By Dr. Ink
Much has changed at what used to be The Wellington Steak & Martini Lounge in Mission Hills.
For starters, you can actually see inside the place from the sidewalk, thanks to the installation of big, front windows. The interior is exceptionally brighter with its freshly painted white walls, light-wood table tops, and live greenery dropping from the center of a tall ceiling.
Gone are the swanky chandeliers and heavy fabrics that defined the dim, loungy setting for eating steaks wrapped in puff pastry. Though still intact is the six-seat bar, now fronted by river stones, and a crafty cocktail list that doesn’t exclude martinis.
Happy hour extends to a few different cocktails that change daily, plus a couple of wines and beers that rotate less frequently. Several items from the small-plates menu are also discounted.
The drink specials are written on a mirrored wall in removable paint markers, which makes for tricky reading against the reflecting daylight.
The food bargains of the day aren’t listed anywhere. They were rattled off to me by a chipper, fast-talking bartender, which tested the memory banks of my strained brain after a long workday. I craved a printed menu listing all of the offerings as much as I did a beer and nosh.
Skipping over the various cocktails, such as a strawberry daiquiri and “blushing mule” with gin and pomegranate — at least on this initial visit — I caved into my ongoing quest for a palatable sour beer, and found one here.
Served in a can and priced at $5 during happy hour, the organic “Ready Set Gose” by Uinta Brewing Company in Utah offered a smooth, dry finish without the funky sourness that can sometimes taste like rancid white wine in other brands I’ve tried.
This is brewed with salt and coriander, which added complexity while teasing out the malt.
Watlington is known for sourcing produce from local farmers as well as from her home garden, so you can bet that any dish involving vegetables here or at The Red Door will taste fresh and bright.
Such was the case in the garden veggies I ordered for $7 (normally $8). The medley featured snap peas, zucchini, radishes, baby carrots and sprouts, all flash-sautéed and dressed in a light chimichurri vinaigrette speckled with red chili flakes.
Had I grown up eating vegetables this way, and with a cold beer to wash them down, my parents would have never found smashed peas and carrots hiding under my plate at the end of dinner.
The drink specials are limited to a few cocktails, which I didn’t try, plus a couple of wines by the glass and canned beer. The latter included a drinkable sour beer by Uinta Brewing Company, which the bartender said will stick around for the coming weeks.
The discounted options change daily. On this visit they included carrot-pesto flatbread, vegan nachos, free-range chicken wings, and a terrific “farm-to-fork” medley of garden veggies.
Though the discounts are nominal, many of the drinks and food items are made with organic ingredients.
The bartender on duty was attentive and doubled as the server. He was also tasked with reciting the daily specials. A printout listing them would work better.
The remodeled space is quaint and bright, and looks out to the street. It features a small liquor-stocked bar, several tables and a few booths.
Sara is the editor of San Diego Uptown News.