There’s a New Kid on The Block in the neighborhood and I must say I’m quite thrilled. I know, it’s passé amongst the youngsters and the “I was here when North Park was bunk” crowd to like a place that is proud of being a little stylish, but let’s face it, I’m not exactly hipster material anyway. It’s actually two new places and I’ve been there enough times when they weren’t jammed to the gills to say with authority that Soda & Swine and Polite Provisions are not to be missed. Here’s what happened…
It’s no accident that I started with the cocktail making geniuses behind the bar. Vaughn had now made me various tasty concoctions, some from their fountain, some on the spot. Almost all were outstanding. The top of the list is the Ocean Side. No, this isn’t an excuse for everyone with a dusty Pirates jersey to start going crazy, it’s just the name of a drink. But it’s a damn.good.drink. London Dry Gin, Lime, Organic Mint, Sea Salt and Celery Salt (menu). Genius, I tell you. I am more of a Tiger!Tiger!/Ritual Tavern/Toronado (when the music is turned down) type of guy, but this place makes me want to put on a proper bow tie, hop on the Penny Farthing I don’t own and post up with some dude named Nigel with a British accent. By the way, that link to the video clip is how I learned to tie a bow tie and I can tell you unequivocally that it works. You’ll use the pause button a lot, but it definitely works. Okay, back to the place. So, as I get it, there are two spots connected by this hallway.
We typically come in on the 30th Street side, so easiest to enter in Polite Provisions, get posted up somewhere, then drift over to order up your food. Cocktails tend to be about $8, which is cheap for grown up drinks made from fresh stuff, and they have a punch bowl that I saw one of my favorite, very kick-ass photographers enjoying on a recent stop in, but I haven’t tried it myself. Since the owners are the same guys that made Craft & Commerce work, I imagine the bowl of happy juice is equally good, I just can’t vouch for it personally. Back to the food, they sell lots and lots of Brussels Sprouts
Which, having had them twice now, I can see why. They are not quite as good as the lamb bacon insanity at 4140 on Morena or (if you like slightly sweet) the roasted goodness at Brooklyn Girl, but they are well above average and except for the bacon they are almost vegetarian. Okay, that’s not funny to my vegetarian friends. They might have vegan and vegetarian options, but to be fair you can’t really go to a place with swine in the title and be salty if they don’t have a wide selection from the green set. That was way more space than necessary for vegetables, because the best thing I had was this
Here’s the deal, one slide is like $3. I am not shy about consuming the swine and I can tell you that two of these sliders is enough to fill most normal appetites. The mini burger bun they are served on is a toasted brioche I think and they successfully strike the meat/bun balance (surprising how many places that serve burger-like product get this way too wrong). Two sliders is like a full burger because the meat is thicker than most places, so don’t be scared to only order a couple. In my opinion, this is a great place to commit to for a few hours. Not if you are going “out-out” after dark with your grown up friends, because then it’s several shades of crowded. But there is a sweet spot during the early afternoon on the weekends that is utterly worth it.
I put this photo in mostly to break up all my text. It’s kind of cool that they decided to drop a random old school lamp in the middle of the place. There used to be a cool saying on the floor, but I can’t swear that it’s still there. Point is, these guys took the time to think about the concept they were putting together. And in my opinion it works. And even better, when it’s crowded you can hit Cantina Mayahuel or Jayne’s (well, not Jayne’s, which is ridiculously good and usually busy at night, too) or even AC Lounge. Aside (for community-minded folks): We are going through the Community Plan update process right now and there is some talk about limiting the growth along that corridor on 30th between Adams and Meade. My sense is we’ll do better and get cooler businesses and better priced stuff if we don’t overly control how much gets built. Just an observation. Anyway, I also tried this
Which deserves a moment of special attention. If you’ve never had a scotch egg it’s time to make that happen. And this is a good place to give it a go. The egg is hardboiled, nothing revolutionary there. But the interplay of the egg and the breaded, spicy, crumbly outer covering is really something to behold. No offense to my UK friends, but I typically expect anything from your neck of the woods to be pretty inedible. Lots of good stuff to do and see and drink, but not so much on the cuisine front. This doesn’t include imported ethnic cuisines from all the bomb Indian and Carribean chefs doing their thing, but let’s face it, except for Ireland’s rebirth (wait, can you call it a rebirth if it is getting good for the first time?), there hasn’t been much indigenous to the UK that one might want to consume by choice if one happened to be seeking food adventure. Perhaps I’m being a little unfair. Perhaps pork and beans ARE a breakfast food. Meh, I don’t think so. Still, get this thing. It’s good, and novel.
If you have never read one of my posts, I like to drop in a little quasi political commentary. Not overtly preachy, but just enough to say shouldn’t we support people who take the time to remind us to care about our scarce natural resources. Like Snooze in Hillcrest, who recycles and composts like 90% of their waste. Exactly the type of place to support, I tell you. No, I’m not making it up, read it here. My theory is if we all get together and reward businesses for doing the right thing, the ones who are adding all that sh#$ty Styrofoam and animal-killing plastic rings to the environment will either adapt or disappear. Two last very cool things about this new spot in the ‘hood. One, is this
Yes, that is a roof…except it’s not because, ya know, there is not actual covering. This is just plain cool. I can’t really explain why, but there’s something fun and unique about rounding the hallway corner, walking past the wood and tiny tiles, and noticing that you feel a little, I dunno, outside. They get points for creativity. Or points for finding a creative way to not pay a ton of money for a new roof. Whatever, I don’t judge. It works. I have tried the Mayan Concubine, the Attorney Privilege, the Casual Encounter and the Kentucky Buck. I wasn’t a huge fan of the Casual Encounter, but the rest were outstanding. No, I didn’t try them all in one sitting. And perhaps I’ve been there more times than one ought to go to the same place, in one month’s time, but I feel duty bound to help our friends activate this corner. Yep, that’s right, turning my recreational beverage consumption into legitimate social enterprise. If only there were an Orchid for the best rationalizations I could win hands down! Again, kidding. Quick aside. Sometimes we locals get territorial about our ‘hoods. Having spent more time than I care to recount looking at the many maps that exist for the Greater North Park area, two things become true. One, what constitutes North Park or Normal Heights or University Heights changes depending on which map from which era and for which purpose you are viewing. Two, it really doesn’t matter all that much. When I’m on my bike I don’t consider the political ramifications of leaving Blind Lady in Normal Heights to hit Lips in North Park. We live in a cool part of the city that has character and is getting better. And if we are careful about what our vision for the future is and what ‘place’ we want it to be in 20 years, we could really have something special. Which is really all that matters in my opinion. Oh, one last thing. I’ve been able to meet Vaughn behind the bar, Meghan at Soda & Swine, Paulina and one of the owners/operators named Erich. All very friendly from the first time I went through the door. Exactly what I want in the spirit of a new place. Check it out. Thanks for reading.