Monday, July 18, 2011

Beerback Mountain: I can't quit you - Hillcrest's Local Habit (San Diego)

We came in for some change, and that’s exactly what we got. Not in terms of the quarters and dimes that we needed for parking, but Local Habit’s complete remodel of the former, Pizza Fusion, like one of those horrible romantic comedies where “the cool guys” bet they can turn some bland being into prom queen. And they’d succeeded (in a much less obnoxious way) because all it took was one glance at the specials menu to realize that our meter wasn’t the only thing about to get fed.

This nouveau man-cave was a bit sparse, but clean in design. Wooden accents broke up brightly colored walls and high ceilings, adding rustalgic (= rustic + nostalgic) elements with dishcloth napkins, Mason jars for water and serving hard-to-find hops from places like San Diego’s first nano-brewery, Hess. Habit’s own Adam and Andy, touted their selections with pride, beaming like proud papas about their secret stash they were willing to share.

Flights of beer made it easy for multiple taste tests and that carried over to the bruschetta special – your choice: one of each or three of the same. We decided to try them all, while sipping on some Ballast Point pilsner = summer in a glass.

Tomato confit/ bacon lardon – I saw the word “lardon” and I heard it calling my name. What?! Lardon isn’t that far off from Lauren – geesh!! Give me a break…and some more lardons please.

Roasted tomato and onion w/ anchovy – sometimes salty and delicious, other times a fishy flop, the anchovy can be a fickle beast…but Chef Nick clearly knew how to sooth this one - possibly my favorite.

Fresh heirloom tomato w/ burratta and basil – If Ballast Point pilsner was summer in a glass, this was summer on a plate - classic and clean, but pretty skimpy on the burratta.

My idea of bruschetta = 1-2 inch sliced, toasted bread + surface fully covered with tomato-based topping.

Local Habit’s idea of bruschetta = garlic butter + toasted bread + slices the size of a playing card (and not much thicker) + toppings pushed to one corner.

Not the norm, but fabulous all the same. I loved every one and admired their approach to taking what can sometimes be a clunky appetizer and streamlining it into this portable, two-bite-delight. Small, but mighty…the only problem was that I would probably need about 20 to fill up and at $5 per order, that wasn’t going to happen. But I'd be back, only next time I'd add on a Neopalitan-crust pizza (gluten-free crust also available) and to see what's (on) tap dancing behind the bar.

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