Photo by: Dhanraj Emanuel
Downtown Johnny Brown's1220 Third Ave.Downtown619-232-8414
You're supposed to be reading about Dobson's right now, but that'll have to be for another week. We really meant to eat there, since it's such a nice place for pre-theater meals and we were both in fancy dress mode—he in a suit and me in a party skirt and rarely worn heels—for a grown-up night at the opera. I'd even decided what I was going to eat: an appetizer (mussel bisque!) and a single cocktail; I didn't want to risk a food coma since we had nearly three hours of chair-sitting in a darkened theater ahead of us. But by the time we'd found parking near the opera, there was barely enough time to walk over to the restaurant even for a drink, much less a meal.
Across the Community Concourse stood Downtown Johnny Brown's, a beer bar better known for its drinks than its eats, but close and cheap. And since to skip a meal would be sacrilege, some food is better than none.
Tucked off the street, in the shadows of surrounding buildings, Downtown Johnny Brown's would normally be hard to find unless you were a beer fiend, a City Hall employee or a sports fan coming in to watch a game on one of the many TV screens. A TV-laden sports bar is my least favorite of the beer-bar genre, but this one will always have a special place in my heart because of an evening last year—Nov. 4—to be exact, when the screens were tuned to news stations and a group of friends and I bounced between watching local election returns at the adjacent Golden Hall and our table at the bar, where we'd toast and cheer as each state turned blue, trying not to gloat too excessively at the mute, sour-faced muckety-mucks at a nearby table.
Downtown Johnny Brown's pub-grub menu is serviceable; there are certainly places to find better food to go with your beer. But it's a good choice if you need a new happy-hour spot or are looking for a decent snack before a Downtown event, a concert at 4th & B or a show at the Civic Theatre. And if you get saddled with jury duty, it's close enough to walk to on your lunch break. The bar takes a quality-over-quantity approach to its beer. The rotating taps and bottle list aren't encyclopedic, but they're almost always stocked with excellent offerings from well-respected craft breweries, local and beyond. I got The Bruery's version of a Berliner Weisse, a tart and refreshing low-alcohol beer that's taken me through hot weather like a champ.
The burgers don't crack my top 10, but I'm usually fairly satisfied with the Aztec burger, topped with jack cheese and a roasted Anaheim chili. It comes with a mountain of fries, but I like to swap in a bowl of the soup of the day, which is usually good and freshly made. On this night, it was a fine clam chowder, with good clam flavor and a smooth, but not gluey, texture. Other proteins on a bun are a decent chicken breast, a tasty veggie burger and a grilled fish filet of the day, most often salmon or mahi mahi, served with tartar sauce. This is not destination food, but in an area that's fairly bereft of eating options, it can be a saving grace.
As for my original plan, under which I'd eat light so that I would stay awake during the opera, two beers and a burger didn't really help the cause; I slept through part of the finale. But I don't think I missed much. Doesn't everybody always die at the end?Write to firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.