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Common Theory Public House

4805 Convoy Street, Kearny Mesa

Interior shot, Common Theory

San Diego needs another restaurant serving craft beer and tarted-up pub grub like it needs another mayoral scandal. But there’s one neighborhood that’s remained more or less free from badge logos, kale, and people sticking their noses into beer: Kearny Mesa. Convoy Street isn’t just one of SD’s tastiest miracle miles, it’s gloriously liberated from food trends and fashions. The cuisine du jour has to put in a good show to catch the eye of anyone looking to do business along Convoy… like the UCSD grads who opened up Common Theory earlier this year.

Delicious helles lager

As sick as we are of seeing phrases like “beer-centric eatery” come to press, Common Theory actually deserves a little excitement. It looks like the owners are doing things a little differently, or at least making a go of it. The design cues could be from any trendy restaurant (nautical ropes, reclaimed-looking wood, and Edison bulbs abound), but it’s still fun inside. Big windows make for plenty of fresh air, and a couple big TV’s tuned to sports give the impression that the restaurant doesn’t presume itself above a little stick-and-ball entertainment.

The short menu keeps prices in check. Starters are $5.50-$9, sandwiches and salads $9-$12, and mains run $13-$18. Beers are similarly priced on the upside of affordable, with plenty of tap and bottle options. There’s no full bar.

Chicken fried burger?!

True to the rumors, the chef didn’t go for “fusion” cuisine, despite the fact that this trendy, American beer restau sits smack in the middle of San Diego’s greater Asian quarter. The Scotch quail eggs ($5.50), shrouded in fried chorizo and served with a perplexing jalapeño honey, are fabulous.

So, too, for a “chicken fried wagyu burger” ($12), which is leaner than it ought to be, heart-wrenchingly indulgent, and totally worth the asking price, even if the charred scallions are more of a bother than a delight.

Watch out for the peppers on the calamari

The place is still new, so the occasional gaffe makes an appearance, like ill-fried calamari seeping cold oil, but there’s a great sense of precision in the cooking, as though the chef and owners were willfully trying to purge the menu of needless adjectives, self-indulgent ingredients, and the kind of snootiness that has no place whatsoever in a restaurant serving beer and fried food.

In a sense, Common Theory is, well, let’s say it could be the bar and grill we’ve been waiting for. Just wants a bit of polish.

Nice piece of salmon on this salad

Oh, and, seriously, when the menu says “spicy,” it’s being serious. Don’t bite off a huge hunk of formally unidentified yellow pepper thinking, "there’s no way that’s actually a habanero…. menus just say there’s habanero in the food so guests feel like hardmen when they down an order of 'Devil Wings,' or whatever." You will burn.

So, how about it, Common Theory? Care to show us what you can do? We’re waiting. Eagerly. You could be great.

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Comments

jsean Aug. 18, 2014 @ 2:44 p.m.

Finally a place where I can get locally sourced truffle duck fat fries and a hand crafted, artisan Belgian Saison micro-brew, without all the pretentious atmosphere, and still watch my favorite Bravo shows on their TVs! And damn those snooty adjectives, and pompous ingredients! All I want is fried food and beer! Everything else is for the pretentious and snob elite!

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Ian Pike Aug. 19, 2014 @ 2:15 p.m.

I don't know if this is the sharpest sarcasm ever, or the most enthusiastic thumbs up.

Either way, the problem with the "pretentious snob elite" bar/grill places is that they have become so many that the whole "craft everything" trend has become a sea of empty prose and very ordinary food masquerading as something special. It's nice to see a place that doesn't smear quite as much lipstick on the proverbial pig.

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jsean Nov. 19, 2014 @ 6:03 p.m.

A bit of both. Your article is contradictory.

You say that Common Theory is going at it differently, yet it's doing it exactly like every other hipster beer-centric eatery trend - complete with the badge logo, Edison filaments, and reclaimed wood. In fact, from the menu and pictures, they aren't doing anything "original".

You say the place is ridding itself of self-indulgent ingredients yet there's truffle duck fat fries on the menu - which, is critisized by many on Yelp, for being very "meh."

Your article is simultaneously condemning places like this, and yet hyping it up, and further still saying how good it could be. It's like a food snob, telling us how those shitty trend gastropubs are all so pretentious, and here's another one, except it's not pretentious this time because it has TVs, but it still has much room for improvement... what?

It's like you're fighting your inner hipster who wants to come out and just be accepted but is afraid of being called a snob.

I'm all for trendy pubs, like Urge, Blind Lady, Tiger Tiger, and etcetera. The public wants a nice atmosphere because that's part of what draws us to hang out there. Yes, there are places that talk a lot of talk, yet don't put out.

Fact is that these "hipster" places (such as Stone, & Blind Lady) were started by people that had a vision, and used devices such as those "needless adjectives" to perpetuate a culture of excellence to their team. They wanted to show how much they cared about giving their customers the best experience possible. Whether that means "no ketchup", because food should be good on their own, or "no TVs" because a pub should be where you meet strangers and friends come and actually talk to each other.

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