By Dr. Ink
Kudos to San Diego-based Moose Restaurant Group for the eye-grabbing remodel it gave to Claire de Lune Coffee Lounge before opening Tamarindo Latin Kitchen & Bar in its place.
The historical structure, built in 1929, now flaunts a multi-colored exterior comprising light-greens, sky-blues and dusty reds, thus cheerfully disrupting the neutral paintjobs that still dominate commercial North Park.
The appealing colors continue inside amid splendid architectural details that include faux windows and balconies tailored after those you’d find along antiquated streets in Mexico City or Madrid. Combined with high ceilings and the building’s large, arched windows, customers are sent on a Latin getaway — and with $5 drinks in hand during happy hour.
Choices include a Tommy’s Margarita, the new-era version from Tommy’s in San Francisco made only with tequila, lime and agave nectar. My drinking partner gulped it down with remarkable ease, and welcomes the absence of Triple Sec or sweet liqueurs in the recipe.
For the same price you can score a mojito, a Paloma, a ranch water (tequila, soda water and citrus) or a classic daiquiri, which I found as light and refreshing as any I’ve had in highfalutin bars showcasing the Latin-rooted cocktail.
Visually elegant yet ridiculously simple, the bartender here struck perfect ratios between the white rum, simple syrup and fresh lime juice — and with an icy froth on top to boot.
Noshes such as blackened albacore tacos and beef sopes are discounted to $4 only on Tuesdays, when happy hour — or “fiesta hour” as they call it here — runs all day.
We came on a different day and resorted to the free chip-and-salsa station hidden behind Tamarindo’s big, central bar.
The chips were thin, crisp and fresh although we found the assorted salsas to be watery. Each of them — three reds and a green one — lacked depth of flavor but we couldn’t figure out what key components were missing.
So from the regular menu we sprung for an order of guacamole ($8.50), which included finely cut radishes, pomegranate seeds, diced jalapenos and onions, and chopped cilantro.
It was a charming presentation I wish many establishments would copy.
Tamarindo opens its entire layout to happy hour, offering guests ample seating options that include roomy wood booths, comfy high tops and patio tables.
With its bright, airy and tastefully designed atmosphere, it’s easy to hang around longer than planned while losing track of your drink intake.
The classic daiquiri and Tommy’s Margarita we tried were perfectly balanced in booze, citrus and simple sweeteners.
Our top rating goes to the fresh guacamole we ordered from the regular menu. It was accompanied by onions, radishes, pomegranate seeds and cilantro. The complimentary salsas, however, tasted lackluster.
Cocktails, shots and select beers are only $5 during happy hour, and a few dishes (only on Tuesday) are $4.
The bartender doubled as a waitress and managed to efficiently accommodate everyone in the room with a generous smile.
This is one of North Park’s best remodels, giving the neighborhood some much-needed color and a lesson in architectural preservation.