For the next five months, my kids are spending their Saturday mornings at a theater rehearsal. Date nights are difficult to do right now, but I can handle date mornings.
8758 La Mesa Boulevard, La Mesa
For our taste of Saturday morning freedom, my wife and I decided to try The Hills, a pub located a couple miles away from our home in La Mesa. The Hills has a good reputation in town, and is one of the places that has opened in recent years that has made locals optimistic that the city can support restaurants that aren’t just chains.
The Hills’ location has been a bar for as long as I can remember, though in a few different incarnations. When my brother turned 21, he had his first legal drink at that location. He was hit on by a 300-pound Cyndi Lauper dress-alike. (No, they haven’t reconnected on Facebook.)
“Don’t mention that,” my wife suggested when I brought it up.
We sat down at a table and smiled at the design. Along one wall are old movie theater seats (pre-cup holder era). The TVs were all on sports channels, befitting a Saturday morning during college football season, save for one playing 1980s-era music videos.
The Hills has a good formula going: good bar-type food done in a unique way. It has a pub-like vibe while still being enough of a restaurant that kids are welcome until around 9 or 10 in the evening. There were kids in the back room, but they weren’t ours!
I wanted a drink.
I could have looked at the drink menu, but why? I only wanted a bloody mary. My wife was driving because, for me, one drink in the morning has twice the effect of a drink in the evening — and I rarely drink more than three.
The Hills’ bloody mary ($9) is pretty close to perfect: A spicy tomatoey blend with vodka, a crispy piece of bacon, two stuffed blue cheese olives, and a green bean pickled on site.
Oh, and a salt-rimmed highball glass. Nice touch.
I downed it fairly quickly, followed by a bunch of water — it is spicy — and finally figured out what to order.
We started with some house-made biscuits that are topped with honeycomb and come with fruit and whipped cream on the side ($8.95). The biscuits were soft and warm, and the honeycomb added a crunch, along with the sweetness.
“Oh, there’s a face [in the whipped cream],” my wife said. “The kids would like that.”
“Kids? We have them?”
That really is a strong bloody mary.
My wife ordered the Farmer’s Market Benny ($11.95), a benedict made with seasonal veggies such as squash and broccoli. She said it tasted very fresh and that she enjoyed the Hollandaise sauce. I thought her potatoes could have been crispier, but she was happy with them.
I ordered the country-fried steak ($10.95), which is topped with a creamy sausage gravy that has a meaty mouth feel. I opted for the cheesy garlic grits and the house biscuit, and I was happy.
I love country-fried steak so much that I rarely eat it because I don’t want it if it’s done badly. Knowing that I can get a crispy, crackling version just a short drive from my house is probably dangerous — but I’ll deal with my cardiologist later.
Meanwhile, I need to sleep off this bloody mary.