4026 30th St. (North Park)
Happy Hour: 11:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., daily
Come On Get Happy! | Dr. Ink
The subjects of cars and bars are intertwined at Toronado in North Park, which is named after the classic 1966 Oldsmobile coupe as well as the original Toronado craft beer bar in San Francisco.
Shortly before production of the vehicle made its last hurrah in 1992, beer aficionados up north were catching on to the micro-brewing scene and flocking to Toronado on Haight Street for their Chimay fixes. The bar, now 25 years old, remains a legend while taking on a second set of roots in San Diego.
Launched four years ago by a former employee of Toronado in San Francisco, the local incarnation features more than 50 craft beers on tap, all discounted at $1 off during daily happy hour. Most are regularly priced at $5.50, including Evil Dead Red by AleSmith Brewing Company, a limited-production brew that tends to come around for the Halloween season.
Perhaps it was because I started drinking this vivid-mahogany ale on an empty stomach that I became quickly woozy. Or maybe it was too early in the day to start dabbling in the suds. But by the time I was halfway through the glass, the beer’s 6.6 percent alcohol content had me feeling as though I had kicked back double the amount. As is the case with craft beer, you always get more bang for the buck, especially when the flavor is this smooth and finishes with an addicting semi-bitter snap.
The draft menu hangs prominently above the bar, an easy read without having to squint. Other standouts, had I not been driving, was Duchesse De Bourgogne, another red ale, but with tart and fruity notes that sells for only $8. I’m also a fan of Blind Pig IPA, Feeding Frenzy and Damnation, all of which were staring me in the face while exercising restraint. Pass the food menu, please.
A couple of skewers loaded with unctuous chili-spiced pork belly became the next best vice. The dish costs $6, priced considerably lower than what you will find at many restaurants around town that sling pork belly in smaller quantities. Actually, the entire food menu brims with good grub, such as charcuterie plates, gourmet burgers and assorted sausage sandwiches. It’s exactly the kind of food that belongs with sturdy beers.
A musician I rubbed elbows with at the bar summed up Toronado’s atmosphere aptly, saying that the high ceilings and wood tables remind him of a back-East establishment, with a solid feel and friendly folks running the joint. The only difference is that liquor and wine are not served. No big deal. Just connect with a flavorsome brew, throw a buck in the juke box and you won’t even notice.
Craft beer rules the day here. The selection covers all bases, with a rotating list of more than 50 beers on tap. A large number of bottles are also available.
The menu is authored by a professional chef and features a variety of burgers, sausages and skewers. The pork belly with spiced chili sauce and coleslaw was impressive.
Tap beers are $1 off during happy hour, a swell deal considering that they normally average $5.50. Also, on Mondays from 6 p.m. to closing, all local drafts are $3.
With dizzying beer choices, the bartender was quick to explain their characteristics and from where they originate. Food service was also speedy.
Instead of waiting for other happy hours to kick in late in the day, Toronado gives us an earlier start, catering to those of us who can handle midday drinking.