Gastropubs aren’t novelties in San Diego these days, though Jaynes Gastropub has the distinction of being the first one to set up shop. More than three years ago, Jayne Battle and Jon Erickson took an old neighborhood coffee shop at the north end of 30th Street as it runs into Adams Avenue and renovated it from the ground up. They stripped the place down to its 1920s bones and remade it into a well-styled, straightforward eatery that’s a comfortable mix of pub and bistro.
Jaynes Gastropub has since become a fixture for many and cultivates its anytime appeal with a popular Happy Hour, weekly food and drink specials, wine tastings and an appealing brunch. The bar is intimate and friendly, a good place for your dining companion to sip a drink if you’re running late. Though the Pimm’s Cup is a constant, the rest of the cocktail list changes seasonally, and the drinks are made with care, using fresh ingredients and artisanal spirits. The tile-floored dining room is cozy, though it can get loud on busy nights. There’s also a pretty, hedge-lined patio for warm nights and sunny Sundays.
The dinner menu is on the smaller side but is eclectic enough to provide variety. You can start in Spain, with a tapas of shrimp sizzled in garlic, chiles and olive oil, or begin with the Jaynes take on poutine, a French-Canadian staple. Here, it’s a heap of freshly cut and cooked fries under melted aged white Cheddar and served with a mini sauce boat of beefy short-rib gravy — a heavy way to kick off a meal, but a tasty one. Beer is a must with poutine, and although the wine list dwarfs the beer list, many of the best beer towns, including our own, are represented.
Gastropub staples such as fish and chips — Jaynes’ fry-up of beer-battered sea bass is served with sautéed snap peas and Kennebec potato fries — and bangers and mash, which pairs pork sausages with garlic mashed potatoes, are fine. But the Jayne burger, Niman Ranch beef topped with Cheddar and house-pickled onions on a buttery bun spread with garlic aioli, ranks solidly on the top-five list of best burgers in town. Order one on Tuesdays, when a beer is included with the price.
A main dish that debuted earlier in the year features Washington state scallops placed around a generous, healthy jumble of large pearled couscous, English peas, asparagus and heirloom cherry tomatoes. The scallops, in a shallow pool of saffron cream, were seared well but thankfully not too well-done, though a friend remarked that for the price, three medium scallops on the plate seemed too few.
Another dish from the compact list of entreés is chicken cooked under a brick, a classic Tuscan technique. Flattened under a weight, the chicken cooks quickly, stays moist and, most importantly, renders a maximum amount of crunchy skin. While the Jaynes preparation did deliver a bounty of crisp, savory chicken skin, my portion of meat — save for a juicy bit of thigh — turned up drier than I’d have liked.
When it comes to desserts, it seems butterscotch is having a moment again, though not in the overly sweet, artificially flavored way you remember from the candies you used to find in your grandpa’s sweater pocket. Butterscotch budino, or pudding, looks to be the popular trend, but here, butterscotch gives a little edge to traditional creme brulée.
Another throwback that’s worth a second taste is sticky toffee pudding cake. The rich cake, soft and studded with dates, is typically topped with a warm sauce of sugar and molasses. At Jaynes, shell-shaped madeleines of the date cake flank a scoop of caramel gelato from Gelato Vero. If the dish gives you deja vu, it’s because Parallel 33, one of my much-liked, much-missed neighborhood spots, used to serve a similar dessert, but with rose petal gelato instead. Members of Jaynes Gastropub’s team used to work at the erstwhile Mission Hills spot — and collectively, they’re doing a pretty good job of making me a regular here too.
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4677 30th Street, Normal Heights