4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs

New Latino Squared

This restaurant is closed.


Should I or shouldn’t I?

I stand at the base of the steps. Up top, a couple of “log” fires are burning in their chimeneas, kivas. Beautiful People sit around them, and at tables, surrounded by stone arches and bougainvillea, laughing, glugging back margaritas from fancy glasses, living the good life. Sigh. Here comes a new year, and here’s yours truly, still hesitating at the bottom of steps like these?

On the other hand, what the heck? It’s 6:00, a nice Sunday evening. Got a Hamilton and a Lincoln in the pocket. See what we can do with it.

I head up the steps to Zócalo.

“Still having happy hour?” I ask the hostess.

“Well, yes, till 6:30, but only at the bar. It finished at 5:00 on the terrace.”

Okay. So I make for the bar. It’s across this really cool room, with lots of polished wood, stone, exposed wooden rafters, and tile pictures of Latin American scenes laid into the walls. “Zócalo” means “main town square,” in Mexico, at least, so it all fits, this being just up from Old Town’s plaza and all. I head for a beautiful marble-and-wood bar in back, hoist myself aboard next to a gent who’s finishing off his martini. “One more, Ryan,” he’s saying. “That’s dirty.”

“Dirty?” I have to ask.

“Yes, sir, a dirty martini,” he says. “A little vermouth, Bombay Sapphire gin, shaken, not stirred. Think James Bond. Straight up, just a little crushed ice and olive juice to cloud it, make it ‘dirty,’ give it flavor.” His name’s Chris. He’s an adviser to — wow — the governor of Guam. Here on vacation.

Ryan slides me a little stand-up menu. Great. Happy-hour list. Prices go from $2.75 to $15. Zócalo nachos, which I know would fill me, come with melted Mexican cheeses, black beans, salsa picante, jalapeño cream sauce, and guacamole. “The best you’ll have in San Diego,” says Ryan. “He’s right,” says Chris.

Daggone it, they’re $7. Which I could do, but then not much else. Steamed mussels and clams with garlic mojo run $8. But I want to drink something, have a couple of little dishes, and come out feeling full. Too much to ask?

I spot the cheese fish tacos. Interesting, and $2.75. Not bad, compared with Chris’s choice. He’s ordered a New Zealand lamb and potato-quiche dish. Tag: $26.

I check out other impossible dreams: lobster bisque ($6.50), queso fundido (a delicious-looking cheese fondue, with adobe chicken or chorizo — dammit: love chorizo — and served with tostones, deep-fried plantain slices, $9), or even a carnitas sandwich with mango salsa and avocado salad ($10). Last two are just over the top. Sigh. On the sound system, Bruce Hornsby is singing “…that’s just the way it is.”

“Decided?” Ryan asks. I focus on two things I reckon I can afford: the $2.75 fish taco, and Cuban sweet-potato fritas with house chimichurri, $4. Have to ask about that chimichurri. Seems they call it the ketchup of Argentina. It’s a kind of green dipping relish, with olive oil, vinegar, cilantro, onion, garlic, you name it. Plus, Ryan says I can get a glass of Coors Light for $3.25 to go with it. Together, it’ll come to a neat $10. Plus tax. Cool. And the part I really dig is how Ryan lays out a three-cornered white linen napkin on the marble counter in front of me and places a rolled napkin on top of that, with heavy silverware inside. Then he brings me this nice tall flute of Coors. It could be champagne, the way it looks.

“This is a nuevo latino restaurant,” he says a couple of minutes later. “Fusion food.” He sets down my sweet potato fritas and then the fish-taco dish. Oh, man. This taco’s not just a taco. Yes, it’s a corn tortilla with a chunk of fish — Arctic pollock — but loaded with so much more: black beans, green onions, shredded red cabbage, onions, some sour cream, lemon, garlic white sauce, and lots of golden cheese on top. It’s a pileup. So classy.

The sweet-potato fries fill up the corners the taco missed. Love the relish dip. Also splot on some hot sauce that turns out to be the place’s own brand. Not bad.

So, I’m just licking my fingers from the last bite of this finger-lickin’-good taco when I hear “Aha!”

It’s this lady who’s come up to the bar, sat down on my right, and ordered a $10 spring roll–looking dish.

“Caught red-fingered!” she says. “My ex-husband used to do that, lick his fingers. I lectured him about it. Must be a male thing. Caveman and all that?”

Her name’s Liz. This is her watering hole. We all start talking.

“Here,” says Chris. “Try this.” He cuts off two chops from his rack of lamb and passes them along to us. Delicious, minty. So this is how the Other Half lives.

Half an hour later, I head back down those Steps of Hesitation. ’Cept now, I’m struttin’. Finally! Somewhere to impress Carla, one happy hour at a time.

The Place: Zócalo Grill, 2444 San Diego Avenue, Old Town, 619-298-9840

Type of Food: Latin fusion

Happy Hour Prices: Zócalo nachos, $6.50; cheese fish taco, $2.75; lobster bisque, $6.50; queso fundido (cheese fondue), with adobe chicken or chorizo, and tostones — deep-fried plantain slices — $9; carnitas sandwich with mango salsa, avocado salad, $10; Cuban sweet-potato fritas with house chimichurri, $4

Happy Hour Hours: 4:00 p.m.–5:00 p.m., every day on the patio (starting at 3:00 p.m. on Sundays); 4:00 p.m.–6:30 p.m., Tuesday–Saturday at the bar; 4:00 p.m. to close, Mondays at the bar

Buses: 8, 9, 10, 14, 28, 30, 35, 44, 105, 150

Nearest Bus Stop: Old Town Transit Center

Rail: Trolley (blue line, green line), Coaster

Nearest Rail Stop: Old Town Transit Center

Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all

Previous article

The Bar at Moniker General’s Guava Clouds, S.A.: a play on the classic margarita

Daytime coffeehouse gives way to a growing night scene on weekends

This restaurant is closed.


Should I or shouldn’t I?

I stand at the base of the steps. Up top, a couple of “log” fires are burning in their chimeneas, kivas. Beautiful People sit around them, and at tables, surrounded by stone arches and bougainvillea, laughing, glugging back margaritas from fancy glasses, living the good life. Sigh. Here comes a new year, and here’s yours truly, still hesitating at the bottom of steps like these?

On the other hand, what the heck? It’s 6:00, a nice Sunday evening. Got a Hamilton and a Lincoln in the pocket. See what we can do with it.

I head up the steps to Zócalo.

“Still having happy hour?” I ask the hostess.

“Well, yes, till 6:30, but only at the bar. It finished at 5:00 on the terrace.”

Okay. So I make for the bar. It’s across this really cool room, with lots of polished wood, stone, exposed wooden rafters, and tile pictures of Latin American scenes laid into the walls. “Zócalo” means “main town square,” in Mexico, at least, so it all fits, this being just up from Old Town’s plaza and all. I head for a beautiful marble-and-wood bar in back, hoist myself aboard next to a gent who’s finishing off his martini. “One more, Ryan,” he’s saying. “That’s dirty.”

“Dirty?” I have to ask.

“Yes, sir, a dirty martini,” he says. “A little vermouth, Bombay Sapphire gin, shaken, not stirred. Think James Bond. Straight up, just a little crushed ice and olive juice to cloud it, make it ‘dirty,’ give it flavor.” His name’s Chris. He’s an adviser to — wow — the governor of Guam. Here on vacation.

Ryan slides me a little stand-up menu. Great. Happy-hour list. Prices go from $2.75 to $15. Zócalo nachos, which I know would fill me, come with melted Mexican cheeses, black beans, salsa picante, jalapeño cream sauce, and guacamole. “The best you’ll have in San Diego,” says Ryan. “He’s right,” says Chris.

Daggone it, they’re $7. Which I could do, but then not much else. Steamed mussels and clams with garlic mojo run $8. But I want to drink something, have a couple of little dishes, and come out feeling full. Too much to ask?

I spot the cheese fish tacos. Interesting, and $2.75. Not bad, compared with Chris’s choice. He’s ordered a New Zealand lamb and potato-quiche dish. Tag: $26.

I check out other impossible dreams: lobster bisque ($6.50), queso fundido (a delicious-looking cheese fondue, with adobe chicken or chorizo — dammit: love chorizo — and served with tostones, deep-fried plantain slices, $9), or even a carnitas sandwich with mango salsa and avocado salad ($10). Last two are just over the top. Sigh. On the sound system, Bruce Hornsby is singing “…that’s just the way it is.”

“Decided?” Ryan asks. I focus on two things I reckon I can afford: the $2.75 fish taco, and Cuban sweet-potato fritas with house chimichurri, $4. Have to ask about that chimichurri. Seems they call it the ketchup of Argentina. It’s a kind of green dipping relish, with olive oil, vinegar, cilantro, onion, garlic, you name it. Plus, Ryan says I can get a glass of Coors Light for $3.25 to go with it. Together, it’ll come to a neat $10. Plus tax. Cool. And the part I really dig is how Ryan lays out a three-cornered white linen napkin on the marble counter in front of me and places a rolled napkin on top of that, with heavy silverware inside. Then he brings me this nice tall flute of Coors. It could be champagne, the way it looks.

“This is a nuevo latino restaurant,” he says a couple of minutes later. “Fusion food.” He sets down my sweet potato fritas and then the fish-taco dish. Oh, man. This taco’s not just a taco. Yes, it’s a corn tortilla with a chunk of fish — Arctic pollock — but loaded with so much more: black beans, green onions, shredded red cabbage, onions, some sour cream, lemon, garlic white sauce, and lots of golden cheese on top. It’s a pileup. So classy.

The sweet-potato fries fill up the corners the taco missed. Love the relish dip. Also splot on some hot sauce that turns out to be the place’s own brand. Not bad.

So, I’m just licking my fingers from the last bite of this finger-lickin’-good taco when I hear “Aha!”

It’s this lady who’s come up to the bar, sat down on my right, and ordered a $10 spring roll–looking dish.

“Caught red-fingered!” she says. “My ex-husband used to do that, lick his fingers. I lectured him about it. Must be a male thing. Caveman and all that?”

Her name’s Liz. This is her watering hole. We all start talking.

“Here,” says Chris. “Try this.” He cuts off two chops from his rack of lamb and passes them along to us. Delicious, minty. So this is how the Other Half lives.

Half an hour later, I head back down those Steps of Hesitation. ’Cept now, I’m struttin’. Finally! Somewhere to impress Carla, one happy hour at a time.

The Place: Zócalo Grill, 2444 San Diego Avenue, Old Town, 619-298-9840

Type of Food: Latin fusion

Happy Hour Prices: Zócalo nachos, $6.50; cheese fish taco, $2.75; lobster bisque, $6.50; queso fundido (cheese fondue), with adobe chicken or chorizo, and tostones — deep-fried plantain slices — $9; carnitas sandwich with mango salsa, avocado salad, $10; Cuban sweet-potato fritas with house chimichurri, $4

Happy Hour Hours: 4:00 p.m.–5:00 p.m., every day on the patio (starting at 3:00 p.m. on Sundays); 4:00 p.m.–6:30 p.m., Tuesday–Saturday at the bar; 4:00 p.m. to close, Mondays at the bar

Buses: 8, 9, 10, 14, 28, 30, 35, 44, 105, 150

Nearest Bus Stop: Old Town Transit Center

Rail: Trolley (blue line, green line), Coaster

Nearest Rail Stop: Old Town Transit Center

Sponsored
Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all
Previous article

The Sentri pass, crossing at Otay, the annoying seagulls

In Tijuana, you ride the rollercoaster and then you wait.
Next Article

Tacotarian dishes tortilla wrapped favorites without the meat

New taco shop even lets vegans in on the birria craze
Comments
0

Be the first to leave a comment.

Sign in to comment

Sign in

Ask a Hipster — Advice you didn't know you needed Big Screen — Movie commentary Blurt — Music's inside track Booze News — San Diego spirits Classical Music — Immortal beauty Classifieds — Free and easy Cover Stories — Front-page features Drinks All Around — Bartenders' drink recipes Excerpts — Literary and spiritual excerpts Feast! — Food & drink reviews Feature Stories — Local news & stories Fishing Report — What’s getting hooked from ship and shore From the Archives — Spotlight on the past Golden Dreams — Talk of the town The Gonzo Report — Making the musical scene, or at least reporting from it Letters — Our inbox [email protected] — Local movie buffs share favorites Movie Reviews — Our critics' picks and pans Musician Interviews — Up close with local artists Neighborhood News from Stringers — Hyperlocal news News Ticker — News & politics Obermeyer — San Diego politics illustrated Outdoors — Weekly changes in flora and fauna Overheard in San Diego — Eavesdropping illustrated Poetry — The old and the new Reader Travel — Travel section built by travelers Reading — The hunt for intellectuals Roam-O-Rama — SoCal's best hiking/biking trails San Diego Beer — Inside San Diego suds SD on the QT — Almost factual news Sheep and Goats — Places of worship Special Issues — The best of Street Style — San Diego streets have style Surf Diego — Real stories from those braving the waves Theater — On stage in San Diego this week Tin Fork — Silver spoon alternative Under the Radar — Matt Potter's undercover work Unforgettable — Long-ago San Diego Unreal Estate — San Diego's priciest pads Your Week — Daily event picks
4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
Close