815 J Street, East Village
When I went to Southpaw Social Club a while back, the menu had some good things on it, but the place was still feeling its way six months after opening.
With its back patio smack dab at the Park at the Park at Petco, the powers-that-be have decided to revamp the place as sort of a Midwestern-style beer garden.
The menu has changed enough that it was worth giving it a second look.
As a place to hang out while the Padres are playing, Southpaw is great. It’s atmospheric without being too noisy. It’s possible to watch the game and have a conversation while some guitar-playing troubadour works his way from Steve Miller to Bruno Mars via Oasis.
The emphasis is on local beers, both on tap and in the condiments. Every day or so, the chefs use a local brew as the basis for a mustard. It goes great with the sausage plate, which has a rotating group of sausages.
Along with a wide and ever-changing beer menu, Southpaw has added some craft cocktails. The Dickel Smash, with George Dickel whisky, tasted like an alcoholic lemonade. So, too, did the Southpaw Collins, made with vodka instead of gin for my gluten-avoiding friend.
The Southern Hospitality, made with bourbon, ginger peach and honey syrup, and bitters, seemed more worthy of the craft cocktail label.
Foodwise, Southpaw has improved (and I liked it before). The bacon-wrapped shrimp skewers are an excellent appetizer, as is the sausage plate (three sausages, apple kraut, griddle cornbread, tap mustard, and caramelized onion).
Two dishes are fighting it out in my memory: the lobster roll has big chunks of lobster in a soft Sadie Rose bun with crispy fries. My friend from Rhode Island said it was quite authentic and reminded her of New England. The lamb burger with red pepper relish, pickled zucchini, arugula, and mint-yogurt spread was also wonderful. Mint and meat are a great combination and the tanginess of the yogurt adds a Mediterranean touch that is very appealing.
I previously scored Southpaw as a triple, but the lobster roll and lamb burger are both home runs and deserve to become signature dishes. I will be back.