Pacific Beach is a central locale to San Diego's beer culture, especially from our side of the bar. I recently counted 22 taverns along and just off Garnet Avenue, most of which serve archetypal bar food in a five-block area closest to the beach. This makes for an interesting mix of clientele and all, at least at first—but pretty soon, the saturation effect takes over, and one loud drunk pretty much looks like another. Don't get me wrong; I've spent lots of time in P.B., and I love it. It's just that, for all its cool stuff, there's a sameness about some of its attractions, as if quaffery and tavern food were a de facto rule of law.
But in order to formulate those rules, you have to have exceptions to them. And in P.B.'s case, that exception is The Lamont Street Grill, one of the most sedate, romantic dinner-only eateries in San Diego. Even the exterior looks the part—the cozy wood-and-brick patio bids you welcome into this converted house, which screams character and charm amid its wide-open spaces and generous windows. And before you get to thinking you're out of your fiscal element, look over the menu. There's a Greek chicken pasta dish that's big enough for a squadron, and it's as delicious as its price $15.95. (My date let me bogart all the olives, as she knows several of my weaknesses; in turn, I let her live.) There's a perfectly sharable chicken wonton starter dish that's worth the trouble, too; at $8.95, it's a steal.
The point is that there's more than one angle to Pacific Beach, with its healthy rep for nightlife and the bars that go with it. If you want to see that angle up close, you need to come to 4445 Lamont St. Tuesdays through Fridays from 5:30 to 9 p.m. and Saturdays and Sundays from 5 to 9 p.m. (phone 858-270-3060). This is not what you're used to in P.B., but never fear—the core crowd that fuels so many of the neighborhood's charms is but a few blocks away.