3175 India St., 92103 (Mission Hills)
Happy Hour: 5 to 7 p.m., Monday through Thursday and Saturdays; and 4 to 7 p.m., Fridays.
By Dr Ink | SDUN Columnist
Enter through Starlite’s striking hexagonal entranceway by day and you’ve essentially entered into night. It requires a few minutes to visually adjust to the extreme dimness within the architecturally modish design—wood planks and pin-dot lighting—when stepping in from the sunshine.
Once your pupils dilate, a sunken bar and an ethereal chandelier made of stainless steel tubing come slowly into focus, as though you’ve stepped aboard some intergalactic mother ship. Fittingly, a decent set of non-commercial Bowie songs was playing when we arrived.
Unless I’m visiting with someone who’s willing to exchange a little leg squeezing, I prefer to ascend to the inviting rooftop patio, where the sky opens up to a second bar stocked with top-shelf liquor and craft beers, as well as plenty of seating options on high-tops and low-tops. The patio is fully staffed and smokers need not ask whether it’s permissible to light up, given the bounty of ashtrays strewn about.
Happy hour deals are uncomplicated; wells and select drafts sell for $4, and fancy-pants cocktails are $1 off (normally $9). The latter are made with natural fruit juices and homemade syrups, with some of the drinks served in fat copper mugs. Starlite is known for adhering to locally sourced foods and a frequently changing menu. During happy hour we find three different dishes priced at $5 apiece, or $8 for two. Soup of the day sells for $6. On this visit, Edible San Diego magazine was holding a party, which resulted in a couple of additional offerings such as grilled garlic crostini topped with fava bean hummus, feta cheese and basil oil—a wholesome departure from the cholesterol-rich fare Dr. Ink shamefully ingests at other watering holes.
From the $4 taps, my drinking cohort opted for Racer 5 IPA, with hops camouflaged by an orangey, malted finish. It’s a mellow, refreshing beer suited for summer patio drinking, although the more it warms, the spikier the citrus flavor.
I turned to New York State, where the creamy, Belgian-style Ommegang Rare Vos is brewed. The hops tasted leafy and the carbonation was light. For an out-of-state import, the price was appealing and the amber ale paired swimmingly with a blue cheese-walnut tart laced with ham and bacon.
With a few good beers in our bellies, exiting Starlite’s sunny patio was daunting, the pin pricks of light at ground level more difficult to detect. We heard voices, but couldn’t see many faces and, like other patrons, had to resort to the beams from our cell phones to avoid bumping into walls.
Say goodbye to omnipresent Budweiser and Corona and hello to life’s finer suds, such as St. Peter’s Sorgham, Chimay Blue, Ommegang Rare Vos and more than a dozen others.
The happy hour menu is succinct and changes regularly to keep up with the latest locally sourced ingredients as they’re in season. The food is clean, fresh and creatively executed.
Specialty beers are reasonably marked down to $4, although well drinks at the same price aren’t necessarily
a thrilling price break.
Based on our rooftop patio visit, the kitchen and bar staff were plentiful, attentive and quick.
The dark ambience of Starlite’s ground level cries for a late-night happy hour, while the sunny rooftop patio, at least during the summer months, demands that food and drink specials start a little earlier.