On one of those handful of dreary, chilly, misty days that we get each year in our beautiful County of San Diego, it can be awfully tempting to wait out the inclement weather by curling under a blanket with hot brewed tea and a bowl of microwave chili to binge watch the latest, greatest cable series. Wait…does that make me sound like a girly man?
Instead we headed out to the Strand in Oceanside and did some Land SUP. Being out on a rainy day is a great way to enjoy the best of Southern California without the crowds!
We made a quick stop at one of Oceanside’s new favorite neighborhood hangouts after landsurfing. Local Taphouse & Kitchen, capably captained by Chef Daniel Pundik gave us the opportunity to re-fuel with the house BLT Bloody Mary. There’s really just nothing like Brunch in a Glass!
Last December while visiting family in the South, we drove from Houma, Louisiana to Ft. Walton Beach, Florida — usually about a 5 hour drive on I-10. Since it was a foodie excursion, we took the coastal route which is about 7 hours, had breakfast in New Orleans, late morning snacks in Biloxi, Mississippi, lunch in Mobile, Alabama and dinner in Destin, Florida — about a 12 hour day with four meals in four separate states. The day started off overcast, muggy and about 70 degrees in Louisiana in the morning. It was just about exactly the same in Florida that evening. That’s Gulf Coast weather for you.
The great thing about San Diego and our microclimates is that you can drive about 15-30 minutes in any direction and be in a whole new scene. So, we headed out of the gloom down the freeway to our fair city of San Diego proper and, voila, we discovered blue skies!
Other than the rain, is there any reason we might we venture so far south? Well, we’ve been hearing great things about this place, The Lion’s Share, with Executive Chef Mark Bolton at the helm, and we thought we might as well get the lowdown for our North County readers.
The Lion’s Share is a very cool little gastropub with the feel of a speakeasy. Some have referred to a “dive bar” feel, but I would disagree. This place is dark, yes, but it is also clean and airy feeling with the open front door visible from most points of the interior. It has a laid back crowd, unexpected at a place just a few blocks from the heart of downtown. This is a very comfortable place to hang out in — just the right amount of busy without any sign of franticness and a steady, light buzz of energy, activity and conversation. The absolute lack of any hint of pretentiousness, superiority or snobbery here is a revelation. Even on a Friday night, there always seemed to be a table available for walk-ins. Quick note: Street parking was a challenge, but parking is available at Seaport Village or valet is available at The Headquarters a half block away, allowing you to enjoy a short walk.
We were there for the cocktails as much as the food — maybe more than the food. The True Blood, pictured on the right and one of the house specials is a refreshing concoction of Pimm’s, lime and fresh, pressed raspberries. All of the flavors worked well together, each giving the others a nudge trying to establish leadership.
I’ve been on this thing lately where I test all new bars by finding out if they can do a true classic Whiskey Sour or Ramos Gin Fizz. It’s a dirty trick, I admit, because each requires raw egg white and a lot of shaking. The Ramos Gin Fizz, for instance, takes about 15 minutes to make properly, the last 12 of them being shaking. Henry Ramos, the inventor of this drink, had to hire a stable of “Shaker Boys” who would stand in line and shake each drink for a few minutes and then pass it down the line.
Suffice it to say the Whiskey Sour pictured here was a great precursor of the evening to follow.
Heading up the food offerings of the evening were the deviled eggs. Does everyone love deviled eggs? Is it genetic? In any case, each presentation, Espellette, Tobiko Caviar, Prosciutto and Truffle (our personal favorite) and the Quail Confit, brought its own unique character of flavor and texture to bear.
Wild Boar Poutine — What is it about crispy fried potatoes, savory meat, white cheddar cheese all bound together by gravy that make a person’s knees weak? This dish should be mandatory pub food worldwide.
Our third starter of Rabbit Sausage could have been served on a plate, alone, and been a solo superstar. But, it also shone in the midst of house made mustard, a perfect medley of pickled onions and vegetables and a sourdough crostini grilled with olive oil and a sprinkle of salt (so good!).
By this time, I was ready for round two. Little did I know that our server Brandon considered it a personal challenge to show me the best that his bar could perform by interpreting my Whisky Sour order as an egg white showdown. Enter the Pepperdine. A Tequila based cocktail with a smoky, Mezcal fueled kick and creamy egg white induced texture, this tincture of pepper infused drink signaled that all previous offerings of the evening were foreplay. The games were about to begin.
This pretty cool picture greets you on the way to the restrooms!
When I say “Hand Pie”, think Empanada. However, the pastry on this Rabbit Hand Pie is the kind of light, buttery, flaky crust that you thought your Mom used to make until you discovered the pre-packaged pie crust under the Totino’s pizza in the freezer. The savory, melt in your mouth pie was seriously enhanced by the carrot puree and pickled onions. These served their purpose of rounding out the complete bite as deconstructed elements of the rabbit stew filling that were both necessary and welcome on the plate.
Pepperdine? Pepperdine Who? Brandon’s next suggestion of the evening for me was once again an egg white drink. This one was juniper based, with gin, Cynar and lemon. It was herbaceous and had just the right amount of bitterness, which acted as a type of tongue brush to cleanse the palate for the next course.
…there is no known universe, no conceivable notion, no level of existence, no legend, no rumor, no fairy tale nor children’s fable that would ever have me walking out of any joint that serves chicken fried quail without ordering it. Honestly, I’m not that into the whole sweet and savory thing, so the waffle and syrup had the potential to be major deterrents, but… (Please refer to the beginning of this paragraph).
It may have been an adverse reaction to the egg whites that had me slow on the uptake, but it was at this point in the meal that I realized that each ingredient Chef Mark has decided to include on a plating has a purpose. In this dish, the mustard maple syrup elevated both quail and the entire sweet and savory genre of food preparation to a level not previously thought to have existed. But, it was the simple watercress salad with a vinaigrette dressing that pierced the sweetness of the dish and provided an intermission between bites so that each successive mouthful felt again like the first.
Once again, I was served an egg based cocktail. This dessert cocktail Brandon had ready almost before I could order the fresh strawberry, waffle bread pudding with house made cherry whip cream that stands up like butter and has chocolate shavings on top. The house bread pudding here changes almost weekly as chef infuses whatever ingredients are freshest.
But, back to the missing cocktail. Yeah, I forgot to take a picture — flog me. I am deeply chagrined, especially since this drink was an exploding supernova amongst a night filled with stars. Branded the New York flip, this drink has a whole egg (that’s what flip means in bartender speak) shaken with tawny port, rye whiskey and nutmeg. The end result is a drink that tastes like the rare unicorn-like offspring of egg nog and a chocolate martini — creamy, rich, decadent and fulfilling.
The light sweetness of this drink offset by the bitterness of the nutmeg combined with the bite of the whiskey and the rich creaminess of the whole egg made me wish I were home, curled under a blanket, with THIS drink, binge watching the latest, greatest cable series.
Here’s the Rundown on The Lion’s Share:
Located just out of the Gaslamp district and off Coast Hwy, this small pub is in an easily accessible location. Parking can be a challenge, but it’s downtown San Diego, so no surprises there. Budget $10-$20 for pay or valet parking and allow a few minutes for an easy walk. Once inside, it’s a cozy establishment, clean, with a great speakeasy feel.
This place is on my list to hit up again. The food was elevated pub fare, deserving of being discussed on its own merit. Drinks, well, they outdid the food. Service was topnotch, enthusiastic and anticipatory.
All plates were shareable. Depending on your appetite, expect $15-$30 per person for food and $10-$12 per cocktail. There is a lot of competition in this area and The Lion’s Share has something special going on here with their cool local vibe, welcoming atmosphere and plenty of great food and drink to keep you interested.
Cheers, my friends!
The Lion’s Share
629 Kettner Blvd, San Diego, CA 92101