Robert Bush 6:31 p.m., May 18
Downtown San Diego's new hot spot is long on booze and short on food.
I’d stopped by Bailiwick--a new cocktail bar downtown at 756 5th Avenue--a while ago and had a good experience with the drinks and vibe there. It was chilled out and stylish; and the cocktails menu was sincere without being pretentious. I’d been told the restaurant planned to open for brunch, so I gave it a little while and I finally made it back there for an afternoon breakfast session. Brunch runs until 3PM every Sunday, so there was no need to hurry.
The scene at brunch was crazy. It was wall-to-wall Ed Hardy'd bro dudes and their girls getting absolutely slammed on bottomless Mimosas ($15). And the music was loud, like, “this goes to eleven” loud. I didn’t think that fit the Anthropologie-esque decor of the bar, which was as hipsteriffic as ever, but I guess there’s nothing alternative about vintage decorations and housemade bitters anymore. I’m not complaining or anything, because Bailiwick is still cool looking and has good drinks, but it’s definitely not the scene I thought it would be, judging by appearances alone!
Brunch didn’t amount to many choices, but they also weren’t expensive. Everything was, give or take, within the $10 range. A few things topped that price, but not by much. Overall, the cuisine didn’t live up to the promises that the concept makes. The “poussin” (a little-used term for a young chicken) sat atop a bed of quinoa and chorizo with a few micro-greens strewn about for color. The chicken, while diminutive, had a nice texture and crackly skin, almost as thought it had been prepared like duck confit. Mixed together, the quinoa and chorizo formed an adequate side dish and the maple syrup flavor, though it was a bit heavy, meshed nicely with the zesty sausage. The effort at thinking outside the brunch box was alright, but the execution wasn't there.
A veggie Benedict used not one but two separate plates. The eggs and vegetables were confined to a cast iron skillet and that sat on top of a wooden board alongside some thin slices of toast and a ramekin of excellent fig preserves. The toast and preserves were probably the strongest portion of the dish, as the over-cooked omelet, negligible drizzle of Hollandaise, unidentifiable greens, and lonely stalk of asparagus underwhelmed. Throwing a good-sized ball of decent mozzarella cheese on top of the whole thing helped a little, but as re-thought Benedicts go, Bailiwick’s was mediocre at best.
The kitchen at Bailiwick isn’t going to wow anyone who comes looking for a special brunch, that much is certain, but the lively scene and momentous amount of drinking going on inside give weekend warriors an excellent excuse for some high-class day drinking. If anything, the food’s only there to soak up the mimosas.