The Liars' Club Bar & Grill3844 Mission Blvd.Mission Beach858-488-2340www.liarsclubsd.com
Pity the bar and grill. Another cool idea co-opted by corporate America, "bar and grill" has become a label glibly applied by marketers to places like Applebee's and Chili's. Sure, these places have bars, and, yes, they have grills, so technically the marketers have it right. But dammit, a real bar and grill shouldn't have goofy uniforms, a cheesy name that some marketing hack thought was "zingy" or a tagline that boasts that it's a real "neighborhood" place.
Real bar-and-grills don't need to advertise that they're neighborhood spots-they succeed with a cool atmosphere, a good drink selection, a well-stocked jukebox and tasty food-you know, being a place where locals actually want to go and hang out. By that standard, Mission Beach's Liars' Club is clearly the real thing, a place where you're more likely to overhear the staff talking about how they need to re-grow their Mohawk than chirping phony happy welcomes to guests, and where you can sometimes see drunken Internet porn queens flashing their silicone enhancements at the cooks.
The Liars' Club occupies a tiny brick building in north Mission Beach and features the best local beer selection I've seen, as well as a sampling of exotic Belgian drafts and bottles. Additionally, the menu offers pub grub more interesting than the norm, with items like sweet-potato fries topped with spicy maple cream, Arrogant Bastard ale-battered shrimp and real Maryland crab cakes served with garlic-chile sauce and chipotle aioli. Liars' Club also serves some of the best burgers and sandwiches around.
A favorite of mine is the Fuego steak-melt. Reminiscent of a Philly cheese-steak served on jalapeño-cheddar bread instead of a torpedo roll, this sandwich is dosed liberally with flame-roasted jalapeño, Serrano and Anaheim chilies, and topped with jalapeño jack cheese and chipotle aioli. In case you can't tell from that description, it's hot.
For those not blessed with a cast-iron stomach, a good choice is the seared ahi sandwich. A generous slab of seared fresh ahi tuna, rare in the middle, is served atop sprouts and cucumber and dressed with a sharp wasabi mayonnaise. All of the sandwiches come with your choice of French fries (Cajun or regular) or an excellent, vinegary house-made coleslaw.
The best part about eating at Liars' Club is choosing from the many great beers to go with your meal. Featuring brews from AleSmith, Stone, GreenFlash, Pizza Port, Ballast Point and Russian River, Liars' Club serves some obscure selections that you won't see many other places.
Two standouts are Russian River's Rejection Belgian black ale and Ballast Point's Hout Ont Moet oak-aged blackberry ale. The former, brewed as a special Valentine's Day release, is a dry and pleasantly bitter take on Belgian ale for those who normally find such beers too sweet. The latter is tart and acidic, with the fruitiness of the blackberry nicely tempered by oak and vanilla notes, making for an excellent food accompaniment.
Liars' Club can get pretty loud on weekend nights, especially with the punk-heavy jukebox playing. However, on off nights it's fairly mellow. Tuesday nights are good for newbies, with a $2 drink special from 8 p.m. till closing.