Beets overwhelm the lamb burger
3501 30th Street, San Diego
If you count the controversial Jack in the Box, there are now 14 restaurants and two bars within 500 feet of the doglegged intersection of 30th at Upas Street. Some food writers have taken to calling this area North Park’s culinary corner, and I’m cool with that because we have to call it something. Too many San Diego residents still get stuck trying to pronounce “Upas.”
People have also been guessing as to how to pronounce the name of the newest eatery to open up in the culinary corner, DNP. I tried calling it “duned in,” but staff at the restaurant told me it’s closer to “dune eden.” Their website spells it out phonetically as “dun-ee-din” on the home page. Anyway, it’s been answering to “DNP.”
It’s named for a town in New Zealand, just like its sister restaurants, Queenstown Public in Little Italy and Raglan Public in Ocean Beach. Like those places, the owners enlisted designer Michael Soriano to trick the place out, and the results are most welcome. For years this building flirted with eyesore status as Eddie’s Place. Though a decent cheesesteak spot, Eddie’s laid to waste what could have been a charming craftsman cottage by plying it with low-grade stucco, excessive signage, neon-tube lights, and what must have been about 80 feet of white metal safety rails giving the appearance that the restaurant was caged in.
A new look for an old repurposed home in North Park
DNP completely overhauled it, creating a lovely indoor-outdoor dining space with a patchwork of reclaimed wood in a dark mix of brown hues that contrast nicely with splashes of bright green foliage and landscaping. Hand-carved accents and knotty log rails lend a rustic feel to the venue, which succeeds in looking polished while remaining comfortably casual.
Burgers and other sandwiches lead the lineup at DNP, plus a few hearty salads and dinner plates served after 5 p.m. I’d have gone for one of the tantalizing sandwiches — which include a wild boar-and-basil burger, seared ahi with wasabi, and several grass-fed beef options — but in keeping with the kiwi spirit I opted for the bare lamb burger: New Zealand lamb, blue cheese, mint jelly, and beets.
Important to know if you’re not familiar with this group of New Zealand restaurants: despite the $13 to $15 price tag, sandwiches are not served with fries. Those go for $5 and up, the good news being a choice between skinny, fat, sweet potato, and Portobello fries.
I decided that there were enough beets on my burger to count as a side dish and spent the extra money on craft beer. While I’d worried the blue cheese or mint would dominate the lamb, it was actually the sweetness of the beets that did it. A fine sandwich for beet lovers, but next time I’m going for something savory or spicy.
And I think there will be a next time. Paying $30 for a burger, beer, and fries with tax and tip doesn’t feel great, but $8 beer flights at happy hour helps.