Station Tavern in South Park - Soft Opening
Station Tavern in South Park (built in the spot formerly occupied by the old long-closed Snippy's Tavern) is currently doing it's soft opening, with plans for an official opening mid-September. Burgers and beer, with cocktails also on the menu. They accept credit cards, and if you sit at a table near the bar, a server will come around to take your order. The bar, the stools, and some of the tables were all crafted out of the same wood that the old Snippy's used to be made out of.
For those that don't know, the odd-shaped Snippy's tavern was shaped that way (a triangle on a street corner) due to the fact that the spot used to be a crossing section for trolleys back in the day. The trolleys would pass behind the bar (think of "smart corner" downtown, where the trolleys "slice" through the two buildings). Hence the name of the new Station Tavern, and the traffic light motifs that hang from the ceiling inside the place. Nice architecture to the place, with an outside patio and even a play section for the kiddos. For such a small spot, it's nice how they managed to create a nice open space with lots of light.
Ate there the other night. Dogs certainly present on the patio side of the bar. Cool atmosphere, especially on a warm night. The menu is super simple: burger, cheeseburger, veggie burger, turkey burger, and one other I'm forgetting. Toasted challah bun- otherwise, they pull no punches. Flavored fries and a reasonable beer selection (Josh, your turn). I like the taste of Burger Lounge better (no shakes- in fact, nothing sweet on the menu yet), but this is a fine burger and an easier place to go with a bigger group.
Perfect. We're at the Grape St. dog park so much lately (the pooch spends these hot days sprawled in front of the fan in our A/C-less house, looking parched and pathetic... it clearly works to get us to the park), that a dog-friendly place to stop on the way home would be awesome. Mr. G loves his burgers and would always welcome trying a new burger place. I'll report in once we go.
They use commodity beef, which is lame. I asked about grass-fed, and the lady I asked said they've gotten a lot of inquiries about that, so maybe they'll change. The veggie burgers were both reasonably tasty. I would get either of them again.
Beer selection wasn't bad. Appropriate for the food, though more local handles would be good.
I'll second Josh here -- EXCELLENT veggie burgers (we liked the Black Bean the most), we did not try the meat burgers... More local taps needed as well. Cocktails a bit on the expensive side but they do give generous pours. Incredibly dog friendly to friendly dogs.
Very nice addition to South Park. We walked in and they told us to find a seat wherever available. Seating's made up of nice picnic tables... some smaller ones, one big round, and several placed in a row to make up one long table. Service was attentive and friendly. We brought Bear along, but a head's up to anyone bringing a dog: your dog should be kid-friendly. Lots of kids and they were running around the open patio, playing with bouncy balls, and climbing all over the kid-sized trolley car. Some little ones came up to give Bear pats and kisses and, as kids do, they like to tug on ears or swat noses, so any dog hanging out at Station Tavern should be comfortable with that.
Burgers were pretty good... I had a cheeseburger with caramelized onions. The sweet potato fries were fried to perfection. The open layout and the casual atmosphere created a cozy feel to the whole place, like hanging out at a friend's backyard barbeque. Definitely not for anyone who doesn't like kids, dogs, or extremely informal service.
Since originally posting, I've been back a total of two times, and have walked past it several others.
First off, the place has been nice and busy every time. So, that's a definite good sign for them. And the service was great both times.
Second, on the food, I found the burger to be slightly underseasoned both times. It had the "house spice" element in there, but could've just used a little more salt, that's all. Either that, or maybe get a slightly sharper cheese on the burger to get a little more flavor in there. Also, the bun (a great looking challah roll) was a little stale both times I went. They were toasted on the grill, but I think that they may have needed a simple toasting on the other side to bring the bread to life a little more. Don't want to be too critical because I enjoyed the food, and the place isn't officially even open yet. I have good faith that the next few months will bring some fine-tuning.
As for the beer....
The taps definitely need some help. From what I remember, they were:
Stone Levitation (the "light" Stone pale ale, 4% or so alcohol)
Red Hook Slim Chance
North Coast Scrimshaw Pilsner
Being San Diego (home to Stone, Port, Alesmith, Alpine, Green Flash, Ballast Point, Lightning, and many others) it goes without saying that they could use some more local taps on there. Maybe it's a financial thing, or the particular vendor/rep they have for beer, but I can't imagine that they wouldn't be able to get a good deal on any number of local brews.
My advice would be to dump the Slim Chance and Scrimshaw. Those two beers don't hold up whatsoever to the rest, and it makes the taps too lopsided towards the pilsners and lighter stuff. Also, I would dump the Stella and save it for the bottles, since people really shouldn't be bothering to drink Stella out of a tap. Switch out the Stone Levitation for the Stone Pale, and pick up at least one India Pale Ale (of which San Diego makes definitive our-beer-is-better-than-yours versions of). For variety's sake, add on a brown or red ale, and why not a porter/stout as well. Keep the Hofbrau Pilsner and the Paulaner Hef on there for the german presence.
With San Diego having become such a significant beer town in recent years, I'm surprised that more places don't do like Blue Water grill did, where they went with a brewery like Ballast Point and filled their taps with their beers exclusively. The breweries here make so many different brews that you can get away with carrying just one maker and still have a tap line-up with a ton of variety.
I like the space and I think the concept is solid - nothing wrong with just good burgers and beer - but when I tried it (very early, might have even been the first night), the food, beer and service were all lacking. The burger was really a let down, overcooked and with little flavor. I will definitely give it another try but I sure hope they get better meat, cooking, beer and service.