Jeff Smith 4 p.m., Dec. 20
Heat Bar and Kitchen
New restaurant for North Park outdoes itself for happy hour.
Despite the fact that it’s right up in my neighborhood, I seldom travel Park Boulevard south of University. What can I say other than that it’s just not an appealing couple of blocks...until now! Oscar-worthy dramatic flair aside, Heat Bar and Kitchen (3797 Park Boulevard, 619-546-4328) somehow eluded my notice the past couple of months since they opened on the side of the street that's technically North Park but spiritually Hillcrest. I poked my head in there during happy hour and the place is now on my radar in a big way.
More restaurant than bar, Heat doesn’t have a full liquor license so drinks are limited to beer, wine, and sake mixers. Out of curiosity, I tried one of their sake cocktails. Somebody at the bar had the bright idea to put sake, agave nectar, sherry (I know!), and a splash of soda water together and serve it up with a twist. Honestly, it’s brilliant and different. I tried no other drinks, but they had me at sake and sherry, anyways.
Happy hour at Heat is 4-6:30 and pretty much everything is $5, a uniformity I admire. I sampled the daily crudo, which turned out to be a trio of shrimps dressed with a spicy but otherwise unidentifiable sauce. They were perfectly cooked, brushed with a little pesto, and augmented with some marvelous pickled kumquats. I only wanted for a little more input from the sauce.
A order of wings came out with the kitchen’s version of hoisin sauce, the flavor of which the cooks nailed. Additionally, the wings had been fried hard, but in a good way. I love being able to bite the crunchy cartilage off the ends of the wing bones and having the skin be fried to crispy, golden perfection.
Even the sliders--most pedestrian of happy hour snacks--surpassed my expectations. The plump patties were cooked to a beautiful rare (per my request) and sat on buttery, golden buns. Crispy sliced pickles, “bacon jam,” and a zesty aioli finished them off. Exceptional.
I’ve had a grouchy week devoid of rave reviews, but Heat really knocked my socks off for $20. I think they’re punching way above their weight and I hope they keep it up. I must explore their dinner menu sometime soon.