By Dr. Ink
I’ve been saying for a year now that San Diego’s next up-and-coming neighborhood for drinking and dining will be Bankers Hill. With its surge of luxury-housing projects going up — a few of them designating spaces for restaurants — we could soon see an upscale version of North Park materialize.
The Corner Drafthouse, which opened midsummer at the advantageous intersection of Laurel Street and Fifth Avenue, breathes new energy into the area. It sits in the shadow of what everyone calls “The Mr. A’s Building,” a 12-story office structure famous for its penthouse restaurant (Mister A’s) that might also take in one or two restaurant vendors on its remodeled ground floor.
I first took a seat at Drafthouse’s roomy, curved bar. The bartender greeted me with a warm handshake, a rare gesture these days. Behind him was an impressive row of 70 beer taps, although only a dozen or so are $2 off their regular prices during happy hour. They’re earmarked by black dots on the paper menu.
The same price break applies to wine and “libations,” which include everything from blood orange margaritas and apple cider mules to prickly pear martinis and strawberry-basil mojitos. Tempting, but even with the discount, not cheap, considering they normally average $11 a drink.
A strong blonde ale by Escondido’s Latitude 33 caught my eye instead. Known as “honey hips,” it sports a formidable kick at 8.3 percent alcohol. Just as I had hoped, a whisper of honey lingered on the finish after hitting the palate with the flavors of orange peel and apple. Indeed, the booze factor is dangerously camouflaged as you drink it.
I eventually moved to a ledge seat at an open window looking out to the street while delving into an order of hot, buttery “pretzel bites” served with beer cheese and whole grain mustard.
The pretzels were round, the size of golf balls, and with just the right amount of rock salt clinging to them. With nine to an order, I easily polished them off given how well they paired to my new blonde friend with the sweet, sassy hips.
Appetizers are also $2 off during happy hour, except for the ceviche tacos and ahi tuna poke. And because this is Bankers Hill, it isn’t the cheapest happy hour in town, but the crafty design of the place and its corner-lot setting make it easy to forget about the extra money you’re spending.