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Booze and bites with a view

Sunday Brunch at The Nolen | PHOTO: FACEBOOK

The Nolen is a breezy rooftop bar on the 14th floor of the Courtyard by Marriott in downtown San Diego. I stopped in one balmy afternoon enticed by their happy hour prices. The Nolen is named for John Nolen, a city-planning visionary who mapped out San Diego’s early development. As a former planner for the City of San Diego, I am very familiar with the namesake’s legacy.

The casual sophisticated space offers commanding views stretching from the traffic-choked Coronado Bridge, across the sailboats sluicing through the bay, and out to Point Loma and the Pacific Ocean. I took a seat at the marble-topped bar and absorbed the aerie’s ambience: polished concrete tables, intimate seating areas, a large circular fire pit. The contemporary open-air design is the creation of San Diego-based Bluemotif Architecture, the team who brought us Juniper & Ivy and Kettner Exchange.

I struck up a conversation with Luke, the tall, trim and nicely muscled bartender. He told me he had relocated from North Carolina because he needed a “broader view”. “Looks like you found it,” I said, indicating the expansive cityscape surrounding us. I ordered the Dealer’s Choice cocktail ($6) and asked what was good on the menu. Without hesitation, he recommended the Chili Glazed Meatballs ($6) and confided he gobbles them down whenever possible.

The cocktail-of-the-day is a blend of Cruzan Silver rum, Hamilton Jamaican Pot Still Gold rum (a spicy-sweet black rum distilled from fermented molasses and aged up to five years), lemon juice, orgeat (a syrup made with almonds, rose water and citrus flower), and campari (a herbal liqueur) shaken with crushed ice and served in a chilled martini glass garnished by a thin lemon slice. A perfectly refreshing balance of sweet, sour and bitter notes. The pair of large meaty balls (wink), made with minced onion, garlic and carrots, are baked and glazed in a tomato and Fresno chili sauce, served on thin slices of potato, and topped with chopped green onion and fontiago cheese shavings, a blend of sweet fontina and tangy asiago. Lip-smacking good, but might benefit from introducing an acidity – perhaps adding lemon zest to the glaze – to offset the underlying sweetness.

“What else can I get you?” Luke inquired, flashing a smile. I wish I could see the eyes hidden behind the dark sunglasses. I imagined they were playful and mischievous.

The Nolen focuses on spirit-forward drinks adding a contemporary spin to classic cocktail recipes, a homage to a turn-of-the-century speakeasy, if you will. I ordered an Old Fashioned ($6) and the Beer Braised Sliders ($11).

The Old Fashioned is a simple blend of bourbon, demerara sugar and angostura bitters served on ice with an orange peel garnish. Unlike common brown sugar which is merely refined white sugar mixed with molasses, demerara is an unprocessed raw brown sugar with a natural caramel flavor. The caramel notes are what elevate the classic concoction to sublime heights. The sliders, served with nutty arugula leaves lightly tossed in a citrusy vinaigrette, are warm pretzel buns heaped with tender braised short ribs, piquant blue cheese sauce and crispy fried shallots. A savory treat with the right amount of salty pungency.

Located near the Convention Center, The Nolen is the perfect place to take a break from Comic-Con and catalogue your swag, or to watch the goings on from a safe perch. Eat this, hungry readers. You’ll be glad you did.

The Nolen

453 Sixth Ave.

Sun-Thurs: 4 p.m.-12 a.m.

Fri-Sat: 4 p.m.-1 a.m.

Sun Brunch: 10 a.m.-1 p.m.



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Posted by on Jul 20, 2017. Filed under Eat This!, Latest Issue. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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