Cue “New Kid in Town” by the Eagles and replace Kid with Game. The much-anticipated Park & Rec, University Heights’ newest hotspot, has opened, and the neighborhood couldn’t be happier.
Located on Park Boulevard in the former Bourbon Street location, Park & Rec is loungy, outdoorsy, musical, and gamey all at once. Complete with classic pinball, shuffleboard and cornhole, a San Diegan can play, sip on a curated cocktail, listen to a DJ and see classic movies and concerts on the telly. Touches of the past grace the open-air atmosphere, evidenced in the gorgeous lead glass pieces behind the bar and the stained glass additions throughout.
“We wanted to embrace the existing history but still do something different. This room has been a bar for 50 years, there is excitement in that alone,” owner John Pani said.
Hiring Trevor Easter and Anthony Schmidt, renowned mixologists and partners in Revelry Cocktail Co., was definitively a move to take the former party spot into a new era. Easter makes a comparison to the comedy of Lucy and Ricky when he describes his relationship with Schmidt: “I am throwing out the most annoying, painstakingly difficult recipes on the planet, and he is the brilliant, amazing filter. I’m Lucy, and he says, ‘You’ve got some ‘splaining to do.’”
The 22-entry cocktail list is top-notch, while still being approachable and pocket-friendly. Every drink comprises only three steps, and speed is a primary desire and factor in their production. In other words, you get your drink faster.
The list is divided into three sections: Lowballers are plays on highball drinks, with one additional ingredient; Old- Fashioneds (San Diegans love this cocktail!) use brown sugar and a proprietary chocolate-spiced orange bitters; and Light & Refreshing, which are inspired by house parties, sitting in the backyard and San Diego weather.
In addition, there is the Featured Cocktail, currently named The Slide, aka “the best mudslide ever.” With 4-year aged rum, coffee liqueur, cream, chocolate malt, and frozen in a slushie machine, it’s like a chocolate milkshake that makes you happy. (Get one of these on a sunny San Diego day, and get your cornhole game on).
The savory Cabrillo, based on a ceviche Easter and Schmidt ate in Tulum, Mexico, is both refreshing and intriguing, making you want to go back again and again. Their most popular cocktail, Dos Ojos, uses cucumber-infused tequila, lime, juiced ginger and soda. A sort of “social experiment” based on the popularity of ginger and cucumber here, it is their most “healthy” cocktail and is wonderfully drinkable. On the comic side, they have the “Kick the Can” concept, based on airport bars, where with a can of beer (mostly craft choices) one can order a side boot shot glass of bourbon or tequila.
For music, check out Monday nights, where a DJ spins old vinyl records in the main bar, while the rec room in the back hosts live bands and DJs Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights.
Craft beer lovers never fear, Park & Rec has you covered with a draft list including San Diego veterans Stone, Alpine, and Ballast Point along with local favorites Hess, Latitude 33 and Fall Brewing.
Get on out to Park & Rec and put some fun in your week. When that cocktail hits your lips, you’ll be thanking me. P.S. Don’t forget to ask about the ostrich.
With 15 years in the restaurant and beverage industry and more than 700 reviews under her belt, Laurie Delk is a one-stop guide to all things craft beer, wine and spirits. You can follow Delk on Twitter @100beers30days or Instagram @sandiegobeer. Send ideas for featured drinks to email@example.com.