Crispy duck on a bed of lentils and greens, topped by pickled mustard seeds.
3007 University Avenue, San Diego
Juan Miron and Kevin Ho seem intent on feeding beer drinkers. Their MiHo Gastrotruck established a following by parking outside breweries and bars, serving street food to happy hour denizens and craft beer fans.
Now they've built on their food truck success to start a restaurant with a fixed address. However, while their new venture has moved inside, it hasn't left beer culture behind. Instead, they've set up shop inside North Park's Bottlecraft bottle shop.
Gotta pass a lot of beer to get to that counter.
Now, Bottlecraft didn't really need to install a restaurant to be a great place to buy beer. The University Avenue location offers the great selection of its Little Italy shop, with three times the cooler space. Its greatness is built around the opportunity to try out hard-to-find craft and imported brews, including individual 12-ounce cans and bottles. This means you can skip the six-pack and walk out of there with however many bottles you'd like, and hopefully trying something new.
However, you do have to walk out of there, because unlike the Little Italy shop, they don't have a license to serve beer on site.
This is where installing JUKE could help. While they still can't serve alcohol on premises, the city may now let them. Because beer should go very well with the locally-sourced menu the MiHo crew has put together, including tofu bibimbap, brisket and braised octopus.
I would have tried the octopus, except I've recently read they're incredibly intelligent animals, so I can't in good conscience eat them anymore. Which isn't to say I was ready to go vegan with JUKE's roasted beets or cauliflower steak. I settled on the crispy duck, because ducks ain't bright, but they are delicious, and I enjoyed my breaded duck confit topped by pickled mustard seeds more than anything I've ordered from the Gastrotruck.
Buying only four bottles actually shows restraint.
Now, moving indoors doesn't mean JUKE offers table service. You order at the counter in the back of the shop, then take your receipt up to the Bottlecraft register to pay. Most likely you've picked up a few bottles of beer on the way. I happened to find a couple of bottles of Pliny the Elder on hand, which is rare enough that this and most liquor stores enforce a two-bottle limit in a futile effort to keep the excellent IPA in stock. I also grabbed a single can of local favorite Modern Times' Fortunate Islands, and a Weihenstephaner "kristall weissbier" I'd never tried before, wishing I could drink any of them with my meal.
Take it outside.
I'm really not sure I could have, even if they did have that license, since most of the seating is out on the sidewalk. And I mean, right on the sidewalk, with nothing to separate you from the busy intersection of 30th and University. The Bottlecraft folks say they'll make room for some indoor tables, but until drinking outdoors becomes legal in North Park, eating in at JUKE may mean sticking to the house-made nonalcoholic brews like lemon ginger beer, or strawberry blood orange soda. Not a bad trade-off, but ultimately it looks like JUKE is going to be beer-lovers' take-out.