David Dodd 1:48 a.m., May 18
Brandon Hernandez did an admirable job of comparing and contrasting the North Park iteration of Toronado with the San Francisco original, and I have used Toronado as exemplary of craft-beer bars in my (admittedly limited) attempt to get a handle on the TJ beer scene. The food at places like Toronado often gets overlooked. There is just too much beer to drink! Too frequently the food at bars is, at best, mediocre, but Toronado actually turns some good plates out of the kitchen.
It's not quite on par with local restaurants in terms of quality and service, but the food is of sufficient substance and flavor that Toronado is a good destination for people who are thirsty and hungry.
For a starter, jalapeno corn cakes with habanero jelly ($8) had a fascinating mix of sweet and spicy flavors and a texture that strongly evoked flapjacks, but not in a bad way.
The majority of the menu is devoted to sausages, sandwiches, and burgers in the $7 to $12 range. I immediately gravitated towards a sloppy Joe after a strenuous day, though I immediately began to worry that the kindergarten-esque sandwich might be less awe-inspiring than my foggy, childhood memories might have led me to believe. Pleasantly, the savory, scrambled-hamburger mess on a bun was anything but a one-note dish. The good bread (from Bread and Cie in Hillcrest) absorbed its weight in sauce and the meat hadn't been cooked into oblivion as could so easily be the case. The potato salad on the side had a heavy mustard flavor that dominated the entire salad.
There are a few larger plates on the menu, and an order of spicy macaroni and cheese ($11) had flaming-hot habaneros and smoky chipotles in the mix. It was a generous plate of pasta and the cheesiness of the macaroni was actually somewhat restrained.
I've found it difficult to get served in Toronado, even when the place is dead. It would be nice to see this tendency change, but once the bartender deigned to take my order the food came out of the kitchen with impressive alacrity.
Tueday is "steak night," which strongly implies ample amounts of both beef and brew.
4026 30th Street