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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.

http://stationtavern.com/menu.html

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  1. How're the burgers? We've seen it packed when we head home from the Grape St. dog park. Kid-friendly is excellent, of course, but any word on whether dogs are welcome? :)

    4 Replies
    1. re: geekyfoodie

      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.

      1. re: SaltyRaisins

        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.

      2. re: geekyfoodie

        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.

        1. re: Josh

          What? Not a lot of local beers? Hasn't every new restaurant in North/South Park received the memo yet? Must have more local brews.

          Good note on the veggie burgers... we have a lot of vegetarian friends. If they change to grass-fed, all the better.

      3. 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.

        1. 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.

          3 Replies
          1. re: geekyfoodie

            Do they allow smoking on the patio?

            1. re: JRSD

              Yeah, it looked like smoking was allowed... however, the smokers were sitting in the far back of the patio at metal, non-picnic-style round tables, opposite of the kids' play area. I don't know if it was by choice or if that's the designated smoking area.

          2. 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)
            Paulaner Hefe-weizen
            Hofbrau Pilsner
            Red Hook Slim Chance
            North Coast Scrimshaw Pilsner
            Stella Artois

            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.

            1. 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.

              1. I second the comments on the underwhelming burgers which were just ok and even a bit tasteless, didn't even taste the cheese which was covering the burger and the meat was bland.

                I wish they would put more time into those burgers, a great burger would make this spot really shine. Better quality meat, more spice, tastier cheese would be my recs.

                Otherwise it's a welcome addition to the hood with its outdoor space and decent selection of beer on tap.

                1 Reply
                1. re: stangoldsmith

                  You hit the nail on the head for me. It feels like a place that would have been more highly regarded 10 years ago.

                  1. re: geekyfoodie

                    It's not bad. I don't eat the meat there, but both veggie burgers are good, in different ways. Black bean has kind of a southwestern/mexican flavor, and the chickpea burger has a really tasty spread, giving it a mediterranean flavor.

                    1. re: geekyfoodie

                      Last ate there two months ago and I love the burger there, see my post here http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/3891.... The fries could probably use a little improvement. The beer selection has gotten better I think. I would probably be there all the time if it were closer to where I live.

                      1. re: mayache

                        The last two times I went the service was beyond bad. And this was after quite a few great visits.

                        We usualkly go just the two of us & the dog but the last two times we went we brought guests to try it out (isn't that always the way? you talk a place up & when you get people to go there something goes wrong).

                        Last visit we had 4 adults & 2 kids- went in right at openeing & there was only one other couple there- still it took 15 minutes for menus & another 20 for drinks. Then the server walked away & didn;t take our order so after waiting 15 minutes had to walk up to her (because she would not make eye contact when she walked by). So now we are almost an hour in and our orders are not even placed (and by now the place has filled up)

                        Finally place food orders and it took another 30 minutes for the food to start coming out but only 1/2 the orders and NONE of the kids meals (kids were now hot cranky & hungry and had rocks in their shoes from the playground) . It took another 10 minutes for the rest of the food & the kids meals to come out- and guess what all COLD.

                        At this point we just wanted to eat & get out of there. Anyone who is around kids knows a lunch now going on 2 hours is a baaaaad thing. The server just kept walking by & not making eye contact with her tables. after a busser came round & took all our plates & drinkis theer was another 25 minutes of waiting for the bill. At this point we wanted the heck out of dodge & I grabbed a floor manager to give it to someone who looked manager-ish. I very nicley said "could give this to you? it took us 2.5 hours to get lunch served & we really need to get the kids home for naps) . No aplologies, but we did get the bill back ASAP.

                        I think the "seat yourself" method may not be working too well for them, As they get busier it seems like the servers can't keep up. I gave them a pass the first time. but after a second awful service experience I am gun shy to give them a 3rd try.

                    2. Have to agree. Ate there once, decent burger, but there's a good reason it's called "Station" and not "Service Station".

                      1. My family and I have always found the Station to have great food and service. We have never had a problem, day or night. We really like the beer selection.

                        1. Finally made it to Station last night. Love LOVE the outdoor area...something severely lacking in San Diego. Nice lineup of craft beers, local beers, and the regular swill.

                          Main dish: The good side was I asked for the burger rare and they cooked it perfectly. The bad side was the burger just had no flavor. My GF agreed. I don't know if they are using extra lean beef mixed with sirloin or what, but the lack of flavor was almost shocking. It was juicy too. Very odd. Bun was nice, soft, very fresh tasting.

                          Sides: A huuuuuge plus offering up tots, they were quite tasty, no old oil flavors. Properly krispy, not mushy or falling apart. My GF got the sweet potato fries which we were thrilled to see. Unfortunately they use a seasoning that tasted like cumin and chili powder or something and it didn't mesh well with the fries. The seasoning wasn't real spicy, but it overwhelmed the sweet potato flavor, and left a very odd aftertaste. They would be much better either without seasoning or re-working that.

                          12 Replies
                          1. re: MrKrispy

                            I went last week and loved the atmosphere too. Unfortunately my burger was cooked until dry but I'll ask for it rare next time.

                            1. re: dmckean

                              If the food isn't good, the color of the walls and drapes won't help. Hope they improve.

                              1. re: cstr

                                Their veggie burgers are pretty good.

                                1. re: Josh

                                  Do they have any sugar-free cotton candy?

                                    1. re: normalheightsfoodie

                                      Josh was "asking" about veggie burgers, possibly to irritate a fellow CH who believes in the sanctity of a burger and holds a shred of respect for food. Grass fed, I understand, but a "veggie burger" is an oxymoron.

                                      Like sugar-free cotton candy.

                                  1. re: cstr

                                    The selection of beer was nice enough that I'm willing to try again.

                                    1. re: dmckean

                                      Really? That's the one thing about the place I don't like. It's kind of a boring lineup.

                                      1. re: Josh

                                        what no 'near beer' for you? doesn't it go well with grass-fed burgers?

                                        1. re: cstr

                                          They don't serve grass-fed burgers there. Their beer selection is OK, just kind of boring. It's not what I'd cite as their selling point.