Duck Foot Brewing Does Downtown
New satellite tasting room/restaurant is as much about the food as it is about the beer
Duck Foot's new downtown space opened over Labor Day weekend. | Photo: Bruce Glassman
The brewery satellite tasting room has become a ubiquitous feature of many high-traffic neighborhoods here in San Diego. Ocean Beach, Oceanside, Miramar, North Park—they all have multiple tasting spots, and many of them are within close proximity to one another. By my count, we currently have 30 operating satellite tasting locations, with a bunch more in the works.
Most of the secondary tasting spaces are fairly simple and straightforward; they’re little more than a draft system, a bar, some tables, and chairs. It appears that most breweries keep their additional spaces simple, not only to control costs, but also because the main idea is to sit and have a place to focus on the beer. These alternate locations are an effective way for breweries to get their brands into new neighborhoods and to build fans within new demographics. In a few rare instances, a brewery approaches the satellite concept with more than the standard ambition. In some cases, like the most recent addition by Duck Foot Brewing, they decide to truly expand the scope and breadth of what they offer their patrons. “Once we started looked for satellite locations, this food concept kept coming back and coming back,” says co-founder Matt DelVecchio. “And after three years of eating chips and salsa in the tasting room, we were tired of it. We wanted to create an elevated food experience and also create a more complete experience for our many customers who have Celiac or gluten intolerance. We wanted them to be able to come and eat as well as drink.”
The new Duck Foot location, which officially opened downtown on Park Avenue just south of Market Street over Labor Day weekend, is impressive on a number of levels. First, this is no simple food truck parking spot; this place enhances the tasting experience for its patrons with a full working kitchen. What’s more, the menu goes way beyond the usual pub fare of wings, nachos, and burgers; it’s not only entirely gluten free, it also utilizes a variety of very cool ingredients and makes the food as much a part of the draw as the beer.
Chef Stevan Novoa has created a delicious and intriguing menu that reflects and fuses influences from Mexico, South America, Japan, and Italy, among other places. The fact that the entire lineup is gluten free (like all of Duck Foot’s beers) is only a secondary bonus; if no one told you everything was made without gluten, you’d never know (and you certainly wouldn’t miss it). “The food turned out better than we ever thought it would,” says co-founder Suzy Pessutti, who also manages the new space. “It doesn’t feel like we’re compromising at all to make it gluten free.”
The small-but-focused menu includes bar snacks, small plates, a few specials, and a couple of desserts. Overall, the combinations of flavors, textures, and ingredients are super interesting; the fusions of cultures are intriguing, and the presentation is humble, thoughtful, and unfussy.
I was fortunate to taste through most of the menu with Matt, Suzy, and co-founder Brett Goldstock (who oversees most of the brewing). Everything was tasty and well presented, but a few things stood out as surefire crowd pleasers. Here are my recommendations: In the apps department, the Pão de Queijo (Brazilian cheese breads) are a must try. Warm and cheesy with a delicate chew, these little treats will satisfy any top-of-the-meal dough-centric craving.
The Japanese Sweet Potato with shimeji mushrooms, beer ponzu, pomegranate seeds, and pomegranate mint pesto was one of the more intriguing fusion creations. It managed to combine favors, textures, and colors in an especially fresh and appealing way. Homey and comforting, but with a little zing, this dish paired beautifully with the Duck Ship Honey Brown, which echoed the sweet notes of the potato and ponzu.
Sticky Short Ribs with blood orange glaze, chermoula, broccolini, and two spicy sauces was a standout in the small plates department. Rich and fall-off-the-bone tender, this plate offered the perfect combination of flavors for the hoppiness of Contender or Duckzilla, but also worked very nicely with the brown.
For dessert, the Blue Goat Cheesecake (bleu cheese and goat cheese with chardonnay basil caramel, crème brulee fruit, and granola crust) made for a truly satisfying finish as well as a killer companion for Contender IPA. The creamy, mouth-coating cheese base and the sweeter elements of fruit, caramel, and granola provided the perfect counterpoints for the floral, citrus, and bitter notes of the beer.
Speaking of beer, I should mention that Duck Foot downtown offers a nicely varied lineup of about a dozen taps that pour all the excellent Duck Foot favorites—not only Contender IPA and Duckzilla IPA, but also The Looker blonde, and some of the specialty brews such as BBA London Calling Imperial Porter, Duck Ship Honey Brown (collab with Longship), and the standout Ape-Ricot Saison aged in wine barrels, which was stellar when paired with almost anything on the menu.
The new Duck Foot space is one more reason to explore the burgeoning downtown beer scene, but it’s also an opportunity to experience a new brewery tasting room done with unique flair and creativity. There aren’t too many brewery spaces like this anywhere in San Diego, so when one pops up—and it’s this good—it’s worth a major shout out. A job well done!