The Ducks are coming!
550 Park Boulevard, Ste 2104, San Diego
It’s the blue chairs. They shine out, electric against the black and gray patio. They say one thing: “We’re open!”
Great. Been waiting for this. I’m standing on the platform at the Park and Market trolley station. Runs alongside the ancient Palms Hotel, Wyatt Earp’s old hangout.
Meatballs in their lush kefir yogurt and pickled raisin surroundings
The space is between a doggy shop and a corner convenience store. Lots of scooters and yellow bikes zipping around. “Duck Foot Brewing Co.,” says the sign above the chairs.
I hop across, past the luminous teal-colored chairs on the patio, and into this little place. Mainly white tile and blond wood. Half a dozen bar stools and three or four tables. Couple of dozen beers listed on the walls. But the big question is food. The blackboard lists a few items. “Specials. Pork belly pibil ($10), mojo eggplant ($10), beef cheek tacos ($7), chilaquiles ($14),” and “breakfast special ($14).”
This gal, Zana, stands under the black beer menu, talking to this guy about “gluten-free eating.”
What $28.50 buys, displayed on my patio table. Note the teal-green chairs
“‘Gluten-free’?” I say.
“Celiac’s,” Zana says.
“Oh yes. Heard of that.”
“Our beer is low, low gluten to help people who have a problem with that. And our kitchen is totally gluten-free.”
“Huh,” I say, without thinking a lot about it, except, does that mean flavor-free too?
First, though, beer. (Place just opened a couple of weeks back. They don’t do wine yet.) And man, they do have interesting beer ideas up there. Like, the Saison du Canard. It has coriander, grains of paradise (grains of paradise! Kind of ginger, it seems), orange peel, and orange blossom honey. How far have we come from Bud with, uh, rice! Costs are reasonable: $3 for a 4oz, $6.50 for a 10oz, $8 for 16oz. Beer named Wet Hopped Contender (“Wet-hopped,” meaning fresh-picked) has the same prices.
“Drink This or The Bees Die,” says another label. It’s a seasonal, and part of the money goes to help bees. I get a small $3 one (yes, honey in there, like a sweet champagne), and now I start looking at the actual menu. (OK, first I order the Wet Hopped Contender.)
So hmm. I start off checking out the actual snack and tapas menu. Not the cheapest. From $6 to $18. Things like a basket ofpão de queijo (Brazilian cheese bread, $6), cheese and crackers with tomato jam ($7), elote (corn off the cob, $9) and a cheese and charcuterie board for $18. Also small plates of meatballs ($13), Japanese sweet potato ($10), sticky short ribs ($16).
“A lot of our customers start off with the cheese bread,” says this gal Suzy, one of the owners, “mainly because we make it gluten-free, and we get so many coming here who can’t eat normal bread, or drink normal beer, because of the glutens. So, this bread is kind of a revolution for them.”
I go for it. And while I’m waiting — they bake it right here, and only after you’ve ordered it — I decide to splash out a little. Jes’ got paid, feeling a little flush, and hey, it’s gluten-free. Must be good. I go for the elote ($9), and the meatballs ($13).
The bread is a bunch of lightly cheesy bread balls, good counters to The Contender I’m drinking. But, have to say, the real news comes when we get to the elote and chips. It is deee-freaking-lish. Somehow, chef Stevan Novoa has made a twangy, corny, sweetish combo of the corn, the cotija and feta cheeses, the radish and the cilantro. And I think the deal-sealer is a red wine aioli that gives new meaning to the word umami. The meatballs are interesting, too. Methinks I spot the influence of North Africa? Persia, maybe? I mean, kefir yogurt, pickled raisins, basil, pine nuts? All of these and the roughly-squished pork and beef meat rolls have me thinking Tunisia, Morocco, Tehran. What I’m certain of is this: they were good, and muy filling.
The trouble is, Park and Market is on my way home right now. So next night, here I am again, on the platform, staring across at their come-hither lights, and the bright teal chairs. Sigh.
This time, it’s the pork belly pibil ($10), which doesn’t look a lot, but is wickedly tender (turns out it has spent 36 hours sous vide). The magic comes from the marination in “orange juice and Indian spices,” and chunks of melon and its liquids, plus Tajin sauce. OMG. Goes so well with the Secret Spot Hazy IPA I’m drinking.
And did I say filling? Because it is.
But not so much as to not leave room for a bowl of mojo eggplant ($10), heh heh. This is just what it says: a mega-scrumptious combo of mojo sauce and eggplant. That’s “mojo,” as in the Cuban-style sauce of OJ (with lime and lemon to make it tart), garlic, olive oil, and chilies, all laid on top of a beautiful soggy layer of walnut butter, with red and yellow pepper pieces and cilantro on top.
Too good. Except, dang. I’ve spent near seventy bucks over two nights. I console myself by recalling that they’re using special ingredients to make the food and drink safe for celiac sufferers. “Our partner, Matt Delvecchio, is a celiac sufferer,” says Suzy. “That’s why he started Duck Foot in the first place.”
These guys have sure answered a call. They’re distributing everywhere. So: why this celiac epidemic? Some say, ironically, it’s because we don’t expose kids to enough dirt and germs when they’re babies, such that they never develop enough immunities against them.
Oh, and “Duck Foot?” If you’re into snowboarding, you’ll know already.
The Place: Duck Foot Brewing, 550 Park Boulevard, Suite 2104, East Village, 619-550-1970
Hours: 2pm – 10pm, Monday to Thursday; noon – 11pm, Friday, Saturday; noon till 10pm Sunday
Prices: pão de queijo (Brazilian cheese bread), $6; cheese and crackers with tomato jam ($7); elote (corn off the cob), $9; cheese and charcuterie board, $18; meatballs, $13; Japanese sweet potato, mushrooms, $10; sticky short ribs ($16); pork belly pibil, $10; mojo eggplant, $10; beef cheek tacos, $7; chilaquiles, $14
Buses: 3, 5, 12, 901
Nearest Bus Stops: Market at Park (3, 5); 11th at Market (12, 901 northbound), 10th at Market (12, 901, southbound)
Trolleys: Orange Line; Blue Line
Nearest Trolley Stop: Park and Market