3112 University Avenue, North Park
"More people worldwide are killed by donkeys than die in plane crashes every year. True, or shit?”
Tom’s standing on the stage where the band Napoleon Complex will be playing later tonight.
This is Wednesday evening, Trivia Happy Hour at U-31, the bar/eatery/music joint on University at 31st Street, right across from URBN, the (unrelated) newer, less sporty/rock ’n’ rolly, more — urbane? — bar across the road.
Popped in here on a whim, and before you know it, Jennifer, the gal at the bar, is telling me they have 50-cent wings tonight, and, also, $2.50 veggie tacos.
That gets my attention. I order three spicy buffalo hot wings and three sweet-chili wings, plus the taco. And a draft Bud Light. Total’s $8.50. So, hey, less than you’d expect to pay at a bar.
Folks here for tonight’s trivia session cluster in booths, huddled around slips of paper that Tom has handed out. Place is all reddish walls, black matte ceilings and ductwork, with a marble bar, a stage, and the sound of adenoidal British lounge-rock.
Tom’s asking question five when Jennifer brings the food.
“When you look in a gecko’s ear, you can see clear out the other side. True or shit?”
I dig in. The wings are really good — I’d forgotten about wings. I like the hot buffalo and love the sweet-chili ones.
Ooh…I see some guy halfway into his Smoky Mountain Blue burger (with Memphis BBQ sauce, bacon, blue cheese, lettuce) and have a moment of burger envy. Because in the land of burgers, size definitely matters, and this one is big. Except, it costs $7.50, two bucks more than my entire seven-piece combo (not countin’ the beer), heh-heh.
One chomp into the veggie taco and I know I have the champion chew for the night. Zucchini, black beans, fresh chilies, cheddar cheese, tomatoes, cotija cheese.
And yet…erk? There’s something crunchy in there, too, and some guacamole and cabbage slaw. None of that stuff is in the menu description. Hey, maybe this is the fish taco (also $2.50). With all the other flavors, I honestly can’t tell if it’s fish or a veggie makin’ the noise.
Whatever, this taco is super-scrumptious. But right now I’ve gotta concentrate on Tom’s questions.
Can you see clear through both ears of a gecko?
“True, you can,” says Tom.
Donkeys or planes? Which kill more people?
“Donkeys! True,” says Tom. And in here, Wednesday nights, Tom is King.
3085 University Avenue, North Park
I’m across the road now, and, you might say, across the social divide.
Clue: bunch of fixies leaned against each other outside. Inside, it’s like an open barn, with original scrubbed-to-a-blush brick walls, ancient redwood rafters, and a huge garage door–type window rolled up to make the entire bar area a part of the street.
Yes, this is URBN, the spinoff from Basic, down in East Village.
There’s a ceiling fan, too. But what a fan. It has, like, seven-foot-long blades whirring. Looks like the rotor off a Super Stallion helicopter.
“Comes from Big Ass Fans,” says Dustin Haarstad, the guy in the pork-pie hat behind the bar.
This is a big-ass space, too. Only a few booths, one settee arrangement, some tall stools at counters, and lots and lots of standing room. Thursday, Friday, Saturday, it’s gonna be packed, Dustin says. You won’t see a Trivial Pursuit quiz happening here.
Craft beers, on the other hand, are big-time. I haul up to a double-wide stool for two — cool! — at the bar and order a Mad River Jamaica Red from Dustin ($5).
Zach, guy next to me, is gnawing away at “coal-fired wings.” They’re in a little black iron skillet.
Menu promises it’s free-range chicken. Zach says “superb,” when I ask how they taste.
But I’m kinda winged out from U-31 (and they were really good, too). Also, things ain’t the cheapest here. We’re talking mainly pizzas, which start at $9, but can go to $15 and up.
So I order a $9 three-meatball appetizer from the “Begin” section.
Lord! Have to say, they’re big, with a luscious tomato sauce, sour cream, and a bay leaf. They come in one of those little black skillets. Tons of flavor and oh-so-filling. I can feel my gut swell.
I get to talking to Dustin. He’s their cocktail guy. Passionate.
“There’s a revolution happening,” he says. “Everything is bought locally and done by hand.” He says he’s trying two “run that by me again” things at URBN. One is making “beer cocktails.”
“Like the ‘Georgia on My Mind,’” he says. “It’s a mix of bourbon, peach liqueur, and Allagash White Ale, plus mushed peaches, oranges, and lemons that’ve been coal-fired in our pizza oven.”
It costs $10.
Beer and bourbon? Next time I have a spare Hamilton, maybe.
“And soon, we’re going to have cocktails on tap, just like beer,” Dustin says. That’s the other new thing, “It’s not quite up and running yet, but we’ll start off with a new take on an Old Fashioned. It’ll save customers so much standing-around time.”
Fast-food industry invades cocktail-land? I can just imagine downing a couple of those instant cocktails, getting hypnotized by the Big Ass fan coasting around above me.
Hell, I’ve almost fallen off my stool twice, trying to count how many blades the danged thing has. ■
The Place: U-31 Cocktail Lounge, 3112 University Avenue, North Park, 619-584-4188
Type of Food: American
Prices: Smoky Mountain Blue burger, with Memphis BBQ sauce, bacon, blue cheese, $7.50; turkey cobb burger with bacon, jack cheese, $7.50; reliably good daily deals, e.g., 50-cent wings on Wednesdays; veggie or fish tacos, $2.50
Hours: 5:00 p.m.–2:00 a.m. daily (from 4:00 p.m. Fridays, noon Saturdays, 9:00 a.m. football Sundays)
Buses: 2, 6, 7, 10
Nearest Bus Stops: University and Grim (7, 10); 30th and University (2, 6)
The Place: URBN Coal Fired Pizza/Bar, 3085 University Avenue, North Park, 619-255-7300
Type of Food: American
Prices: Pizzas, starting at $9 (red-sauce pie); barbecue chicken pizza, $16; three-meatball appetizer with marinara, ricotta, parmesan, $9
Hours: Noon–2:00 a.m. Thursday–Saturday; noon–midnight, Sunday, Wednesday; 4:00 p.m.– midnight, Monday–Tuesday
Buses: 2, 6, 7, 10
Nearest Bus Stop: University and 31st (7, 10); 30th and University (2, 6)