Sept. 14 2015 02:30 PM

Where the deer and the antelope…are served

lionsshare
The Lion’s Share
ron donoho
It was stiflingly hot in the city—even after the sun went down—yet we were loath to the notion of turning on the new air conditioning. I imagined cool air coming from the ceiling vent starting an engine that powered an assembly line process ending with dollar bills being chopped into coleslaw. Rather than deal with that concept, and feeling hungry (probably due to the coleslaw imagery), we went out for a late bite to eat.

I recently moved from the Gaslamp Quarter to the Marina District, a leap of nearly nine blocks. I walk everywhere, but am now in search of new be-there-in-a-second, go-to spots. The Lion's Share (629 Kettner Blvd.) is getting a probationary trial run.

There's an unpretentious cool about the small place—with tables in the front and a bar in the back, where I've always eaten. The location is odd—it's a few blocks from the tourist havens of The Headquarters and Seaport Village. But it's tucked far enough away from Harbor Drive and sort of bounded by Kansas City Barbecue and the messy intersection of Kettner and G Street, which gets stalled fairly easily due to crossings by Santa Fe trains and red trolleys.

The Lion's Share is the rare mix of a spot that gets recommended to tourists by in-the-know concierges but is also a place downtowners can go and not be bothered with “Where ya from?” questions from waiters and bartenders.

The interior is dark, and there's usually jazz music piped in. The walls are filled with framed prints of slightly unusual scenes with very unusual animal heads painted onto human bodies (a rabbit head on a gladiator; a lion's head on Napoleon Bonaparte). And there are a few stuffed animal heads up on the walls.

Which brings me to the antelope head mounted behind the bar. You're probably familiar with the notion of not naming an animal you might eventually eat. Well don't get cozy with the antelope, because one of the most popular appetizers may have been his kin.

The antelope sliders come with red onion marmalade, smoked gouda and mustard aioli. The meat is lean, and taste-wise falls between beef and venison. Not too gamey. And yet, game is a big calling card here.

There's a kangaroo tartare, and the raw meat is rich and fatty and pretty gamey. The menu also includes a boar sausage poutine and chicken-fried quail.

I tried the rabbit hand pie. It's braised rabbit in a duck fat crust, with carrot puree. The server described it to me as an “artisanal hot pocket.” Comedian Jim Gaffigan jokes that nobody ever had a hot pocket and afterward said: “I'm glad I ate that.” The crust on the rabbit hand pie was a little dry, but I have no regrets.

The menu at The Lion's Share is not just a list of wild animals. My dining companion ordered the peach and arugula salad (with goat cheese and toasted hazelnuts) and exulted about the peaches being extremely fresh.

The cocktail selection is extensive. My Moscow mule was refreshing on a humid night. If the weather stays hot and bothersome, I'll be back for more spirits, perhaps even one of several high-proof absinthes. So far, The Lion's Share is in the running to be a go-to.

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