Walter Mencken 11 a.m., July 25
South Beach Bar and Grill
My plans to get to the bar at the end of Newport Street in OB took forever to come to fruition, but when I finally made it there I found it to be the quintessential SoCal beach bar. Reggae-inspired music blasted from the PA and the crowd was Bro-heavy, with a smattering of skaters and hippies in the mix.
South Beach sells a lot of Bud Light and other beers that go well with sports, but the tap list manages a few more crafty options (though it's not going to wow the hop sniffers). Daily beer specials let you get your drink on for not a lot of money and the bar has those extra-large glasses that fit an entire bomber-worth of beer inside. Getting one for something like $5 is a treat.
The kitchen does great, unpretentious, inexpensive things with shellfish and oysters are more or less the way to go. A dozen oysters, freshly shucked and served on the half shell with an abundance of cocktail sauce, cost $16.95. That's under $1.50 per oyster and can rival the best deals to be had at other seafood places in town. No mention was made of what kind of oyster was being served, as might be the case somewhere more upscale, but the ones I received were immense and very rich.
I found a few fragments of shell in my oysters, which indicates that the time-consuming process of shucking oysters might get a little bit rushed in a crazy-busy bar. Still, it's not exactly rocket science to pick or spit out the occasional errant piece of calcium.
I saw some enormous shrimp cocktails go out to other tables and I have to say that the $4 seafood cocktail cups and $14 trays of peel-and-eat shrimp looked like pretty killer bargains that would be a delight to share with friends.
There is plenty of more substantial fare on the menu as well. Sandwiches, burgers, and grilled or fried fish plates all hovered in the $8-$11 price range. It was all unapologetically bar food, modestly priced, and generously portioned.
I tried a few of the tacos as well. Very strange phenomenon. For starters, they are huge. Each one comes on a big (for a taco) flour tortilla and gets loaded up with pico de gallo, cabbage, and a heavy dose of crema. They were definitely a bit unorthodox, but really satisfying. Most cost about $4 (lobster was almost $7) and the fried oyster version featured plenty of the shucked shellfish that were crispy on the outside and richly creamy on the interior. Other options included grilled mahi, wahoo, yellowfin, or shark. Chicken, carne asada, and fried zucchini (for the vegetarians) made an appearance as well.
On leaving South Beach, I was remarkably satisfied and filled to the gills with fresh oysters and beer.
I can think of way worse states to be in.
The waiters will only accept cash (why this seems to be thematic in Ocean Beach, I have no idea) but there is an ATM inside so you won't end up washing dishes to pay for your supper like a mid-century cartoon character. There's a pay-for-parking lot next to the building, but parking is otherwise non-existent during peak hours so prepare to hike a bit.
5059 Newport Avenue
Fr & Sat 11AM-2AM
More like this:
- An excuse to eat on the cheap in gussied surroundings — April 15, 2015
- An oyster education at Herringbone — July 31, 2014
- Buck-a-shuck for oysters at Spike Africa’s, downtown — Jan. 27, 2013
- Clams on the Run — July 23, 2012
- Sneak Joint: Booze > Burgers — June 30, 2012