Liz Swain 4:24 p.m., May 24
So, yesterday, I expressed my belief San Diego would someday become one of America's top 10 best dining cities. In typing up that impassioned dissertation, I mentioned that most tourists miss the boat where our up-and-coming cuisine is concerned because they primarily visit downtown and yield to the lure of spots offering lowest-common-denominator genericism. I had Padres tickets last night and came across the new king of this breed of eateries en route to Petco Park.
It's called Bub's at the Ballpark and is a second location for PB-based Bub's, where good times, cheap drinks and bar food rule. Now, I love a good time, I'm admittedly pretty darn cheap and will go so far as to proclaim my love for greasy bar grub in the right situations; the type of situations that are common in PB, where a place like Bub's belongs and matches other businesses where quality is a bit of an afterthought and San Diego pride nearly non-existant beyond exploitation of beach culture in the name of attracting tourists and out-of-state collegians who'll later head home and tell their friends what SD bars and restaurants are all about, sharing nothing but tales of Grand and Garnet's finest. Starting to see why the rest of the country thinks we're a total joke?
When the Bub's space was being constructed, I was hopeful some solid concept would go in and, when I saw what was coming, I winced at the opportunities lost, but thought, "hey, this should work during baseball season and maybe they'll do some things to make the place San Diego-centric." By that, I meant put in some local beer taps, be super pro-Padres, put out some food that captures ingredients and stylistic touches of our local cuisine. That's as close as I usually get to seeing pint glasses half full, so you can imagine my disappointment A) to see tons of taps and nearly zero local beer, virtually no signs of Friar pride or SD espirit de corps and food that's more fit for the dietary landscapes in Wisconsin, Ohio or Oklahoma, and B) see the placed packed every afternoon and evening I've passed it.
I'm talking packed to the point of bursting! Packed with not only tourists, but East Village regulars who rave about how "f * in' great" this place is. Rather than shake my head and move on saying my own "f * * * in'"-laced sentences, I walked in to check it out during the top of the eighth of the game. I figured I could get a beer and check out the game on one of Bub's 20-plus screens. First off, I didn't see ONE local beer tap (I may have missed it, but can assure you the best you'd get was Ballast Point Yellowtail or a Karl Strauss everyday variety) and just two of the TV screens were showing the Padres game. This ain't so bad 'til you consider that SIX screens were showing the Yankees-Angels game (?) and the rest were devoted to the NHL finals (I for one am bleeding Vancouver blue and riveted to what is easily the most incredible match-up in hockey championsihp history...yes, this is sarcasm).
As for food, think generic wings, standard burgers and grilled cheese sandwiches with scarce sides of fries in red latticed plastic baskets. Nothing wrong with these things, but come on...for this place to be teeming with diners who for the most part represent the future of dining in San Diego is beyond sad. These are the venues that are detracting from the progress of hard working chefs, restaurateurs, farmers, ranchers and artisanal edible crafters in San Diego; spots that have easy opportunities to support local businesses and the economy by featuring and utilizing the wares of said operations, but blatantly opt not to so they can offer cheap eats and $1.75 drafts (BINGO...just figured out why Bub's is such a hot spot).
Certainly they have their place in San Diego...it's just a bummer to see them taking up such prime real estate and dumbing down a neighborhood where there's actually hope for building up a pocket of heightened offerings. Here's hoping game-goers will spread their business to better East Village businesses like Neighborhood, Cafe Chloe, El Vitral, Toast Enoteca, Dragon's Den, Jsix, Proper Gastropub or BASIC.