Sliders at JRDN
723 Felspar Street, San Diego
Inside-outside bar and eatery attracts the cool crowd
Oh, Lord. Here comes another one.
Ambling anxiously along PB’s boardwalk. Ocean Boulevard, past the Crystal Pier.
Anxious? Sure. I know what’s coming up: the other terrazza that I crave to be seen sitting drinking espressos at, a place for schminkas, as my Croatian buddy calls professional society loungers.
It’s this ultra suavecito frontage of Tower 23 Hotel’s Jrdn restaurant and bar. Every time I walk past it I do two things: try not to envy all those cool people sipping cocktails, watching for whales; and then try to work out in my mind what the heck that dumb name “Jrdn” means. Best guess: jardin, Spanish and French for “garden”?
Whatever. All my good intentions to walk on by are falling away like autumn leaves. Desperate to sit, sip, and grab this moment when the dark is starting to cloak the ocean, the surf’s teeth are glowing white, and you can’t tell if the little lights on the horizon are ships or stars. And partly, okay, desperate to be nestled among the in-crowd.
Wave ripple wall sets the atmosphere
Wavy wall changes color all night
I’ve checked the time. These guys take their happy hour through to seven, which gives me half an hour. Their terrace is all glass, packed with red-glowing patio heaters that look like mini-UFOs. Plus, the glint of pearl earrings and martini glasses.
What the heck. I round the corner onto the beginning of Felspar and haul open the glass door.
“At the bar or any tables that don’t have white tablecloths,” says one of the gals at the reception desk when I ask where happy-hour people — like, economy class — can go.
Sleek is the word. And mainly because of their incredible color-changing wall of waves carved out of plaster at the back. With all the terrace glass protectors, it reflects back and forth till it feels like it’s the actual ocean.
I head up to the bar so I can catch the last of the real pond outside. Problem: bar seats all occupied. I mean, on a Monday night? The place is hopping. I kind of hang around until at last someone pays up and heads out — on the other side of the island bar, so you face inward.
But it feels the same, with all these reflections going on. Armando, one of the bartenders, brings me the happy-hour menu. Page one has an ancient Latin proverb. “It is well to remember that there are five reasons for drinking: the arrival of a friend, one’s present or future thirst, the excellence of the wine, or any other reason.”
Good news is draft beers are $4 for 12 ounces and $5 for 16 ounces. What’s a buck? I order the pint of Stone IPA and check the food listing. The happy-hour deal here is a blanket $3 off all small plates. Looks like they have 15 items to choose from. They range from $8 to $14, before you subtract the $3; so, $5 to $11.
Truffle avocado with bacon and scallions
Not a huge deal, but pretty good after you look at regular alternatives. Like, steak and fries with béarnaise sauce runs $19, and the Tower 23 burger starts at $16 and ends up as $24 if you include all the adds of bacon, avo, caramelized onions, sautéed mushrooms, a sunny-side-up egg, and truffle fries.
So, the cheapest are things like truffled avocado with bacon and scallions ($5 after taking $3 off), ham and cheese fritters ($6), smoked chicken lettuce wraps ($7), crispy brussels sprouts with nuoc cham (a Vietnamese dipping sauce...sweet and sour?) for $6, fried calamari ($9), steamed mussels ($9). Do these fancy places all stick to stuff that’s basically dressed-up comfort food?
Okay, the pear and arugula salad with pomegranate, walnuts, honey lemon vinaigrette, and goat cheese sounds pretty cool, even though it’s $11. And the crispy oysters in cornmeal crust ($8) sound luscious. And in the end I’m just as unadventurous as the next guy. I go for the beef sliders ($9).
Bitter beer and sweet onion sliders make a good combination
But also the truffled avocado ($5). And guess what? It’s good. A chunky little tower of avo topped by bacon chips and scallions. I find if you take one chomp of the truffle avo on its toast and then one chomp of one of the three sliders with their sweet onion and cheese thing going, and then swill in some IPA, man, you’ve got yourself some real mouth-bulging umami going. Avo squelch plus meat savory plus onion sweetness tanged up by a few dozen units of hoppy bitterness? What could beat that? And the slider patties aren’t mean. Maybe the length of an index finger across.
“Jrdn stands for ‘Jordan,’” says Armando when I ask. “That’s the name of the owner’s son, and also his father. He created this because of the location.”
And I suddenly remember to take it all in. I turn around and catch the glow of the heaters and the chat of girlfriends having a night out and guys talking surf and contracts. “Happy birthday to you!” sings a crowd of gals at a long table. And beyond them, the inky, infinite ocean. Next stop, China.
I swear. Monday night? Imagine if, say, you had just swum across from Shanghai and climbed dripping up the beach, this would be your first sight of life on the American continent. Not a bad intro.
Total bill is $20.52. Plus tip. Not cheap. I have got to cut down on this big-spender thing.
Happy Hour Prices: truffled avocado with bacon and scallions, $5; ham and cheese fritters, $6; smoked chicken lettuce wraps, $7; crispy brussels sprouts, $6; fried calamari, $9; steamed mussels, $9; pear and arugula salad (with pomegranate, walnuts, honey lemon vinaigrette, goat cheese), $11; crispy oysters, $8; beef sliders (3), $9
Happy Hours: 4:00–7:00 p.m. Monday though Friday
Buses: 8, 9, 27
Nearest bus stop: Mission Boulevard and Garnet Avenue