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Hard times, happy hours at Taste & Thirst

It’s a different Gaslamp

Matt: from busser to lead bartender in 4 years.
Matt: from busser to lead bartender in 4 years.

So how has the Gaslamp fared through covid? Walking up Fourth around Market, got to say, not too well by the looks. Lot of doors closed, patios empty, and the ones that are open, not filled up. Mind you, this is around five, Monday evening. So let’s not jump to conclusions here. But I am wondering if San Diego’s primo food and party zone is faltering, as Horton Plaza did over the last couple of years.

Place

Taste & Thirst on Fourth

715 Fourth Avenue, San Diego

Except right now, as I head up Fourth, I’m hearing the sound of music. It’s coming from this place with a sandwich board out front: “Cheers! Happy Hour seven days a week 3-8 pm.” It talks about “50% off all drinks and 20 draft beers plus food specials!” It also has a boisterous crowd inside. It’s called Taste and Thirst.

Covid’s good fallout: Gaslamp’s got new soul.

I look around. It feels a bit like this is the only place hopping. Maybe because they have all this HH time here. Till eight! I haul in. It’s pretty cozy. Ceiling is made up of what look like old bricks. Brick ceiling! Haven’t seen that before. Beer handles surround the brick, sprouting like an upside-down crown. Bar’s full, but I find me a table where this guy Nathan says he’s leaving soon and makes space. Nice.

I head to the bar. Matt’s the enthusiastic guy running up and down behind the counter, filling folks up on their seconds. Looks like happy hour’s well under way. They all seem to know him. I’m surprised a place in the Stingaree would have such a community feel about it, but it does. I ask for a Bud Light draft. HH price for a pint is - hey hey! - $2.50. But what I’m really interested in is food, grub, scoffings, vittles. I know it’s going to be bar food, nothing fancy. Question is, how fancy are the HH prices? Matt brings me the little flip-top HH food menu. It’s short and sweet: “$1 off burgers, $2 off boneless wings, $3 off quesadillas.” Plus HH chicharrones cost $4, lemon pepper fries $5, truffle tots, $6.

Even the lemon fries are delish.

So, lessee: You get $1 off burgers that run from $12 for the cheeseburger (“American”), to $14 for the Spicy (with fried jalapeño and pepper Jack cheese) or the Patty Melt on sourdough, to $15 for the Blast Burger (with bacon, avo, Swiss) or the TNT (with onion ring, mozzarella sticks, bacon, pepper Jack, BBQ sauce).

So a buck off these. Not a huge drop. Better: the $2 off boneless wings takes your price down from $8 to $6 for five wings. Matt reckons the quesadillas are the best deal, ($11 for the chicken, $12 for the steak, including the HH discount). “They are the fillingest,” he says. “I have them all the time.” Me, I’m all over the place here. I order the chicharrones, the wings, some celery and carrot sticks ($3), and, just to ruin that health gesture, lemon pepper fries (a buck off for HH at $5).

Conversation’s easy. Samantha’s on my left. She’s part Tongan and Samoan, so she knows plenty about rugby. I tell her about my not-so-glorious rugby days, when these huge Samoan players from the other team would throw you about like a rag doll during the game, then not go home till you’d shared a beer with them afterwards. “I’ve just had the Patty Melt,” she says. “I loved the patty. Juicy. But the best was the coconut shrimp ($9.50, not on the happy hour list). They cooked them ‘black’ — split open and facing down on the grill — and sweetened by the coconut.” Heck. Now I wish I’d had that. But too late.

Happy Hour Gaslamp Champ!

And, turns out, mine is not a bad combo. First off (after getting a second Bud Light), I chow into the fries, which really are distinctively lemony, but also flavored with the house’s “secret” sauce, a salmon-colored, slightly mustardy mix, which is great as well with the crunchy chicharrones. Then, celery and carrots to freshen up for Round Two, the scrumbo wings. Ooh. They are so fresh and good. I’ve been dissing bar food too long.

New gent is sitting up to the bar. Ryan Daylamy. One of the four siblings who run this place. “It has been a rough year, opening, closing, opening. But now we’re busier than pre-covid. We could be flexible because we are family. We just stopped paying ourselves whenever we had to. That and the happy hour have kept us going.” He’s talking, of course, about this five-hour happy hour, seven days a week. It helped them survive. “We have the longest. We were pioneers of it down here in the southland. It was hard giving away drinks at half price, in the hard times when everybody was staying home, and bars kept closing around us.” But he says regulars appreciated that happy hour during the hard months, and are paying it forward.

When I come out, it’s a different Gaslamp. The day is gone, the lights have come on, a whole bunch of places have opened up, and crowds are bulging into the deserted streets. A block away, two singers blast out a ‘40s classic with a live band, right at the entrance to Sogno Italiano, a swank joint I hadn’t noticed before. I mean, I know there are a lot of walking wounded all around us here, business-wise, but seeing this scene, on a Monday night, I’m guessing we don’t need to worry too much about the Gaslamp after all.

  • The Place: Taste & Thirst, 715 Fourth Avenue, in the Gaslamp, downtown, 619-955-5995
  • Hours: Monday-Thursday, 3pm-1am; Fridays, 3pm-2am; Saturdays, 12pm-2am; Sundays, 12pm-1am
  • Prices: “American” cheeseburger, $12; Spicy Burger (fried jalapeño, pepper Jack cheese), $14; Blast Burger (bacon, avo, Swiss), $15; Caesar Salad, $8; two TJ dogs and fries, $12; steak quesadilla, $15; chicken wings (5), $8 ($6 in HH); tuna melt sandwich, $10; patty melt burger, $14; BBQ pork sliders, $12; carrot and celery sticks, $3; crispy buffalo chicken wrap, $13; carnitas plate, $12
  • Buses: 3, and all downtown
  • Nearest Bus Stops: 4th and G (#3 southbound); 5th and G (#3, northbound); also many buses at 5th and Broadway
  • Trolleys: Orange Line, Blue Line
  • Nearest Trolley Stop: Fifth Avenue, at 5th and C
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Matt: from busser to lead bartender in 4 years.
Matt: from busser to lead bartender in 4 years.

So how has the Gaslamp fared through covid? Walking up Fourth around Market, got to say, not too well by the looks. Lot of doors closed, patios empty, and the ones that are open, not filled up. Mind you, this is around five, Monday evening. So let’s not jump to conclusions here. But I am wondering if San Diego’s primo food and party zone is faltering, as Horton Plaza did over the last couple of years.

Place

Taste & Thirst on Fourth

715 Fourth Avenue, San Diego

Except right now, as I head up Fourth, I’m hearing the sound of music. It’s coming from this place with a sandwich board out front: “Cheers! Happy Hour seven days a week 3-8 pm.” It talks about “50% off all drinks and 20 draft beers plus food specials!” It also has a boisterous crowd inside. It’s called Taste and Thirst.

Covid’s good fallout: Gaslamp’s got new soul.

I look around. It feels a bit like this is the only place hopping. Maybe because they have all this HH time here. Till eight! I haul in. It’s pretty cozy. Ceiling is made up of what look like old bricks. Brick ceiling! Haven’t seen that before. Beer handles surround the brick, sprouting like an upside-down crown. Bar’s full, but I find me a table where this guy Nathan says he’s leaving soon and makes space. Nice.

I head to the bar. Matt’s the enthusiastic guy running up and down behind the counter, filling folks up on their seconds. Looks like happy hour’s well under way. They all seem to know him. I’m surprised a place in the Stingaree would have such a community feel about it, but it does. I ask for a Bud Light draft. HH price for a pint is - hey hey! - $2.50. But what I’m really interested in is food, grub, scoffings, vittles. I know it’s going to be bar food, nothing fancy. Question is, how fancy are the HH prices? Matt brings me the little flip-top HH food menu. It’s short and sweet: “$1 off burgers, $2 off boneless wings, $3 off quesadillas.” Plus HH chicharrones cost $4, lemon pepper fries $5, truffle tots, $6.

Even the lemon fries are delish.

So, lessee: You get $1 off burgers that run from $12 for the cheeseburger (“American”), to $14 for the Spicy (with fried jalapeño and pepper Jack cheese) or the Patty Melt on sourdough, to $15 for the Blast Burger (with bacon, avo, Swiss) or the TNT (with onion ring, mozzarella sticks, bacon, pepper Jack, BBQ sauce).

So a buck off these. Not a huge drop. Better: the $2 off boneless wings takes your price down from $8 to $6 for five wings. Matt reckons the quesadillas are the best deal, ($11 for the chicken, $12 for the steak, including the HH discount). “They are the fillingest,” he says. “I have them all the time.” Me, I’m all over the place here. I order the chicharrones, the wings, some celery and carrot sticks ($3), and, just to ruin that health gesture, lemon pepper fries (a buck off for HH at $5).

Conversation’s easy. Samantha’s on my left. She’s part Tongan and Samoan, so she knows plenty about rugby. I tell her about my not-so-glorious rugby days, when these huge Samoan players from the other team would throw you about like a rag doll during the game, then not go home till you’d shared a beer with them afterwards. “I’ve just had the Patty Melt,” she says. “I loved the patty. Juicy. But the best was the coconut shrimp ($9.50, not on the happy hour list). They cooked them ‘black’ — split open and facing down on the grill — and sweetened by the coconut.” Heck. Now I wish I’d had that. But too late.

Happy Hour Gaslamp Champ!

And, turns out, mine is not a bad combo. First off (after getting a second Bud Light), I chow into the fries, which really are distinctively lemony, but also flavored with the house’s “secret” sauce, a salmon-colored, slightly mustardy mix, which is great as well with the crunchy chicharrones. Then, celery and carrots to freshen up for Round Two, the scrumbo wings. Ooh. They are so fresh and good. I’ve been dissing bar food too long.

New gent is sitting up to the bar. Ryan Daylamy. One of the four siblings who run this place. “It has been a rough year, opening, closing, opening. But now we’re busier than pre-covid. We could be flexible because we are family. We just stopped paying ourselves whenever we had to. That and the happy hour have kept us going.” He’s talking, of course, about this five-hour happy hour, seven days a week. It helped them survive. “We have the longest. We were pioneers of it down here in the southland. It was hard giving away drinks at half price, in the hard times when everybody was staying home, and bars kept closing around us.” But he says regulars appreciated that happy hour during the hard months, and are paying it forward.

When I come out, it’s a different Gaslamp. The day is gone, the lights have come on, a whole bunch of places have opened up, and crowds are bulging into the deserted streets. A block away, two singers blast out a ‘40s classic with a live band, right at the entrance to Sogno Italiano, a swank joint I hadn’t noticed before. I mean, I know there are a lot of walking wounded all around us here, business-wise, but seeing this scene, on a Monday night, I’m guessing we don’t need to worry too much about the Gaslamp after all.

  • The Place: Taste & Thirst, 715 Fourth Avenue, in the Gaslamp, downtown, 619-955-5995
  • Hours: Monday-Thursday, 3pm-1am; Fridays, 3pm-2am; Saturdays, 12pm-2am; Sundays, 12pm-1am
  • Prices: “American” cheeseburger, $12; Spicy Burger (fried jalapeño, pepper Jack cheese), $14; Blast Burger (bacon, avo, Swiss), $15; Caesar Salad, $8; two TJ dogs and fries, $12; steak quesadilla, $15; chicken wings (5), $8 ($6 in HH); tuna melt sandwich, $10; patty melt burger, $14; BBQ pork sliders, $12; carrot and celery sticks, $3; crispy buffalo chicken wrap, $13; carnitas plate, $12
  • Buses: 3, and all downtown
  • Nearest Bus Stops: 4th and G (#3 southbound); 5th and G (#3, northbound); also many buses at 5th and Broadway
  • Trolleys: Orange Line, Blue Line
  • Nearest Trolley Stop: Fifth Avenue, at 5th and C
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