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Ska Bar’s success resides on an Astroturf rooftop

Eating and drinking in the heights of Normal Heights

Tempura mahi mahi on bao buns with avocado
Tempura mahi mahi on bao buns with avocado

I know indoor dining is supposed to be back, but some outdoor dining options are just too good to give up. Like one I recently checked out in Normal Heights.

Place

Ska Bar

3250 Adams Ave,, San Diego

I’d driven by Ska Bar a few times, and thought the Adams Avenue hangout looked like a decent enough place to drink. It’s got tall ceilings, large windows, and a long bar backed by shelves loaded with bottles.

What I hadn’t realized is there’s an elevator in the back corner that takes you to a different level of Ska Bar: the rooftop lounge. I’m not sure how many stories the silent elevator passed on the way to R, but it turns out the building is tall enough to overlook everything for many blocks in any direction.

The bar downstairs at Ska Bar

On a clear day, the result is a pretty fantastic view of the entire uptown area to the southwest, and of foothills and mountains to the northeast. The sidewalk didn’t seem that far below, but the air felt all the fresher for the wide open spaces spread out before me. Even the astroturf covering the rooftop came off more charming than cheesy.

Another aspect of Ska Bar I hadn’t anticipated was the menu. Expecting a standard San Diego bar menu (mostly sliders, fish tacos, and wings), I was surprised to find Asian fusion bent. It included wings, of course, but also chicken lettuce wraps, crab Rangoon-style egg rolls, and Korean asada fries (see what they did there?).

The view from Ska Bar's rooftop lounge on a clear, partially cloudy day

Perhaps because I’d expected fish tacos, I first gravitated toward the tempura Mahi Mahi bao bun ($10). Of course, sweet steamed buns are far different from corn tortillas, and mahi’s not a fish that lends itself well to frying — I would have done better to order the tempura portobello or fried chicken bao.

I wouldn’t dwell on it, though, because I had an order of Hoisin and sesame BBQ ribs ($11) to tear into. They were well cooked for bar ribs, with admirable tenderness. But the sauce was too sweet, I thought, to pair with beer, or many of the bar’s fruity cocktails.

I would be more satisfied by a winning skirt steak play on beef and broccoli. Also well cooked, the beef and broccolini ($11) had some chili pepper heat, and garlic savor. It hit the spot after the appetizers, though I suspect it would have been too sweet for my palate had it not followed those first two sugary courses.

Beef and broccolini with a view

Most of the dishes on the menu likewise look like they veer sweet. While that’s not my thing, I recognize it’s a matter of personal preference, and everything tasted spot on otherwise. I’m sure younger souls can get down with sweet and sharable plates — the group at a nearby table accompanied their meals with jello shots, after all.

Thing is, I’d go back anyway and do it all again. It’s pretty good for bar food, and the view warrants many afternoons of day drinking. Even if the main bar downstairs is re-opened for business.

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Tempura mahi mahi on bao buns with avocado
Tempura mahi mahi on bao buns with avocado

I know indoor dining is supposed to be back, but some outdoor dining options are just too good to give up. Like one I recently checked out in Normal Heights.

Place

Ska Bar

3250 Adams Ave,, San Diego

I’d driven by Ska Bar a few times, and thought the Adams Avenue hangout looked like a decent enough place to drink. It’s got tall ceilings, large windows, and a long bar backed by shelves loaded with bottles.

What I hadn’t realized is there’s an elevator in the back corner that takes you to a different level of Ska Bar: the rooftop lounge. I’m not sure how many stories the silent elevator passed on the way to R, but it turns out the building is tall enough to overlook everything for many blocks in any direction.

The bar downstairs at Ska Bar

On a clear day, the result is a pretty fantastic view of the entire uptown area to the southwest, and of foothills and mountains to the northeast. The sidewalk didn’t seem that far below, but the air felt all the fresher for the wide open spaces spread out before me. Even the astroturf covering the rooftop came off more charming than cheesy.

Another aspect of Ska Bar I hadn’t anticipated was the menu. Expecting a standard San Diego bar menu (mostly sliders, fish tacos, and wings), I was surprised to find Asian fusion bent. It included wings, of course, but also chicken lettuce wraps, crab Rangoon-style egg rolls, and Korean asada fries (see what they did there?).

The view from Ska Bar's rooftop lounge on a clear, partially cloudy day

Perhaps because I’d expected fish tacos, I first gravitated toward the tempura Mahi Mahi bao bun ($10). Of course, sweet steamed buns are far different from corn tortillas, and mahi’s not a fish that lends itself well to frying — I would have done better to order the tempura portobello or fried chicken bao.

I wouldn’t dwell on it, though, because I had an order of Hoisin and sesame BBQ ribs ($11) to tear into. They were well cooked for bar ribs, with admirable tenderness. But the sauce was too sweet, I thought, to pair with beer, or many of the bar’s fruity cocktails.

I would be more satisfied by a winning skirt steak play on beef and broccoli. Also well cooked, the beef and broccolini ($11) had some chili pepper heat, and garlic savor. It hit the spot after the appetizers, though I suspect it would have been too sweet for my palate had it not followed those first two sugary courses.

Beef and broccolini with a view

Most of the dishes on the menu likewise look like they veer sweet. While that’s not my thing, I recognize it’s a matter of personal preference, and everything tasted spot on otherwise. I’m sure younger souls can get down with sweet and sharable plates — the group at a nearby table accompanied their meals with jello shots, after all.

Thing is, I’d go back anyway and do it all again. It’s pretty good for bar food, and the view warrants many afternoons of day drinking. Even if the main bar downstairs is re-opened for business.

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4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
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