been known to impart great advice on where to drink (and eat). My interview with Stone brewing co-founder Greg Koch yielded a recommendation for Neighborhood, a cool gastropub near PETCO Park in San Diego’s Gaslamp Quarter that features a great beer list and compelling pub fare.
Arsalun Tafazoli opened Neighborhood in July 2007 in the corner of a mixed use development. My favorite design element was a tile mural of the San Diego skyline that lines the south wall. You’ll also find a Van Gogh-like painting of a man eating a burger, and paintings of Jimi Hendrix and Jesus (not together) above the POS. Seating consists of a wood bar, tables, banquettes with BEER stitched into the backing and an outdoor patio.
Neighborhood also features two great mottos, each better than the last. “Promote Intelligent Consumption” appears on the menu, and “Good Friends. Great Enemies” graced the blackboard during our visit. The owner clearly has a good sense of humor (but a better mustache).
If beer isn’t your thing, Neighborhood also brews Stumptown coffee and features two Lost Cocktails, The Rye Mule and The Elderflower Collins. Any more than two cocktails and they’d “risk a flawed attempt.”
Fennel frites ($7) definitely reminded me of a Bloomin’ Onion (not that I’ve eaten one since college). Still, the strips of nearly caramelized fennel tasted very good with the addition of fennel pollen, white balsamic syrup and a thin sheathe of crispy, tempura-like batter that probably shed a little too easily. The “frites” had enough flavor that the accompanying garlic aioli was unnecessary. However, at Neighborhood, seemingly every dish requires a dipping sauce.
Since we expressed interest in the long sauce list, our waitress also brought out dishes of sun-dried tomato puree, mustard seed aioli and Cajun aioli. The mustard seed aioli played best with the fennel.
The Neighborhood Burger ($10) was clearly “inspired by” the Father’s Office burger, with caramelized onion, blue cheese, Gruyere and pepper greens. The bread at Neighborhood is actually better, a toasted ciabatta with plenty of give, instead of a standard issue baguette. However, since Neighborhood isn’t a chef driven restaurant, the balance was out of whack, with clusters of blue cheese at one end and no blue cheese at the other. Neighborhood’s burger was also missing an oh-so-key element: bacon. Still, the rosy meat and accompaniments contributed to an above average burger.
Neighborhood’s original creation was more rewarding, a Spicy Cajun Rubbed Burger ($10) with pickled relish, onion, julienne cucumber salad and jalapeno mayo that left lingering heat and seeped into the toasted ciabatta.
For only $3 extra, we scored sweet potato fries treated with peppered malt vinaigrette and crumbles of Shaft’s pungent Gold Mine blue cheese. The fries could have been crisper, with more caramelization, but the accompaniments helped.
The food was all solid, and the beer list even better, but we seem to have mistimed our visit. At lunch, the menu is limited. Neighborhood’s dinner menu was more ambitious, with Pink Salted Deviled Eggs with artichoke mousse and paprika dust, Steamed Pork Buns with soy-apple cider vinegar braised, Stone Smoked Porter braised beef ribs with jalapeno mac and cheese and a beet burger with spinach and Swiss. We weren’t necessarily looking for an excuse to return to Neighborhood, but we found one with the dinner menu.