Walter Mencken 6:15 p.m., Feb. 28
Just a stone's throw from a freeway on-ramp, Counterpoint seems a little out of place on its otherwise unassuming block of 25th Street in Golden Hill. The little, urban tavern is a small space, on the darker side when the sun goes down, that has a cozy atmosphere and a menu designed to accommodate parties of friends who want to sip a few beers and nosh on some classic dishes from European and American public houses.
The selection of wines by the glass ($5-$12) is well thought out and includes plenty of interesting varietals like barbera, gamay, and viognier in addition to the obligatory pinot noir and chardonnay offerings.
This trend continues in the beer listings. WIth a surprisingly big tap list for the size of the place, and a well composed (even if a bit heavy on more oddball items like Scotch ales and sours) selection of bottled beers, there's plenty of stuff for average hopsniffer. Taps tend to be more local, bottles from far, which makes sense.
Pub food unabashedly dominates the menu, though Counterpoint's kitchen innovates some classier touches where appropriate.
A beet salad ($8) demonstrated that someone in the kitchen has a superior ability to cook beets. Neither too soft nor too crisp, the earthy, sweet root veggies were the highlight of the salad. The hazelnut-citrus dressing could have been a little sharper to offset the delightful muskiness of the beets, but some goat cheese picked up the slack in that respect.
Without a fryer--kudos to Counterpoint on that--to produce the iconic Belgian frites that most taverns can't do without, the kitchen has to think a little outside the spud. Instead of potatoes, the cooks are broiling up slices of artisan bread and serving it over a deep puddle of fondue. Not fries, but the pain frites ($6) is quite fun and a more than adequate substitute.
Stepping into a magical land of white-trash-beautiful culinary genius, Counterpoint's fried bologna sandwich ($13) is excellent. Buttery, golden slices of pullman bread house just the right amount of molten cheese and grilled cold cuts. It's simple and extremely perfect for eating with a beer. The little green salad that comes on the side--whether by proximity of design--somehow manages to evoke the taste of bologna, which is just plain cool.
830 25th Street
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