E-mail: [email protected] Written By: Julie Hollenbeck
Lunch at the Tidewater Tavern
It was one of those days in San Diego where you just want to get out the convertible, motorcycle or bicycle and head down to the coast. My husband and I decided to take our motorcycles out for a spin and see where we ended up. Our one requirement was we wanted to have an open-air dining experience and the Tidewater Tavern gave us that and a neighborhood bar feel too. Located on Hwy 101 in Solana Beach, the Tidewater Tavern is in walking distance of the beach and all the shops Solana Beach has to offer on a Sunday afternoon.
When you walk in, you’re actually right in front of the bar, and I have to say my first impression walking in was “dive bar”. But I was pleasantly surprised, after looking around to see that the entire left side, about 25 tables, is a casual dining area complete with TV’s set to sports channels, two pool tables and roll-up garage doors along the front wall. When the doors are open, the dining area opens out on to the wide sidewalk. On the opposite side of the bar from the dining room is a small area with bar tables, and another pool table perfect for those not interested in a sit down experience. The rest of the décor is pretty typical bar/beer décor: neon signs, pennants and mirrors with beer logos. But somehow they manage to pull it off with a tropical feel; I think it was the giant fish mounted over the bar that did it.
We arrived at 11:45 and there were only two or three other groups in the dining area. They were obviously regulars as the waitresses were casually leaning up against the table chatting when we walked in. Although they were distracted, we were given their attention immediately and asked to sit wherever we wanted. Once we were sitting, they brought over menus and our drink orders were taken. We chatted with a couple at one of the other tables for a few minutes. As it turned out, they lived just down the street and walk over for breakfast or lunch at least once every weekend and regularly come to watch the Chargers or Padres play. On game day, it is standing room only, so they make sure they get there early for a good table.
While there is a definite relaxed neighborhood bar feel to the tavern, the menu goes beyond wings and burgers. There are three kinds salads: Caesar, Oriental and Garden, for $5.95 each. A South of the Border menu with a variety of tacos and Quesadillas for $5.95. Half pound burgers from $5.95 to $7.95 with a range of toppings that include onions, cheese, and chili. But I think the biggest variety is in the hot sandwiches. There are three different kinds of hot chicken sandwiches, two kinds of fish and calamari plus the regular ham and cheese, ranging from $5.95 to 7.95. The cold sandwiches include BLTs, Turkey and cheese, Ham and cheese and the 8 ½ sandwich. But the best part was their weekend breakfast. On Saturdays and Sundays starting at 10 am, the tavern offers their version of a Mexican Breakfast complete with chorizo, eggs, machaca and hot cakes. They also have a daily happy hour with $3.00 drink specials and $4.50 appetizers.
By the time our appetizer (the potato skins) had arrived, all the tables were filled with groups and even a couple of families. The potato skins were probably the best I’ve ever had. There wasn’t a lot of potato flesh on the skins, but they were crisp and smothered in cheese. Along with the standard ranch dressing, the skins came with a chunky salsa. The salsa made it like eating super cheesy nachos. Yummy.
The Husband got the Tidal Wave burger (bacon, cheddar cheese, grilled onions and guacamole) and I ordered the Hot Pastrami sandwich (grilled pastrami, mustard and Swiss cheese on a French roll). We had a choice between fries, a green salad, coleslaw, or beans. I got the salad and he the fries. The green salad was simple: lettuce, grated carrots and purple cabbage with a choice of salad dressing. They only good thing to say about it is that it was fresh. The Tidal Burger was huge and messy with onions grilled to sweetness, salty bacon, and drippy guacamole. Basically perfect and there were plenty of napkins already on hand at the table. The pastrami was a thick pile with very little fat, a thick slice of cheese and a healthy dose of yellow mustard on a lightly toasted French roll.
Overall the place was perfect for a laid back meal and casual conversation. The atmosphere was good, friendly and warm, even the bathrooms were spotlessly clean. The service was great; other waitresses were willing to help out, refilling drinks or picking up empty plates. The only thing bad with the service was getting the check was a little slow. But I think that had more to do with our desire to get back out on the motorcycles and hit the road then anything with the actual service. The food was good and more then I expected from a bar, it wasn’t exceptional, but I’d go back just for the potato skins.