Freshness guaranteed!Eat This!, Latest Issue Thursday, March 16th, 2017
She took a seat next to me at the bar in a popular well-trusted restaurant. An engaging convivial silver-haired woman of a certain age. She told me she was vegetarian and asked what’s good on the menu; so I made a few suggestions. Her wonderment at my in-depth knowledge of the menu dissipated when I explained I was a food critic and this was one of my favorite establishments. When I told her I wrote for LGBT Weekly, she looked at me askance and inquired if I was Lance Ryder. I said I was and she readily admitted she was a huge fan. Before the night was through, “Miss Kitty” and I had become fast friends and agreed to a second date.
Bar by Red Door was where we rendezvoused for happy hour the following week. The intimate space is bright and airy. A wall of glass and another of mirror. Picnic tables of light wood and a substantial river stone bar. Exposed HVAC and plants hanging from steel trellises overhead. Cozy. Comfortable.
John, our bearded tattooed and ruggedly handsome server/bartender, greeted us warmly and walked us through the menu. He explained they use locally sourced ingredients and mentioned the vegetables came from their garden in El Cajon. Freshness guaranteed. He also pointed out their extensive selection of craft cocktails; tantalizing concoctions such as the Zombie Bus Stop (rum, rum and more rum with passion fruit and lime) or the Cigarette after Sex (cognac, sherry and angostura). We sipped libations while perusing the small plate selections.
Miss Kitty, a “big city girl” who lived on both coasts before settling in San Diego, told me her life story over a Los Star Fighter ($11). Fighter is a spicy blend of three pepper infused tequila, muddled cilantro and mint with a squeeze of fresh lime juice served on the rocks. A not-too-sweet margarita with a wisp of smoke and a spark of fire. I listened to her tale and lingered over a Good Neighbor ($11), a complex boozy blend of bonded bourbon, abano (a bitter/sweet liqueur), meletti (an anise-based liqueur) and kirschwasser (a cherry flavored brandy) with a dash of orange bitters, stirred and served with a single massive ice cube. A bold Old Fashioned with a trace of chocolate and citrus.
Vegetarian selections included the Veggie Flatbread ($12) and Fries and Veggies ($8). The “chef’s whim” flatbread, a light yeasty dough topped with a thin layer of pesto, roasted carrots and mozzarella cheese, is satisfying but lacks pizzazz; something Miss Kitty and I agreed could be resolved by a more generous portion of pesto. The hot-from-the-fryer house made fries, tossed with crunchy seasonal vegetables – snap peas, radishes, grilled cauliflower and diced apples, lacked the satisfying thin crust and soft steamy center of the perfect French fry.
My preference for meat was satisfied by the Stuffed Mustard Dates ($8) and the Taco Twins ($10). The sweet dates are filled with pungent bleu cheese, wrapped in salty bacon then grilled. The flavor profile is completed by a tangy mustard cream sauce. Yummy. The mini-tacos are soft corn tortillas filled with tender slow-braised short ribs, minced cilantro, shallots and crumbled feta cheese. Savory and succulent.
Bar by Red Door opens at 4 p.m. seven days a week. Enjoy happy hour discounts on bar manager Cervantes Magaña’s adult beverages and executive chef Miguel Valdez’s farm-to-table creations. Their new spring menu is coming soon! Bar by Red Door
729 West Washington St.
Open daily from 4 p.m.
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