First Look at Uptown Tavern in Hillcrest
In the latest feat of taverning, the old Ono Sushi is now Uptown Tavern.
It’s a hot new property that’ll make you say, “Oh no they didn’t cover cheddar-and-bacon waffles with tempura-battered Mary’s chicken tenders and maple syrup!” Maybe you’d say that.
Along with chef Eli Freebairn‘s chicken and waffle (singular), there’s an overflowing mason jar of balsamic-marinated peaches and cream-cheese mousse with salted caramel.
And grilled Scottish salmon. It’s fire-licked to a crunchy exterior, served with haricots verts, shaved fennel, salsa verde and--the only weak link on the plate--a limp pico de gallo. (Hey kitchens, this chopped-tomato condiment turns fast.)
Uptown is just a week old, so it’s too early to criticize. Anyway, the gastropub/gastroclub-after-10 p.m. actually pulls off a more mature and distinct vibe than its sister Verant Group restaurants (True North Tavern, West Coast Tavern, Offshore Tavern, Sandbar, Tavern at the Beach).
This Uptown Tavern, from owners David Cohen and Bobby Jones, has great texture. It was designed by Michael Soriano. He gave distinct looks to Sessions Public (reclaimed wood), The Pearl Hotel (sleek cream colors and ‘50s feel), Vin de Syrah (entrance hidden by Astroturf wall), and Raglan Public House (light bulbs fixed to surf boards).
The look: On a Friday visit, the sidewalk patio was occupied by the well-groomed. The staff was eager for approval and friendly. The big greet comes from the bar, in the center of the main room with garage door windows. The cool back patio is wallpapered with old New York Times pages and an early aviator’s image. Note the fireplace, exposed brick and wooden ceiling beams across an open roof-You expect to see a smokestack against the blue-black sky above you.
Designer Michael Soriano achieved open space and industrial texture; he put modern furniture in a pre-war factory setting.
More about the food: The charred Brussels sprouts do not feel mass produced: With pale sheets of hard Parmigiano-Reggiano, clods of bacon, chili flakes and a light mist of roasted-garlic vinaigrette, you and a dinner pal will shovel up a generous portion of them competitively.
“Better than your Momma’s Brussels sprouts,” the menu says of the starter dish ($13 with bacon). They’re right.
But every restaurant and their Momma’s got Brussels. And short rib sliders, and flatbread, and mac ‘n cheese--Uptown performs those plates, too.
It goes off script with a battered-and-deep-fried Nicoise olives (with baconnaise dip and that limp pico de gallo). The crumb-and-bursting-brine experience was mystifying...stuffing them with cheese would improve them, perhaps?
Soon the kitchen will expand to pork schnitzel, lamb flatbread, a maple-bacon crème brulee, Mary’s stuffed chicken breast, deviled eggs, and a nutritious-sounding quinoa and farro sauté.
Read Keli Dailey’s full story and more on utsandiego.com
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