By Dr. Ink
When whizzing past SKA Bar on Adams Avenue in the daylight, a quick glimpse of the exterior doesn’t reveal much. It’s anchored in a freshly built apartment structure of unimaginative design, and the enormous bar casts little color onto the street.
Stretching for almost a half-city block, a smallish sign at one end might catch your eye. Underneath the establishment’s name it reads, “Abnormal Heights,” a reference to Normal Heights’ long-standing reputation as a neighborhood occupied heavily by artists, musicians and alternative types decades before it became Hipsterville.
The sleek, industrial trappings of SKA Bar attest to modern-day tastes. Garage-style windows roll up at the first hint of warm weather. Splashes of turquoise mingle with Asian and midcentury decor. And the bar shows off an arresting inventory of spirits, which doesn’t exclude Remy Martin Louis XIII cognac. A 1-ounce pour of the precious liquid sells for $276.
But we came to partake in the attractive happy-hour bargains, when several appetizers and craft cocktails sell for $6 apiece, and a Singapore Tiger beer sets you back only $4. A couple of wines including Spanish tempranillo are in the offing as well. They sell for $7 a glass — easy-peasy prices all the way around.
We sat along the extended row of windows, at one of many tables complemented by comfy ’50s-style bucket chairs. The vibe was warm and welcoming.
My drinking cohort opted for a La Paloma cocktail combining tequila, grapefruit juice and fresh lime. A little sugar in the mix gave the citrus element a pleasing sweetness upfront. It finished off wonderfully with a touch of saltiness.
My “French” cocktail brought together gin, lemon, sugar, and Bouvet Sparkling Brut from France’s Loire Valley. It was served elegantly in a fluted Champagne glass — a simple libation that I could drink all day.
Both are essentially summer cocktails, but with enough sparkle to brighten even a cool, cloudy day such as this. Other choices include a Manhattan, Moscow mule, and old fashioned.
From the reduced-price food menu, we chose fried pork dumplings. They come six to an order, although we received seven. Their fillings were somewhat bland. Conversely, a plate of salt and pepper chicken wings garnished with sliced serrano chilies were dynamite. They were also the crispiest wings I’ve ever had in San Diego, thanks in part to us requesting them that way.
SKA Bar has only been open a few months, but you get the feeling it’s on the way to becoming a central hangout. Two floors up is an equally spacious rooftop bar and restaurant — an extension of SKA Bar due to open in the coming months. When that happens, it will be the only drinking and eating venue in Normal Heights that offers views of Uptown and beyond.