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Avocado-smooshed toast and sweet, beety beauty

Halcyon and Stella bring the unusual

Lamb meatballs: Some like them hot
Lamb meatballs: Some like them hot
Place

Stella Public House

1429 Island Avenue, San Diego

I was passing 15th and J the other evening. The pinnacle apartment tower was all lit up, advertising rental apartments from $2K to $10K per month. But where do all those gentrified renters go to hang out?

Halcyon coffee lounge,” says the gal at the desk. “Fourteenth and Island.”

Five minutes later I’m inside this Seattle-looking place with washed-out green walls, long hanging lamps, blue-and-yellow sofas, low tables, and a fab view-to-the-bay deck that Halcyon shares with Stella Public House.

The Stella sign
So much salmon, so little time
Michaela
This crazy tower turns much-dissed beets into stars

I grab a small coffee ($1.40) while I check the menu. Good news: we’re in happy hour. That means any of four snacks are half off. The bruschetta’s $6.50 instead of $13, hummus $3.50, artichoke dip with blue cheese $5, and “avocado-smooshed toast,” $6.

It’s the smooshing that gets me. This is “avocado smear on house-made bread topped with smoked salmon, chili flakes, onion, and tomato.”

I order that and then find out that they have a different menu next door in Stella’s. But only three minutes of HH left (yes, late again).

So I whip around into Stella’s bar. The barkeep Michaela has a menu ready. She says they’re proudest of their pizzas. “Our chef is from Naples. He uses a 100-year-old mother yeast. It has been alive for 100 years! It gives the dough a special flavor.”

Except, no pizza on the happy hour list and a minute left to decide. I rush through the Small Plates. Same HH price deal. Speck-wrapped asparagus ($4.50), fried eggplant ($5), the compulsory roasted brussels sprouts ($5), arancini (risotto, salami, cheese, $5), roasted veggies ($5.50), mushroom risotto ($7), lamb meatballs ($5), and a mac and cheese ($5).

Oh, and a “beet tower.” A pile of red and yellow beetroot slices layered with a ricotta-goat cheese mousse and toasted pistachios ($5).

The beer? Stella’s one permanent brew isn’t Stella, it’s Peanut Butter Stout from Belching Beaver, the North Park brewery.

Thirty seconds. I’m brief, decisive. “Meatballs, beet tower, Peanut Butter Stout.”

Michaela zips over to the computer. Raises arms in victory. “Made it!”

Phew. Each of these is five bucks, plus the $6 for the avo-smooshed toast from Halcyon. Way too much. But here are the rewards: The lamb meatballs are filling, and the tomato sauce has some real spicy heat to it. The beet tower is outrageously good. A thing of sweet, beety beauty. And pistachios give it a quirky lushness.

But first place? No contest. Avo-smooshed toast. I mean, avo’s fine, but it’s the wave upon folded wave of salmon toppers that makes this a totally delish meal in itself. The house bread tempers the richness. This six-buck slab is the deal of deals.

Oh, and the Peanut Butter Stout? Sweet, original, but maybe a little too cute for moi.

I’ll be back for more smooshy avo, but next time I’ll sluice it down with a little more hoppiness.

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Lamb meatballs: Some like them hot
Lamb meatballs: Some like them hot
Place

Stella Public House

1429 Island Avenue, San Diego

I was passing 15th and J the other evening. The pinnacle apartment tower was all lit up, advertising rental apartments from $2K to $10K per month. But where do all those gentrified renters go to hang out?

Halcyon coffee lounge,” says the gal at the desk. “Fourteenth and Island.”

Five minutes later I’m inside this Seattle-looking place with washed-out green walls, long hanging lamps, blue-and-yellow sofas, low tables, and a fab view-to-the-bay deck that Halcyon shares with Stella Public House.

The Stella sign
So much salmon, so little time
Michaela
This crazy tower turns much-dissed beets into stars

I grab a small coffee ($1.40) while I check the menu. Good news: we’re in happy hour. That means any of four snacks are half off. The bruschetta’s $6.50 instead of $13, hummus $3.50, artichoke dip with blue cheese $5, and “avocado-smooshed toast,” $6.

It’s the smooshing that gets me. This is “avocado smear on house-made bread topped with smoked salmon, chili flakes, onion, and tomato.”

I order that and then find out that they have a different menu next door in Stella’s. But only three minutes of HH left (yes, late again).

So I whip around into Stella’s bar. The barkeep Michaela has a menu ready. She says they’re proudest of their pizzas. “Our chef is from Naples. He uses a 100-year-old mother yeast. It has been alive for 100 years! It gives the dough a special flavor.”

Except, no pizza on the happy hour list and a minute left to decide. I rush through the Small Plates. Same HH price deal. Speck-wrapped asparagus ($4.50), fried eggplant ($5), the compulsory roasted brussels sprouts ($5), arancini (risotto, salami, cheese, $5), roasted veggies ($5.50), mushroom risotto ($7), lamb meatballs ($5), and a mac and cheese ($5).

Oh, and a “beet tower.” A pile of red and yellow beetroot slices layered with a ricotta-goat cheese mousse and toasted pistachios ($5).

The beer? Stella’s one permanent brew isn’t Stella, it’s Peanut Butter Stout from Belching Beaver, the North Park brewery.

Thirty seconds. I’m brief, decisive. “Meatballs, beet tower, Peanut Butter Stout.”

Michaela zips over to the computer. Raises arms in victory. “Made it!”

Phew. Each of these is five bucks, plus the $6 for the avo-smooshed toast from Halcyon. Way too much. But here are the rewards: The lamb meatballs are filling, and the tomato sauce has some real spicy heat to it. The beet tower is outrageously good. A thing of sweet, beety beauty. And pistachios give it a quirky lushness.

But first place? No contest. Avo-smooshed toast. I mean, avo’s fine, but it’s the wave upon folded wave of salmon toppers that makes this a totally delish meal in itself. The house bread tempers the richness. This six-buck slab is the deal of deals.

Oh, and the Peanut Butter Stout? Sweet, original, but maybe a little too cute for moi.

I’ll be back for more smooshy avo, but next time I’ll sluice it down with a little more hoppiness.

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4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
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