The Henry has perhaps the most coveted position in town.
I swear. You blink in Coronado, and something has changed.
This time it’s the musical chairs of bars. Suddenly, as of this month, the brand-new and lavishly-built The Henry is open, beaming out lights, with an outside bar, and a patio you just can’t resist.
This used to be the much-loved Costa Azul, until a controversial sale of almost the en-tire downtown Coronado block forced Costa owner Brant Sarber out, and brought an Arizona-based restaurateur, Sam Fox, in.
1031 Orange Avenue, San Diego
Then came news, just before the place’s opening, that Fox had sold The Henry to The Cheesecake Factory.
Whatever. In this afternoon’s slanting sunlight, crossing the luminous green median on Orange Avenue, I’m tempted. It’s their happy hour right now. I catch a whoosh of excited voices, a blur of waiters, flashes of fashionable red dresses, winks of diamond rings, clinks of glasses, rattles of cocktails being shaken, not stirred. The only problem: it looks expensive. It feels Del Mar.
Nachos - so much chicken, they’re a meal.
On the other hand, it also kinda makes every other place here look a little shopworn.
I cross Orange and plunge into the patio crowds. It’s the first week. Trendy girls gather in excited groups, matrons and older guys sit at tables or lean on the counter. Baristas use chopsticks to pick out fruit from glasses to dunk them in cocktails. Zonies and Texans, who’ve been sitting out their summers here in ’Diego, rave about how much they love Sam Fox’s places back in Phoenix and Dallas. “Wow,” says this gal to her friends. “This might be the greatest cocktail I’ve ever had. And the last best one was in the British Virgin Islands.”
“That is saying a lot,” says the barista.
Actually, it’s fun. Kind of excitement in the air. Don’t think I’ve ever seen such a wildly successful opening week.
I sit up to the inside-outside bar. Nice white wicker and bamboo tall chairs.
First good news is happy hour beer. Hey hey! $4 a pint for decent brews like Three Weavers Expatriate IPA or Firestone Walker 805 Blonde. Six bucks for a glass of wine.
Foodwise, honestly, unless you’re in the HH zone, these guys are expensive. They feature popular, unchallenging dishes such as fish and chips or spaghetti Bolognese, but at $19 each. Rotisserie chicken’s $22, charred avocado salad’s $14, and New York steak is (hold on to your hats!) $48.
Meanwhile, back in Happy Hour, my friend Bob turns up and sits at the one spare seat, right next to me. “This scene has potential,” he says. “And look at these prices: cheaper than my favorite dive bar down Orange, The Little Club.”
He orders his $4 Pacifico. Me, I look at the HH menu. Foodwise, a lot of what you’d expect. Parmesan truffle fries, or guacamole with cheese and jalapeño for $6 each. Up in the $8 bracket, we’re looking at charred shishito peppers and umami sauce, or pretzels and cheese fondue. At ten buckeroos, rotisserie chicken nachos look the best deal, although there are also short rib potstickers. And for $12, a shrimp cocktail with horseradish, and “Sam’s Burger,” which has to be named after Sam Fox. It promises wagyu beef.
But the more you look, the more little bargains pop out from the menu. Like, double egg fried rice for $7, or macaroni and cheese for $8. Served as sides, but you could probably get them on their own. Or if you’re desperate, crusty bread with whipped butter and sea salt, $4.
In the mornings, the Flower Child Scramble ($10) with eggs, roasted mushroom, Brussels sprout, kale and Parmesan, or Quinoa Breakfast Bowl ($10), or The Original Egg Sandwich, with bacon, avo, American cheese, mayo ($11).
I order a Three Weavers’ Expatriate IPA. From Inglewood. Nice brew. And to help it down, I order the parmesan truffle fries ($6). Come with a nice garlicky aioli. And now I decide to up the ante: “Gimme some of those nachos,” I say, and it ain’t long before this rotisserie chicken nachos plate ($10) appears. I mean, yes, it’s your basic plate of tortilla chips, but nicely sexed up with queso, black beans, bits of jalapeño, some pico de gallo, a ton of chicken meat, and on top of the pile, a dollop of guac.
Nice thing that happens: I ask for some salsa to heat it up. Gal takes a while (and it is busy as heck right now). But she comes back with a bowl full of green stuff, salsa that is hot and hot. Like, spicy hot and piping hot. Never had that before. So kicks up the guac and beans.
Fast-forward to this night when I’m at a loose ends, and that cafe shines out into the night like a cruise ship. The new kid in town. “Come on in!” And the fact is, ever since the first visit I’ve been craving “Sam’s Burger,” which costs 17 buckeroos at normal times of day, but $12 in HH.
I sit up to the marble counter and soon I’m munching on this wagyu beef burger. The patty is a half-pounder. Has grilled onion, white cheddar, shredded lettuce, and “Henry Sauce,” I mean, nothing remarkable or original about the burger, no bacon, no nothing fancy.
But what it does have is that wagyu beef. Totally tender, tasty, and with “umami” marinated all through it. Man, it goes down well.
Bottom line: if you’re not rolling in do re mi, you’ve got to be careful here. But if you do take time to find the bargains, you’re gonna do just fine.
The Henry? Fact is, right now, it’s it and that’s that.
- The Place: The Henry, 1031 Orange Avenue, Coronado, 619-762-1022
- Hours: 7am-10pm, daily (till 11pm Friday, Saturday)
- Prices: (Mornings only), Flower Child Scramble (eggs, roasted mushroom, Brussels sprout, kale, Parmesan), $10; Original Egg Sandwich with bacon, avo, American cheese, mayo, $11;
- (Happy Hour, 3-6pm weekdays): Parmesan truffle fries, $6; guacamole with cheese and jalapeño, $6; charred shishito peppers, umami sauce, $8; pretzels and cheese fondue, $8; rotisserie chicken nachos, $10; short rib potstickers, $10; shrimp cocktail with horseradish, $12; Sam’s Burger, $12; sides, e.g. double egg fried rice, $7; macaroni and cheese, $8; crusty bread, whipped butter, sea salt, $4
- Buses: 901, 904
- Nearest Bus Stops: Orange Avenue and C Avenue (northbound); Orange Avenue at Park Place, 10th Street (southbound)