By Dr. Ink
For those with a tight wallet, happy hour at Dunedin New Zealand Eats in North Park is the equivalent of finding a rare blackjack table in Las Vegas that welcomes $5-minimum bets.
The exquisitely designed establishment opens up its entire 20-tap beer system for an easy five spot per glass during daily happy hour, and also includes a couple of select wines and several appetizers for the same price.
Dunedin is part of a portfolio of San Diego restaurants containing names of New Zealand cities, such as Queenstown Public House in Little Italy and Raglan Public House in Ocean Beach. They’re run by the same set of owners who also operate Bare Back Grill in Pacific Beach.
Here, craft beer and lamb burgers rule the day in an environment that feels part coastal and part woodsy — kind of like what you might imagine of the restaurant’s namesake harbor city, Dunedin, which is known for its maritime history and lush landscapes.
The multi-level structure, once a Craftsman home, features indoor and patio seating, plus a central bar that sits partially outdoors. Faux kelp and corral and a sculpted wood sand barrier tie together the Maori-inspired theme, tricking you into thinking you’re on vacation in a faraway land.
Arriving to a welcoming playlist of classic rock — Led Zeppelin, The Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix, etc. — my drinking partner zeroed in on the Tabula Rasa toasted porter by Second Chance Beer Company, reveling in its cocoa undertones and creamy finish. If you’re a fan of non-bitter dark beers, this one’s for you.
I chose a Belgian-style Fruition Wit by Brewery Ommegang out of New York State. A first for these lips, I was immediately struck by its radiant yellow hue, not to mention the smooth citrus, slightly spiced flavors that followed. Perhaps because of our surroundings, I also picked up whispers of kiwi.
Dunedin’s famous “bare lamb burger” with bleu cheese crumbles, beet root and sparkling mint jelly is downsized during happy hour to a slider. Yet it’s deliciously filling for the $5 price tag and also comes with a piling of skinny french fries.
We augmented the plate for an additional $5 with a generous bowl of pretzel bites accompanied by jalapeno cheese sauce. The latter was addicting, but the pretzel balls not so much because they were too dense and chewy for our liking.
Other bargain noshes include spicy chicken skewers, hummus with pita and calamari with peppers.
The rotating beer selection, which often includes Washington Gold Cider and kombucha by Boochcraft in Chula Vista, is broken down into several beer styles ranging from IPA and pale ales to lagers, wheats and reds. We also found on nitro Cali Creamin’ by Mother Earth Brewing — tempting had we not been so immersed in our choices.
For the flat prices and airy, artfully designed environment, Dunedin’s three-hour happy hour is an alluring winner in our books.
From 20 taps, you’ll find a good cross-section of craft beers of local and national origins. Cider, kombucha and select wines are also in the offing.
If you’re looking for the best lamb burger in town and don’t mind settling for one in the form of a slider during happy hour, you’ve come to the right place.
Most of the beers and appetizers are at least $3 cheaper than what you’d find elsewhere.
The bartenders on duty were fast and upbeat while keeping close eyes on customers whose glasses started depleting. No wait for refills.
Filled with wood, greenery and big windows, local designer Michael Soriano created a rustic, semi nautical élan to capture a feeling from The Land Down Under.