1202 Kettner Boulevard #101, San Diego
1460 India Street, San Diego
“Outside food welcome.”
Wow. That catches my eye.
This is a great idea. No kinda corkage fee or “No food beyond this point…” signs. But “Outside food welcome.” You can come here for a drink and bring your 27 peanut butter sandwiches for 27 of your best friends.
This is at Stone Brewing’s new Company Store on Kettner, right next to the Santa Fe station and the Museum of Contemporary Art. It has taken over the beautiful space Rainwater’s left back in 2009. That was a classy chophouse. This is a totally casual filling station for your growler that also sells Stone T-shirts and lets you stop for a drink while you’re here.
I’d heard about Stone opening here. It’s in the beautiful old McClintock Building, which was built in 1925 but looks totally modern.
India Street’s Mexican Fiesta sits among glass hi-rises and parking lots.
“Stone Company Store on Kettner,” reads the sign. “Tasting Room. Growler Fills. Patio Seating. Outside Food Welcome. Dog Friendly.”
So now I know what I have to do: hoof the three or so blocks up to India and Beech, to this tiny little cinderblock place right beside a mighty glass hi-rise. Mexican Fiesta. It has no seating, inside or out. Just a little slide window you bend down and talk through.
I peer through. The cook and this other guy in fresh white T-shirts and aprons are chatting away as they work. I take a peek at the big magnetic-letter menu. Lord. They have everything. The usual panoply of enchiladas, tacos, burritos. But I’m looking for a Mexican salad. The guy in the spotless apron, José, comes up, order pad in hand.
So, I ask for the Fiesta Salad ($5.19) and just on impulse the Al Pastor torta ($4.39).
José says this place has been going 35 years. Guess they’re doing something right. And when my torta and salad come, I see why. These portions are waay big.
My Fiesta Salad
So, now I hauls myself back down to Kettner. Hope they were serious about bringing in food.
“Oh, yes. For sure,” says Mike, the barman, when I ask. “What can I get you?”
I’m inside the semi-smart, semi-industrial bar-store.
First I ask if they have coffee. Because, man, I gotta stay awake tonight.
“No, but we do have a smoked porter with coffee in it,” he says. He points to the second bottom line of the “specialties.” “Stone Smoked Porter with Congo Coffee and Orange Peel, 5.9%; 4-ounce, $1.50; 8-ounce, $3; 16-ounce, $5.50.”
“Huh, Congo coffee. They grow coffee there?”
Stone Company Store’s rock garden
“Oh, yes, beautiful coffee,” says this customer. She’s standing next to me at the bar. Name’s Sheridan. “I work for the coffee company that supplies Stone with it for this beer. We pay Congolese women extra money to grow it, fair market price, shade-grown. But the most important thing is it’s giving women money to reconstruct their lives. Things have been pretty horrible in the Congo for decades. So, their coffee is in this beer.”
Wow. That pretty much decides it. The other thing is the beer’s price. I mean, $3? Even I can afford that. So I get the 8-ounce and take it and my bag of food out onto the garden-patio. Really interesting space, with clumps of burned-wood adirondak chairs around tables and plants and a couple of large, violin-shaped tables with fire pits in the middle. Trees, tall heaters, and giant boulders are strewn around the edges, forming alcoves, and with lights strung about overhead. Must look muy romantico at night.
For starters, the porter is pretty smoky, chocolatey, coffeeish — delicious, actually. And it’s the kind of beer you sip rather than glug, so it goes down slow. Then...oh, Lord. This Fiesta Salad. No way this is going to starve me down to under 200 lbs. It’s in a crisp tortilla bowl topped with sour cream and shredded lettuce and tomatoes. But right underneath, it’s all shredded chicken and rice. Man, that’s a lot. I could have just bought the torta and had more than enough.
So, I start in on the torta and — rico suave! That al pastor pork is right on. Al pastor means “shepherd-style.” And, turns out that comes from Lebanese immigrants to Mexico who were used to cooking lamb, just like their shepherds had back home. They brought the shawarma and the grilling of meat on a vertical spit. And that taste in the pork comes from using pineapple to sweeten it, along with chilies and spices. It has lots of shredded lettuce and tomato on top of a ton of pork. And it is huge. I manage to knock off the first half of the torta, but that’s it. I can’t go no further.
But I’m a happy camper. Now I know I can go get a torta for under $5 at Mexican Fiesta (or even cheaper, one of their burgers for $2.49), then come here for a $3 beer and chill out in what you can only call a bona fide beer garden. Right here downtown.
I sit for a moment listening to the sounds. Little plane above working hard to tow a Geico banner, the Coaster loco idling its huge diesels, air brakes spitting every now and then, the barp barp of Green Line trolleys bustling in, station announcer calling “All aboard!” for the Coaster. Man, I’d love to wait till they light the table fires and switch on that string of lights. Next time, I guess.
And there’s pretty sure to be a next time: Heck, $5.50, $6 for food and drink? At these prices I’m in danger of turning into a serious boulevardier.
- The Place: Stone Company Store on Kettner, 1202 Kettner Boulevard, suite 101, Little Italy, 619-450-4518
- Prices: Food: Bring it from elsewhere. Typical beer: Stone Smoked Porter with Congo Coffee and Orange Peel, 5.9%; 4-ounce, $1.50; 8-ounce, $3; 16-ounce, $5.50.
- Hours: Monday–Thursday 2pm-9pm; Friday–Saturday 11am–10pm; Sunday 11am-9pm
- The Place: Mexican Fiesta, 1460 India Street, Little Italy, 619-231-9851
- Prices: Fiesta salad, $5.19; torta al pastor, $4.39; beef taco, $1.79; fish taco, $2.09; carne asada $4.09; hamburger, $2.49
- Hours: 8:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m., Monday – Friday; 9:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m., Saturday; closed Sunday
- Buses: 2, 923, 992
- Nearest Bus Stops: India and C (2); Broadway and Kettner (923, 992)
- Trolley: Green Line
- Nearest trolley stop: Santa Fe Depot