By Dr. Ink
What was previously the long-outdated Kelly’s Pub in Old Town is now an impressively remodeled drinking spot allowing us to tap into our inner child.
Home & Away joins a growing trend of bars stocking their establishments with games. Unlike Tabletop Commons in Hillcrest, which opened recently with an inventory of 70-plus board games, or Coin-Op Game Room in North Park, known expressly for its video-arcade environment, H&A plays up the classics with pingpong, foosball, giant Jenga and darts.
A small stack of board games enters into the mix as well, should you want to test your word skills in Scrabble while imbibing on classic cocktails and craft beer. There’s even a basketball hoop in the parking lot, which wasn’t in use when I visited during happy hour.
The bar picked up shortly after 5 p.m., attracting a mix of all legal ages. An elderly woman to my left, dressed in black and sporting oversized sunglasses, ordered her usual vodka and tonic. On a high top several feet away from the spacious bar, a 20-something couple engaged in a game of Cards Against Humanity while swigging suds by Green Flash Brewing Company.
The large, outdoor smoking patio turned lively as well, as patrons looked onto a vigorous match of pingpong played by two average Joes. The ball rarely bounced off the table.
While pretty much ignoring several flat screens hanging behind the bar, each of them showing different sporting events, I eased into a “penicillin” cocktail priced at $6. It’s among nine specialty cocktails that cost $9 outside of happy hour.
The lemon juice-infused scotch drink is a newcomer to the modern cocktail craze, dating to 2005, when it was supposedly introduced at Milk and Honey in New York City. Honey and ginger enter into the equation as well. Although here the bartender finishes the elixir with a few spritzes of Laphroaig mist, an herby single-malt whiskey that reminded me of hippy perfume as it clung invisibly to the rim of the glass.
Quelling the drink’s kick, I ordered a basket of Tater Tots sprinkled with fresh parsley. They were as good as any – crispy on the outside, fluffy inside. But next time around, and with a few extra cocktails in my system, I’ll seize upon the grilled cheese sandwich that flew past me a couple times. It’s made with gruyere, brie and Provolone and with “tomato spread” and basil to boot.
The bar, which opened in February, brings to this southern end of San Diego Avenue a refreshed structure that became a dated eyesore when it was Kelly’s Pub. The new owners have given it a fresh paint job along with a newly built patio and window shutters flaunting live succulents between the louvers. Yes, there’s repurposed wood everywhere in the redesign, but in never-changing Old Town, the look is novel and inviting.