By Dr. Ink
If you take away the urban street vibe of Fourth Avenue pulsing through the front windows, Two Paddles Fish & Grill would easily qualify as a beachside establishment catering to sandaled customers with cold brews and grilled fish sandwiches.
The eatery, which opened this year in place of Tapas Picasso Spanish Restaurante, greets visitors with vibrant blue walls, nautical-style chandeliers and whimsical murals of sea inhabitants.
Block-wood tables of varying heights dominate the open dining area, which also includes a bar that offers a limited selection of craft beer on tap, as well as bottled labels and several California wines. The atmosphere is bright and casual, and it felt decidedly summery inside even on the cold, misty day I visited.
Fresh seafood takes center stage. It’s available regularly in tacos, salads, sandwiches and plates. During happy hour, however, the oceanic victuals are limited to various appetizers such as ceviche, fried calamari, bacon-wrapped shrimp, and a Mexican-style shrimp cocktail that resembles a chunky bloody mary in a rocks glass. They’re all $3 off.
Draft and bottled beers drop $2 in price, and the choices vary from Coors and Corona to Sculpin by Ballast Point and “That Guava Beer” from Legacy Brewing Co.
I washed down my well-stocked shrimp cocktail with a pint of Blood Orange IPA from 33 Latitude Brewing. It’s juicier and less hoppy than most IPAs, thus striking a soothing balance to the tangy tomato juice and pungent onions in my shrimp cocktail.
The fruitiness of the beer also put me in the mood for hot wings. They’re served 10 to an order and sell for only $8.95 during happy hour, which possibly explains why the kitchen ran out of them that day. Rarely do I find full orders of chicken wings for under $12 anymore.
Oddly, a basket of onion rings also cost $8.95 after the discount. With my shrimp cocktail reduced in price to $5.25, I was compelled to ask the bartender what makes these O-rings so precious.
“It’s a very large order, enough for a couple people,” she warned when realizing I was visiting solo.
I’ll spring for them next time when I have a beer-thirsty posse in tow, which Two Paddles seems exactly tailored for with its ample seating and colorful, welcoming ambiance in the heart of Hillcrest.