CHECK, PLEASE: The Patio
Pacific Beach is full of star-spangled bikinis. This is not that Pacific Beach.
It’s Thursday night in Pacific Beach. The west end of Garnet is like the floor at the NYSE; instead of biotech stock, barely-legal bargoers waive hands and clamor for Jaeger-bombs and two-dollar-you-call-its.
Located a mile east, The Patio on Lamont Street is not that Pacific Beach.
Tonight there are 20-somethings in T-shirts and jeans sharing small plates with pretty dates. There are 30-somethings sipping wines, two buttons wildly unhinged from the shirts under their sports coat. There are 40-somethings, 50-somethings and 60-somethings dawning tiaras for a birthday celebration.
For all the semi-pro beer pongers who live along Garnet and Grand Ave, there are an equal amount of less-young professionals in the hills above Turquise, along Fanuel. Pacific Beach is home to a culturally inquisitive contingent that requires more than 2AM tacos, and craves a place like The Patio. The newly opened restaurant—formerly beloved gourmet hovel, Lamont Street Grill—is secluded by a wall of bamboo tress. Sliding glass doors will soon be added; the work is still in progress. The recessed area of the restaurant is open air, dim-lit moodiness. There’s a living plant wall, a la Bankers Hill Bar + Restaurant and The Pearl in Point Loma.
The bar is the most illuminated section of the restaurant. Every bottle, on every shelf, from counter to ceiling, is legible. The old wooden ceiling beam pays homage to Lamont Street Grill’s 20 years here, as does the brick back wall. I order The Patio Mule with Jim Beam, ginger soda, and a lime rind, poured over golf ball-sized ice cubes. Every restaurant in San Diego is now serving a Mule (much to Starlite Lounge’s chagrin). It’s now the most uncreative creative drink in town. Regardless, The Patio’s is great. No kidding.
The energy here tonight—drinks, food, laughter—is larger than the space to host it. Servers struggle to get by. As I make a move toward the appetizers, I have to decide what to present up-close-and-personal to my neighbors—frontside or backside. I’m sure they’d prefer neither, but this is happening.
Seeing the Margherita pizza, I shamelessly snag the largest end piece. Cubed heirloom tomatoes and thin-sliced basil are placed on each slice, coated in Temecula olive oil infused with roasted garlic. It’s quite good, even if The Patio doesn’t specialize in the classic pie (see Pizzeria Bruno, or Isola).
A sweet miniature boule (a pie crusty ball) is filled with shrimp, Portuguese linguica, smoked paprika and topped with a slice of Parmesan. The idea is to offset the smoked sausage and crustacean with sweet pastry—a yin-yang approach—but the sweetness is too much. A short rib with whipped parsnips, however, is excellent—a classic mirepoix-and-Port demi glace production, slow-cooked to soft oblivion.
As I exit, I notice an older gentleman wearing a puffer vest, double-fisting champagne flutes of beer. I like his style. It embodies that of The Patio—a restaurant that knows good Champagne, but also recognizes that double-fisting is a specific local skill.
Even without drink tickets, I’ll be back.