805 16th Street, San Diego
Unless you outright loathe good beer, you probably know the name Scot Blair. In fact, you’ve probably been to his University Heights, South Park, and City Heights bars, which specialize in select local and craft brews.
Monkey Paw is Blair’s most recent endeavor, a hybrid of Small Bar’s and Hamilton’s vibe with the added perk of cheesesteaks and, within the next few months, its own nanobrewery — a five-barrel system feeding a steady three or four taps that will be run under the guidance of CHUG club homebrewer Derek Freese.
Stained-glass windows, dark wood everything, and an open-air front yield a view of the downtown skyline. Its deliberately casual (if not somewhat old Irish) ambiance fits for lunching downtown businessmen, students, post-game Padres fans, and music/art kids from Golden Hill alike.
Monkey Paw’s 30 taps and two cask pumps of craft beer include local favorites such as Stone, Ballast Point, Green Flash, Mission, and Coronado, but the daring can opt for beer cocktails ($7.50) such as the Please, Chimay I Have Another (gin, Cointreau, lemon, Chimay white) and the San Diego Vodka Soda (hop vodka, lime, Anchor Steam), while mixsters can choose from 16 signature cocktails.
At $9–$11, the cheese-
steaks run a little spendy but come with a choice of beef, chicken, or veggies piled on an Amaroso roll with a side of waffle fries and are large enough to share. The Naughty Monkey Cheesesteak is very spicy and goes great with a pint of Stone Green Tea IPA, which packs flavor and punch without a hoppy bite.
Hot wings come in one- ($9) or two-pound ($16) portions glazed in Guinness BBQ, hot buffalo, or “beer candy naked sauce.” Couple the menu with regular cask and food specials, and you’ve got one kick-ass gastropub.
Though the bar won’t be incorporating live music (unlike Blair’s Eleven club), the juke holds an assortment of classic, folk, glam, punk, and psych-rock alongside choice ’80s jams and rads such as Nick Drake and Willie Nelson.
The Monkey Paw’s cartoonish fez-capped simian logo lends the impression of a Chuck E. Cheese for big kids, and in a way, it is.
Hours: Sunday–Thursday, noon to 1 a.m.; Friday and Saturday, noon to 2 a.m. Open 10 a.m. Sundays during football season.
Happy: 5 to 9 p.m., $1 off drinks