Mike Madriaga 8:30 a.m., Feb. 23
Prep Kitchen: Tapa Time
Amazing how often I’ve crossed India, crossed Date, and never noticed this place. Only reason tonight is that people are sluicing in and climbing stairs like it was a religious revival meetin’ in town.
Actually, it’s Prep Kitchen (1660 India Street, 619-398-8383), upstairs from a corner shoe shop, and next to the Ironside door and window grill manufacturing place.
It doesn’t look cheap, but it does look cute, and it does have a happy hour going. Main thing on that is a bunch of $3.75 tapas the sandwich board on the sidewalk mentions.
So, whoa, up stairs next to a wall of wine bottles and pot plants and recovered bits and pieces from old houses to this second-level…happening. It’s a-buzz! The section with the view is for full-paying customers. And so is an exotic-looking dining-living room sectioned off by gauzy red curtains.
But the bar and a bunch of high tables in the middle are cool for HH cheapos like me. I sit up on just about the only spare hi-chair, across from this glam couple, Meghaan and Justin.
Bet I’m hearing the word “social media” about once every two seconds around me.
Lia the waitress comes up.
“Something to drink?” She hands me the bar menu for PKLI (“Prep Kitchen Little Italy,” because it turns out they have places in La Jolla and Del Mar, too). It’s printed to look like it was typed out on an old blotchy typewriter, jes’ like all cool places are doing to be cool by looking uncool.
They have nine tapas going for $3.75 each. Drinks don’t seem to have a happy hour, except 25 percent off bottles of wine and house sangrias going for $5 a glass and $20 a pitcher.
“Everything else doesn’t change,” says Lia. “But the beer prices are pretty good.”
Well, they do have Green Flash 30th Street Pale Ale for $5. I go for that. Then — master of quick decisions, before Lia disappears into the crowd — pick out three tapas, like, twelve bucks’ worth: the Catalan Sizzlin’ Shrimp...
...the Yellowtail Niçoise Salad...
...and the House Marinated Olives...
...and Lia says she'll bring a nice big chunk of bread for sopping...
But here’s the good thing. Meghaan and Justin also put in an order. For bacon-wrapped dates, ham and cheese mini-sandwiches, and Patatas Bravas. So by the time they arrive, we’ve got a feast. We do a bit of sharing, and the whole thing turns into a mini meal.
Two things are the champs: the shrimp which come sizzling in a black iron mini-pan, and the beautiful big chunk of bread Lia brings. Sopping up the juices is the best moment, specially alongside slurps of my Green Flash. (OK, with a wine it might be even better.)
The salad: Two slightly fishy gulps. The olives: really good (also with the bread). They have little flavor bursts of peppercorns, think they are, fennel, onion, lemon peel…luscious. The patata brava I steal is pretty good, the sandwich helps fill the gut, and bacon dates have to be good, tho I never get to one.
But it’s really the scene that makes this place special. It rocks. I mean who’d believe, upstairs, above a shoe shop?
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