By Dr. Ink
You can whip right by it in the blink of an eye while driving around the bend at Hotel Circle or when landing at the bottom of Bachman Drive from Hillcrest. And even if the place does catch your attention, you’d probably never guess that Bunz is the only eatery along “the circle” that focuses on sustainable, market-fresh ingredients.
Fronted by the Days Inn motel, it is owned by chef-author Jeff Rossman of Terra American Bistro in the College Area.
Shortly after penning “From Terra’s Table,” a locavore’s guide to Southern California’s agricultural bounties, Rossman became something of a pioneer in San Diego’s farm-to-table movement. That was in 2010, about a year before he introduced to this touristy area gourmet burgers complemented by house-made condiments and thick milkshakes better known as “concretes.”
I never knew until recently that Bunz offered a daily happy hour, let alone that it had a beer and wine license. Taking for granted that burgers or sliders would appear on the discounted food menu, I was in.
My assumption proved wrong. While booze choices sufficed with a few wines and five craft beers on tap for $4.99 a glass, the nosh options were rather basic, with nary a discounted hamburger patty in sight.
I veered off the beer and wine lists and ended up ordering one of two Champagne-based cocktails better suited for Sunday brunches. But what the heck?
Priced at $5.99, I chose the “sunrise sparkle” made with orange juice, bubbly and grenadine — basically a jazzed up mimosa that thoroughly quenched my late-day thirst. The other, a “sangria spritz,” mixes OJ and Champagne with house-made sangria.
The happy-hour food menu featured only a quesadilla with protein and avocado options; chicken strips with a choice of sauces; nachos using freshly fried tortillas; or something called “garlic mushroom & onion bites.”
I happily went with the “bites,” which featured a nice sautee of the stated ingredients atop toasted slices of baguette. The garlic was pronounced, but it didn’t linger long on my palate due to the refreshing fizzle from my cocktail.
Intent on ordering a burger from the regular menu (served on brioche buns), I passed because the dish sufficiently filled me up.
Bunz escapes the cheap-motel restaurant feel with a down-to-earth, slightly retro design. The dining room features wooden chairs with padded seats, an elongated banquette, colorful wall musings about hamburgers and hot dogs, and a front patio with lush shrubbery blocking the unglamorous view of Interstate 8.
It isn’t a bad place to plop down and refuel when traversing between Uptown and Mission Valley. I just wish a juicy, discounted burger would factor into happy hour.