Since its April opening in the North Park nook that formerly housed Claire de Lune Coffee Lounge, Tamarindo Latin Kitchen & Bar has already cultivated quite a following. And for one of the venue's accomplished bartenders, cultivation is nothing new.
Born and raised in East County, Jordan Brownwood has worked in hospitality for a dozen years or so. Prior to slinging drinks at Tamarindo, he spent two years working at East Village's Rare Form. Before that, he lived in San Francisco and Austin, Texas. But it was only recently that the 34-year-old began to nourish his new love: Agriculture.
"I tend bar on average about three nights a week but, primarily, I am a farmer," says Brownwood, who, with his wife, owns a 15-acre avocado, citrus and hops farm north of Escondido. "The hops are probably our primary crops; we've got about 3 acres of them that we sell fresh to local breweries."
PACIFIC: How did you get into farming?
JORDAN BROWNWOOD: I've always been interested in growing food, ever since I was a kid. We always had a veggie garden and fruit trees in the backyard; that's what started my interest. And then, when I was in Texas, I started making friends with different farmers and helping out on different farms there. And then my brother - I have a twin brother - he really got into farming, so that made me get more into it. And a couple of years ago, I found this working farm that was for sale, and the price was great. My wife and I decided to jump on it.
How would you describe Tamarindo to people who haven't yet visited?
As our chef likes to say, it's "Latin-inspired San Diego food." Nothing is going to be super traditional, because that's not really what we go for. It's directed toward using ingredients that are widely available in San Diego. We source food from as many local farmers and fishmongers as we can, so it's very regionally specific cuisine.
How does Tamarindo's bar program differ from that of other North Park bars?
As far as our bar program, again, it's all Latin-inspired, but we try to go for a kind of New World-inspired cocktail menu. We specialize in tequilas, mezcals and sotols, and we carry a lot of stuff I don't think many other bars around town have. As far as tequila goes, we only serve "bat-friendly" tequila that supports sustainable agave farming. And for mezcals, it's more of an economical stability that we try to support. We have personal relationships with all of our mezcalerias and have them come in and do educational classes and tastings. I'm learning quite a bit about obscure agave spirits and different rums I haven't worked with.
What are some of the bar's signature cocktails?
My favorite cocktail on the menu is the Oaxacan Old Fashioned... done with tequila and mezcal instead of bourbon. We use mole bitters that give it kind of a chocolatey-spicy-flavor finish. Our house margarita is another favorite. I know margaritas are everywhere, but ours stands out, because we use two tequilas: a blanco tequila and a reposado. The reposado gives it more of a deep, rich, oaky flavor. And instead of adding a triple sec or Grand Marnier or another kind of orange liqueur that are in most margaritas, we use a Martinique orange shrub, which is essentially an orange-infused rum.
What are a couple of your favorite meals on the menu?
Our ceviche is incredible. It's a shrimp-based ceviche, but we do seasonal rotations with local fish - everything from yellowtail to corvina to salmon. It's always changing. The chicken mole is also delicious. And it sounds kind of basic, but the rolled tacos we have on the menu are awesome. They're purple-potato rolled tacos and they're really damn good.
What food and drink pairing do you recommend to first-time visitors to Tamarindo?
I would recommend the carne asada, which is medium-rare skirt steak, and I would pair that with the Oaxacan Old Fashioned. It's a sophisticated dish and drink that just go really well together.
What do you do when you're not working?
Right now, pretty much all of my free time is spent on the farm. I also play music here and there, and I've got dogs I spend a lot of time at the beach with. My wife is actually eight months pregnant right now, so I probably won't have time for anything soon.
Learn more about Jordan's roots when he's outstanding in his field - Wednesday and Thursday nights at Tamarindo. ¡Olé!
Tamarindo Latin Kitchen & Bar: 2906 University Ave., North Park, 619.955.8770, tamarindonp.com