Warm summer days are here, and with them comes the opportunity to enjoy a cold beer and a little nosh. A pub, short for the British "public house," is a tavern serving light food-a convivial place to grab a drink and relax.
The World Cup football (soccer) matches are in full swing from June 9 to July 9, so local devotees can watch the games with a beer in one hand and a banger (sausage) in the other at a few of San Diego's well-known pubs. These casual taverns cater to many tastes-some feature Irish-themed foods such as corned beef and cabbage (The Field, Dublin Square Irish Pub & Grill, among many others) or Mexican food (Rosie O'Grady's) to go with a bevy of beers. I chose two decidedly English places that serve two typically English pub foods-homemade thick-cut chips (fries) with curry sauce and Scotch eggs (hardboiled and wrapped in sausage, baked and served with Branston Pickle, a finely chopped crunchy chutney style of carrots and other vegetables flavored with vinegar, onion powder and lemon juice).
One of my favorites, because it seems so authentic, is Shakespeare Pub & Grille, located upstairs among the mini collection of restaurants on India and Washington streets that include Mexican, Japanese, Thai, Middle Eastern and a wine bar and bistro. This very English pub sports dark wood tavern décor, wrapped with windows and simple wood tables. Out on the umbrella-laden wood deck, my pub-crawling pal and I sat on green plastic patio chairs and noted the dull roar of the I-5. The sound isn't bothersome-consider it a version of white noise. In fact, inside seating can be much louder.
The menu includes shepherd's pie (a mélange of ground beef and vegetables topped with mashed potatoes and cheese), fish and chips, a few sandwiches, roast beef and bangers and mash (that would be mashed potatoes), among other things, none of which will bust your budget. Tap and bottled beers, along with a full bar, make this venue a good hangout on a hot afternoon.
English chips typically are thick, not the skinny, limp wisps we call fries here in the States. At Shakespeare, those chips are long, crisp, thick and fleshy, a meal at $4.95. Curry sauce can be ordered separately for $1.50 and must be something the English picked up when they ran things in India. This mildly spicy dipping sauce comes in a bowl and is a nice change from the usual catsup or malt vinegar. Scotch eggs are served hot or cold-our server said typically they are cold. Now, I happen to like cold sausage, but if you don't, order it warm, as the sausage is wrapped around the hardboiled egg. Branston Pickle with the quartered egg and sausage make a good mouthful. My half pint of black and tan (Bass and Guinness) washed it all down quite nicely. 3701 India St., Lower Mission Hills, 619-299-0230, www.shakespearepub.com.
Should you want a jar of Branston Pickle (good with cheese, too), English bone china, pint glasses, boxer shorts of the British flag, Nestle candy made in England (it tastes different than our Nestle) or other English-born products, pop in to Shakespeare's Corner Shoppe across the patio from the pub. It's got it all. 3719 India St., Lower Mission Hills, 619-683-2748, www.ukcornershoppe.com.
South on India Street, Little Italy is the quintessential neighborhood with a unique mix of shops, homes and restaurants, all within walking distance of the others. The heart of this bustling area supports pizzas, empanadas, sushi and a corner pub, Princess Pub & Grille.
Lots of outdoor seating makes for good people-watching as throngs of tourists and locals walk their dogs and kids along the street, especially on weekends. The Princess website boasts that it's the original British pub in San Diego, having opened in 1984. Inside you'll find a large bar with comfortable chairs, lots of pub "stuff" on the walls for décor and plenty of noise, especially with the music turned up and people talking over it. It's a happening place with a good vibe. The menu, while featuring fish and chips and bangers, deviates to also include such things as baby back ribs and blackened Pacific salmon Caesar salad with Parmesan-not exactly my idea of authentic English pub grub. But as my sidekick remarked, they cater to a broader clientele given the location.
We ordered fish and chips and determined the chips, while thickly cut, were too soft and less flavorful than Shakespeare's. For me, the fish batter also could have been crisper. The side of curry sauce for the chips is long on hot chile in the mouth, reminding me of chile rather than a distinct curry. A meal of chips and curry is $6.50. I did like the Scotch egg, dished warm, wrapped with flavorful sausage meat, cut in half and served with the Branston Pickle. 1665 India St., Little Italy, 619-702-3021, www.princesspub.com.
There's a new Doug Manchester hotel about to open called The Grand Del Mar, located just off Highway 56. It will feature a restaurant, Addison, named after Addison Mizner, a 20th-century architect known for his fanciful Mediterranean designs in Palm Beach and Boca Raton. It seems the restaurant will feature photos and other memorabilia from Mizner's life in Florida, though he was born in Northern California in 1872. That Mizner's designs inspired The Grand Del Mar is one thing, but name a restaurant after him? And what about the food? Executive chef William Bradley's menu will feature, what else, fresh California ingredients in Mediterranean-style dishes, to complement the hotel's Florida resort architecture.
Write to marcie[at]5dollarchef[dot]com or editor[at]SDcitybeat[dot]com.