Andy Hinds | Parenting
Waypoint Public, on 30th Street and North Park Way—the space that used to be The Linkery—had its “soft opening” on October 15th.
I haven’t had a chance to stop in yet, although I drive by it, peering longingly through its glass-paneled garage doors several times a week as I shuttle my kids between home and preschool. By the time this column is published, though, I will have attended their swanky grand-opening party on the 21st (being a pretend journalist has its benefits) and hopefully substantiated the high expectations I have for North Park’s latest beer-centric eatery. So this is a bit of a disclaimer: a lot of the nice things I’m going to say about this “neighborhood bistro and beer bar” (as the press release calls it) are hypothetical. Let’s just say I have a good feeling about it.
The Waypoint team has impressive credentials. John Pani, an Uptown local who lives with his family in Kensington, is a 12-year veteran of the San Diego hospitality industry. Brian Jensen, who runs the beverage program at Waypoint, is the owner of the Bottlecraft beer shops in Little Italy and North Park and a guy who blows my mind every time I ask him to explain what exactly is in the pretty bottle I picked out of his massive selection of brews. The executive chef, Amanda Baumgarten, has worked and trained in four different Michelin-starred restaurants, appeared on Bravo’s Top Chef, and opened Herringbone in La Jolla, among many other accomplishments. The Waypoint menu does her credentials justice. Check out the description of the “Po’ Boy’s Tacos”: “Fried oysters, french fries, jicama & jalapeño Slaw, aioli & smoked tomatillo salsa.” You might want to dab that drool off of your chin.
But let’s be honest, parents—the reason you and I are stoked about this restaurant opening is that it’s yet another place we can take our children and enjoy an adult beverage or two with the blessing of the staff, and, one hopes, the tolerance and patience of any child-free patrons. With a 30-tap system focused on West Coast craft brews and over 300 different bottled beers in stock, there should be no shortage of options for thirsty grown-ups; and a designated “kids area” offers books, games, and a forgiving floor surface for children who don’t want to sit around listening to the old people say words like “hoppy” in a context that makes no sense to them. Back on the fun side of the restaurant, there’s also wine, if you’re into that kind of thing.
I talked to John Pani about why being kid friendly was an essential element of Waypoint Public’s mission. First of all, John is the father of three youngsters, aged six, four and two; and despite conventional wisdom suggesting otherwise, parents don’t automatically start craving Chuck E. Cheese as soon as the kids are born. John takes his kids to Station Tavern, Blind Lady Ale House and other kid-friendly Uptown establishments just like you and I do. And, being that he’s a hospitality pro, I wasn’t surprised to learn that he had noticed these places are almost always packed with customers.
“We’re trying to hit the trifecta,” John told me, citing the Waypoint team’s expertise in food and beer, as well as their determination to appeal to the neighborhood demographic, which includes a growing number of young families. “These urban neighborhoods are becoming so much more family-friendly. People are saying, ‘Hey, I’m staying here—I’m not going to the suburbs.’ I think there’s an opportunity to address that market. And we’re trying to hit that right on the nose.”
John feels like Uptown parents are likely to be tapped into (so to speak) the fun stuff happening in their neighborhoods. Like, for instance, the explosion of craft brew purveyors.
“Just because I have kids,” he said, “doesn’t mean I don’t want to go have a couple craft beers.”
Unprompted, he mentions some negative comments about bars that welcome kids and the parents who bring their kids to bars. This appeared to be in response to an article about Waypoint Public on Eater.com, and I had been planning on asking him about that very thing. John was preaching to the choir—or possibly another preacher—when he said, “There are certain kinds of bars where it is absolutely inappropriate to bring kids … but that’s not our market; that’s not who we’re trying to be. Just because we serve good beer doesn’t mean children shouldn’t be around. That seems…” I finished his sentence: “Puritanical?” He liked my choice of words.
I’ve heard, read and participated in arguments about bringing kids to bars ever since mine were born. The only part of the anti-kids-at-bars argument that I can see some validity in is from folks who just want to drink in peace without being disturbed by rowdy rugrats. But even to them I would say, there are plenty of places where kids aren’t welcome: go there if kids get on your nerves. We parents don’t have so many choices. Or, wait until, say, 8:30 p.m., when most of the families will have cleared out.
To the moralists who think that kids should not be around adults who are drinking alcohol in a (gasp!) bar, I would point out that many, if not most, family restaurants serve booze. They may not attract aficionados of the precious malted beverages the way places like Waypoint Public do, but I think you’ll find that parents won’t drink any less responsibly at a place where there is good beer than they would at a chain restaurant that serves ice-cold swill. The fact that there are 30 taps doesn’t mean that we will drink 30 beers—at least not in one sitting. Furthermore, if you hear “kid-friendly bistro and beer bar” and imagine toddlers sitting among Jaeger-slamming frat boys, or relegated to the playpen while their parents drink into the wee hours, you are confusing places like Waypoint Public with a sad dystopic nightmare that I hope doesn’t exist in real life.
I loved living in Uptown for many years before having kids, so I understand the appeal it holds for young, kid-free adults, especially as it has grown more eclectic and vibrant. Part of that growth has included, as John Pani suggested, more young families, whether they have been attracted here by the combination of hipness and kid-friendliness, or just remained here after having kids for the same reasons. It’s gratifying to see that businesses have recognized this trend, and are responding by investing in our neighborhoods in ways that address our—I hesitate to say “needs”—let’s say, “tastes.” I suspect that people who lament the influx of kids into our community are a tiny minority, but I want to assuage their fears. We’re not going to spoil your fun. We’re just not ready to give up on our own.