By Dr. Ink
It seemed like only yesterday when I first ducked into True North Tavern for a couple of beers and a chargrilled burger. The establishment was fairly new at the time, and I’ve since made subsequent returns for bloody marys, craft brews and various bar grub.
In my most recent visit, not only did I learn that the commodious tavern just turned 10 years old (time flies at a frightening rate when you frequently drink around town), but that it has undergone a few changes since the adjoining Urban Solace shuttered several months ago.
The closure had a significant impact on True North because the two establishments shared a kitchen, and True North enjoyed culinary support from the Urban Solace team.
“We went from basically managing a bar to having to manage a restaurant after Urban Solace suddenly closed,” said manager David Cabal, who presided over the recent streamlining of True North’s food menu. In addition, the reconfigured kitchen is smaller.
He added that the food offerings haven’t changed too much, except for losing a salad here and a sandwich there — and that the burgers are now cooked “smash style” on a flat griddle.
What remains feels adequate considering this is first and foremost a multi flat-screen sports bar that has always attracted crowds more interested in beer and mid-level cocktails rather than copious meal choices. Thus, the happy-hour deals apply only to booze.
Well drinks, El Jimador margaritas and domestic draft beers (plus True North Blonde Ale by Mission Brewing Company) are $4 each. House wines by the glass are $5. In the face of rising rents and increased competition, these are comfortable prices.
I went with the margarita after my waitress pointed out it’s made with fresh lime juice and agave instead of some lousy commercial sour mix. Spiked with an ounce and a half of the namesake tequila, it was one of those rare margaritas I could reorder a second and third time in one sitting. It’s how I always wish the drink would taste — somewhere between a smidgen sweet and vaguely lip-puckering.
The tavern’s Buffalo-style chicken wings have always impressed me because they’re evenly sauced without going overboard. As of late, the appendages are given a light dry rub before hitting the deep fryer.
So from the regular menu I succumbed to an order of eight ($13). The medium-size wings turned up extra-crispy as requested, and they were served with crisp celery and carrots and decent blue cheese dressing.
Tater tots are another longtime staple here. I ordered the “loaded” version ($10.50) featuring a rather goopy queso sauce, chipotle crema, salsa fresca and fresh cilantro. The ingredients jived well, and every barrel-shaped tot was crispy and not riddled by salt.
The afternoon happy hour is a radical change of pace and atmosphere compared to True North’s evening scene, when lines form outside the door and a $10 cover charge goes into effect at 10 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays (sometimes earlier at lower prices for special events).
For the anniversary, Cabal says plans are still in the works for some sort of public celebration in the coming months. Keep an eye on the tavern’s Facebook page and website for updates.