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Urge Common House Brings Beer, Bowling, and Bocce to San Marcos

The new, innovative concept takes bar interaction to the next level


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Overstuffed leather sofas and flat screens offer a lounge-like experience near the main bar. | Photo by Bruce Glassman

The three principals behind the Barrel Room, Brothers Provisions, and Urge Gastropubs (among other ventures) know how to create places that people want to be in. Spurred on by North County’s seemingly insatiable appetite for great beer, cocktails, and food—an appetite that has made Urge Rancho Bernardo and Urge Oceanside especially successful—the three partners (3 Local Brothers Restaurant Group) have now completed the launch of their most ambitious project to date.

Let’s see… where to begin? It’s a brewery. It’s a bowling alley. It’s a cocktail bar (actually two or three). It’s a big, beautiful space, both outdoors and in. There are bocce courts. And fire pits. Urge Common House is all that, and more. Located adjacent to the Cal State San Marcos campus, the newest Urge is the premier business that will provide the anchor for development in the sprawling multi-use area that surrounds it.

Big Lebowski graphics adorn the hi-tech bowling alley. | Photo by Bruce Glassman

I rarely make the opening of a new brewpub the sole subject of a piece, but I will do it when I feel the concept is bold, innovative, and worthy of special mention. Co-Owner Grant Tondro says the overall concept of Urge CH is to “create a place where people can gather and have a good time. While this is at the root of most hospitality ventures, we really tried to take the interaction of our guests with each other to the next level with all the fun and games.” Of course, the Urge “concept” has already been launched and proven, but this iteration of gastropub adds a whole host of new features and design elements. First off, the place is truly fun. Even if you’re not bowling in the 8-lane bowling alley, you’ll appreciate the playful Big Lebowski design elements that adorn the alley, and will no doubt find a tasty beverage at the alley’s bar, which features a dazzling array of cool cocktails, including ten versions of the classic White Russian.

Out in the main space, there are a variety of seating “environments” for patrons to choose from, depending on your mood and your group. There are booths, long family-style tables, and smaller, more intimate tables—there’s even an area with big overstuffed leather sofas and flat screens that provide more of a lounge vibe than a restaurant feel. “By far our most popular features have been the bowling, the bocce patio, and the Library private room,” Grant says. “There's really something for everyone!”

Other sections of the main floor are divided into semi-private and private areas, each offering a unique experience within the larger space. Oh, and a huge 35-foot bar provides more than enough room to seat anyone who likes to be close to where the cocktails are created.

The outdoor space offers fire pits, regular tables, and bocce courts. | Photo by Bruce Glassman

Despite all the cool design features, the most impressive aspect of Urge Common House is the noise: There isn’t very much at all. Most spaces this large—with high ceilings and lots of wood, metal, and concrete—are deafening when filled. But this place somehow manages to mitigate all the clamor—the restaurant was full when I was there, and I could actually have a conversation with my wife without shouting. I could even hear the quiet conversation of the table next to us. I could also hear the music—not too loud, but loud enough to enjoy. Oh, and did I mention the bowling alley? Didn’t hear even the faintest hint of crashing pins.

Options abound outside as well. Guests can gather around one of the many fire pits, pull up a regular table, or hang out on the neat, new bocce courts with their favorite cocktails.

If you’ve been to one of the other Urges, you’ll recognize the food menu in San Marcos. All the Urge favorites are offered here, including the killer brussels, great calamari, monster burgers of all kinds, and one of the best meatloafs in the county. In addition to a nice selection of Mason Ale Works beers (Charley Hustle Red IPA is a great food beer) there are numerous other excellent beers on offer, as well as an impressive collection of whiskeys and cocktails.

An 8-lane bowling alley with its own bar sits inside the restaurant. | Photo by Bruce Glassman

It’s nice to see the Urge partners (Zak Higson, Nate Higson, and Grant Tondro) finally expand their talent for hospitality to a space that’s big enough to fully accommodate their dreams (it’s more than 20,000 square feet). The long-term challenge for this Urge will be to keep the massive enterprise filled, but—if their track record so far is any indication—these guys will be bowling over patrons for many years to come.

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