2302 El Cajon Boulevard, North Park
Over the summer a new sports bar and restaurant opened in North Park, across from the Lafayette Hotel at the original corner location of Pomegranate, the Georgian restaurant that has since moved into a larger space a couple doors down.
Twisted Taps Brews & Chews derives its name from an early ownership affiliation with Twisted Manzanita, the Santee craft brewery that closed early last year.
While Twisted Manzanita beers don’t flow from this spot’s eponymous taps, plenty of local beers do. The combination of 24 beer handles and TVs tuned to sporting events go well with an enticing selection of pub snacks such as wings, stuffed jalapeños, BBQ-smothered tater tots, and bacon-wrapped coconut-fried shrimp.
The place also features pizza, hot sandwiches, and a few meaty salads, but I was there to check the BBQ. Twisted Taps smokes its own pork and beef, and the signature dish is the Twisted Plate, a classic BBQ concoction built around sides of baked beans, mac and cheese, and cornbread, plus a small salad.
I opted for the house-smoked brisket, an easier decision than which of the six local IPAs to drink with it. I settled on the Tropical & Juicy IPA made by Port Brewing’s Hop concept label, which lived up to its name.
I spotted only a bartender working, so I approached the bar to place my order. But she graciously waved me off and offered prompt table service. I grabbed a seat and caught a few minutes of a college bowl game while a toddler at the next table peeked at me shyly from behind her mother. I can’t say I know how hard it is to find a kid-friendly place to watch sports and drink beer, but the quality taplist and presence of a kid-friendly menu here must be a plus to young parents in the neighborhood.
The plate appeared quickly, looking like quite the full meal. A light breadcrumb crust gave the saucy macaroni some pleasant texture to go with its slightly nutty, cheesy appeal. It was my favorite part of the meal. The cornbread ran a bit on the dry side and wasn’t served with butter.
The brisket was sliced thin and dressed with BBQ sauce. On its own, the meat was tender and flavorful and the fat well distributed, with just enough smoke to make it interesting. I wasn’t as fond of the BBQ sauce, made after the thick and sweet Kansas City style. The brown sugar and/or molasses sweetness overpowered the smoke too much for my preference, and I would suggest anyone without a major sweet tooth request it on the side.
I might also have enjoyed it more had the beans not also been very sweet. Baked beans often skew this way, of course, but the combined sweetness of the two, plus the cornbread, left only the mac and salad to give any balance to the plate.
I still consider this better-than-average pub grub and, given the variety of the menu, I’m confident that both sports fans and families will find something to like about this well-lit sports bar.