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Since opening two years ago, locavore lair Local Habit (3827 Fifth Avenue, Hillcrest) has gained a reputation as one of San Diego’s beeriest eateries. That reputation came on the back of numerous meet-the-brewer dinners, pairing events, flight nights, and the like organized by owner and craft beer enthusiast Barry Braden.

In addition to attending many of those well-done events, I often ran into Braden at beer bars and brewery tasting rooms. His has a real and refined interest in quality suds, which makes it all the more surprising to discover that Local Habit has been sold. Braden was unable to speak on the record about what this will mean for the eatery, but this is certainly something worth keeping an eye on.

There are far fewer question marks where another recently sold restaurant goes. That eatery, a short list entry for South Parkers and Francophiles alike, Vagabond (2310 30th Street, South Park) is changing hands. The cozy inner city French bistro will reemerge as a bastion for Belgian beer and cuisine dubbed Brabant Bar & Café.

It’s the vision of Adam Parker, who some may know from his beer exploits, which included procuring above average Belgian offerings in bottle and on draft, at Del Cerro’s KnB Wine Cellars (which, by the way, has been working on adding its own very small brewing component for several months).

Though it’s early, Parker plans to offer beers from 16 taps and an extensive bottle list. Rather than latch on to the latest, greatest, or weirdest beers on the market, he wants to focus on Belgian ales that have been “tried and true for centuries.” Those brews will be served at ideal temperatures in proper glassware, just as they are in Belgium.

Brabant will also offer wine, cocktails, and spirits. The focus for the latter will be on single malt Scotches, whiskies, gins, absinthes and cordials. As for food, classic Belgian dishes like mussels, frites, croquettes, sausages, roasted pork and fowl, soups and stews will be made traditionally using fresh, seasonal ingredients.

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qpodad July 23, 2013 @ 10:38 a.m.

Gonna miss Vagabond. Nice spot, and a pioneer in upscale dining for the area. Wonder if Brabant will go all-import on Belgian beers as those are the only ones that are "tried and true for centuries?" Or will they tap some SD-brewed Belgians? I know Thorn St. Brewery brews both a Belgian Strong and Belgian Blonde just up the St. at 32nd and Thorn which I personally like. Brandon, I know you have been there recently and I trust your palate, so what do you think of the Belgian beer from Thorn St, or any SD brewery for that matter, in comparison to imports? Thanks!


Brandon Hernández July 23, 2013 @ 1:22 p.m.

While the fundamentals are the same, it's been my experience that most American takes on Belgian beers come in tasting notably different. Not worse, but it's hard to match the grassiness of a saison produced in a succinct region of Belgium or get the sharp, bitiness of tripel crafted in the style's birthplace. Personally, I like the ranginess of the many American iterations. While they fall a tad short of the archetypal Belgian beers, they usually bring on new flavor nuances that, in some cases, are preferable or more interesting. That said, some companies do a very good job in this department. The Lost Abbey's Carnevale and Saison Blanc are tremendous takes on the farmhouse ale style and their Duck Duck Gooze, Red Poppy Ale, and other sours are excellent. Green Flash's Flanders Drive Flanders-style sour ale, while more bracing than those from Belgium, is delicious. Ditto their Saison Diego. It's a matter of sampling a lot of Belgian beers then making the decision to find the closest American version or simply go for brews made in the Belgian style that you like regardless of how to spec they are. Belgium exports enough beer to the US, so I tend to go for American versions and celebrate their diversity rather than pick at their divergence. Cheers!


qpodad July 24, 2013 @ 10:39 a.m.

Thanks for the reply, well said. Cheers!


TheBigB July 23, 2013 @ 1:36 p.m.

I don't have a good feeling about the Local Habit selling. I've gone there quite a few times, because they seem to put things up you seldom see around, and I like their Po boys and pizza. It never seemed that busy, though.


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