1301 Market Street, East Village
“Look around,” says Ivan. “What do you notice?”
I look around. Uhhhh?
“I’ll tell you,” he says. “Nobody’s using their phones See? They’re all talking to each other, drinking, eating, playing with their dogs, whatever. Doesn’t that tell you something?”
Now he mentions it, yeah. It’s a beehive buzz of chat, laughs, kids and dogs yelping, the thud of bean bags, somebody in a bowler hat with a plate of sliders shouting, “Duncan!?”
This is Friday night, sun slanting in from the Bay, just a hurricane fence away from the fairly scuzzy world of Market and 13th.
I’d been waiting for months for this. And today, from the Blue Line trolley, hauling in to Park and Market Station, I could see the corner at 13th was alive, alight. Meant one thing: Quartyard II’s open. At last. Ever since developers repossessed Quartyard’s first location at Park and Market, we’d been promised they’d recreate this space just a block away. Everybody around here wanted it, because in its first incarnation, Quartyard had somehow become the perfect combo of hangout, bar, eats, and a place for the pooch to let off steam.
Now I’m here, may as well check out their grub.
But first things first: Chela. Cheve. Cerveza. And hey, the shipping container that serves as the bar looks the same, too. And good craft selection. I order this fruity glass of beer that’s quite dee-lish ($7.75), and mosey around to the stage, which a bunch of human seals are using to soak up the last of the day’s sun. I head for the eatery in a container just behind it.
“Canteen,” says the little black wall menu. Gina, the stylish gal in a bowler hat, stands behind wire mesh. “The mesh? To keep the flies out,” she says.
Quick glance at the menu, and I see you’re paying a minimum of $5.25 (for steak fries) and a max of $12 (for the Canteen Burger, with a 1/3lb Angus patty, and dressings like “Serpent’s Bite whiskey glaze.” Of course, you can add roasted mushrooms, bacon, avo, for 95 cents each, so that’d be like fifteen bucks).
Yes, we’re talking bar food. Appetizers include chicken bites in a waffle cone for $8.25, wings for $8.25, three sliders for $9, and tacos for $8.25.
“Get the tacos,” says this gal to the guy with her. “They have tons of meat.”
But I’m thinking sliders. You get three. In potato buns. Can choose Kobe beef or chicken parmesan.
Hmm. They also have a grilled cheese Texas toast sandwich with a side of tomato bisque for $7. Good deal. Or pizzas, like the pepperoni for $9.25. Or the veggie for $7.75.
In the end, I go for steak fries and sliders, because the sliders have Russian dressing and caramelized onions, which should go with this sweet brewski I’ve got.
Where I sit down, at one of the long wooden communal tables between the bean bag game and the dog run, a bunch of students, sounds like, are talking architecture.
“San Diego is a city of no style,” says this one guy. “That’s what’s cool about it. It means we can still explore and not be tied down to what’s ‘San Diego.’”
“And these containers, brilliant,” says someone else. “Containers are cheap. Containers work. It was like, ‘Why not?’”
Get talking to one of them, Ivan Hu. “The three architecture students who conceived this, they proved something here. They embraced the concept of temporary uses of space, one of the great new ideas of architecture. Also: inclusivity versus profit. And people respond. Look at this crowd, and that’s with totally no promotion.”
’Course in the meantime, I’m munching. The steak fries are fine. Pile of sliced spuds with this cheesy sauce atop.
Totally pub grub. Only thing fancy is a sprinkling of parsley. The sliders, too, come naked, unadorned on some fiber plate. Chunk of meat, dark caramelized onions, tomato, and melting cheddar. They are small, but they pack a belly-filling punch, and are nice and squishy, not as dry as they look. By the time I’ve chowed through two, I’m wishing I’d ditched the steak fries. These three sliders would be plenty.
Also, I’m having to exercise the little gray cells to keep up with Ivan.
“And the other simple insight?” he’s saying. “It’s that this is San Diego, man. They weren’t afraid to make this totally outside. That’s part of why people love it.”
I can’t help noticing Gina: now she’s passing by with a pizza, maybe eight-inch, tons of cheese, plenty of pepperoni, and on a “toasted naan.” Hey. India has arrived in the land of pizza? It does look all light and puffy. Wonder if they have an actual tandoor back there? Next, she zips past with a plate of three thick corn tortillas embracing generous piles of carnitas, I’m guessing, topped by tomatoes, onions, cilantro, sprinkles of cotija cheese, and tube squirts of avo. Hmm. Definitely that, next time. Or with chicken or carne asada.
Plus, now I wish I’d tried the Market Street Toasted Farro Salad, just because farro is supposed to be such an ancient grain. And totally good for you. But does it taste good?
Guess we have three years to find out. That’s their lease this time.
Heading back to the real world. I can see what a risk it was, setting up here, wrong side of the tracks. But I look back and worry not. How do I know this set up is gonna work? Happy dogs. You can see, they just live for this. And the moment they’re off the leash, their owners suddenly relax, too.
Woof woof. Win win.
Hours: 8am-10pm, daily (till 12am, Friday, Saturday)
Prices: Chicken bites in waffle cone, $8.25; steak fries, $5.25; 6 wings, $8.25; 3 sliders (kobe beef or chicken parmesan), $9; 3 tacos (chicken, carne asada, or carnitas), $8.25; Canteen Burger (1/3rdlb Angus patty), $12; pepperoni pizza on toasted naan, $9.25; veggie pizza, $7.75; Tender Greens salad, $7; Market Street Toasted Farro salad, $9; Mediterranean chicken salad with feta, $9
Buses: 3, 5
Nearest Bus Stops: Market at 14th Street
Trolleys: Blue Line, Orange Line
Nearest Trolley Stop: Park and Market