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Harley Gray Kitchen and Bar in Mission Hills

The missus and I went for dinner last night- it's in our 'hood, and we've long-anticipated this replacement for The Gathering. These folks are no strangers to hospitality, with several restaurants from Santa Cruz to Hawaii.

Like many chain restaurants, the menu is not designed to break new culinary ground. It offers several very safe and familiar items that appear to be driven by the availability of ingredients from large restaurant providers.

The interior had been given a well-needed and pleasant facelift . Soft color pallette, nice smooth textures. A triptych of black-and-white photographs depicting party scenes with people opening their mouths line one wall.

The food was well-prepared and appeared consistent.

Like most contemporary restaurants, it was pretty loud, and conversation was difficult all the way across a table.

Staff was friendly, and clearly interested in trying bring a quality experience to the diners.

There is a cocktail list with many sweet cocktails, but the bar does not stock any rye whiskey.

The draft beer selection offers a wide range of Samuel Adams products.

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  1. What did you and the missus have to eat.

    2 Replies
      1. re: Fake Name

        Awesome, maybe forgetting is best!

    1. Good review. I had lunch there yesterday and enjoyed being in that nice space in the blazing heat of the day.

      Also can't quite remember what we ate, but I bet their hamburger would hit the spot, sitting at the bar with a beer or martini in hand.

      10 Replies
      1. re: SaltyRaisins

        Usually one must travel to a hotel for similar food.

          1. re: honkman

            I don't want to say "bad". I think the experience will, for many people (probably a majority) will be very positive.

            I expect there will be lines out the door for them, and I congratulate them on their success.

            (well, except for the bar without rye)

                1. re: Fake Name

                  Just bumped it down many notches on my list of new places to try.

                2. re: SaltyRaisins

                  Another stellar post, looked at the menu and can't remember what was on it. Next!

                3. 'The draft beer selection offers a wide range of Samuel Adams products.'

                  That's pretty sad.

                  1. My husband and I checked out Harley Grey last weekend with some friends. I did think the staff was friendly and wanted us to have a good experience.

                    We have much love for New Zealand style mussels and ordered those along with New Zealand sauv blanc. Loved them! The wine was one I hadn't had before and good (have been consistently sampling New Zealand sauvignon blancs for years).

                    We also had the fried artichokes and they were yummy. Not heavy like other deep fried veggies .

                    Entrees were not worth writing about.

                    So, I may go back if I'm in the mood for New Zealand mussels. Or, for a martini at the bar in memory of my times at the Gathering.

                    1. I'm confused. Not by the review, but by the thinking. Why would anyone put a chain restaurant in Mission Hills? There's a restaurant serving the same sort of food right across the street. The Red Door, Cafe Bleu, and the Wellington are right around the corner. Add to that the fact that the Gathering was basically the same restaurant (though not a chain) and couldn't do good enough business to stay open. It just boggles the mind.

                      12 Replies
                      1. re: jmtreg

                        Well, hold on...The Gathering was well past its prime, and had difficulty with the simplest of dishes and had friendly, but odd service similar to The Huddle down the street.

                        While Harley Gray was not my favorite, it was clean, well-prepared, good service and well-executed- the opposite of Gathering.

                        The food at Cafe Bleu, Red Door and Wellington are apples the Gray's orange. I've not been to Bleu, but the others are quite enjoyable and more food/flavor driven.

                        I think there's plenty of room in Mission Hills for exactly whar Gray sells, and I wish them well.

                        What will be interesting, however, is the effect of the new Patio on Goldfinch (related to Pacific Beach's Patio. I've not been there, but it has a very good reputation, and I look forward to their opening.

                        I have trouble believing MH will support all:

                        The Patio on Goldfinch
                        Brooklyn Girl
                        Harley Gray
                        Cafe Bleu
                        Red Door

                        Most of which are pretty similar price point, chasing the same number of customers. I'd be VERY interested to know what percentage of patrons are traveling outside of a 5 mile radius for these places- my feeling (unscientific) is these are neighborhood places, and parking pretty well sucks along Goldfinch.

                        Lefty's is a "joint" and does a brisk business at it's price point. I think they have their market pretty well set.

                        1. re: Fake Name

                          Wait...does anybody actually dine at Olivetto? Had a pretty bad experience there a few months after it first opened so we haven't been back. I swear there is never evidence of people in the place when I drive by a couple time a month.

                          1. re: Fake Name

                            Ugh. All kinds of spellos in that post. Sorry.

                            1. re: Fake Name

                              Hmmmm. Sitting here chowing down on a paddy melt and wondering what the heck spellos you're talking about.

                              1. re: DoctorChow

                                Is that an Irish patty melt? with some corned beef added?

                                1. re: littlestevie

                                  Just a intentional lighthearted reference to a post I made about Slater's 50/50 last year where I misspelled "patty" twice.

                                  When I was a kid, that's what we called them and I guess that just rolled off my fingertips at the time. At least that's my excuse (and it sounds good). FN jumped on it at the time, so I was poking fun at both him and myself about "spellos".

                                  But yes, it could be an Irish twist on a patty melt.

                                  1. re: DoctorChow

                                    At my first job, where we had to do a lot of editing, we had, not only typos and spellos, but "thinkos."

                                    1. re: wrldtrvl

                                      OK, I give. What's a "thinko"? Is that where you come up with a nonsense idea about something?

                                      1. re: DoctorChow

                                        Yes, you have defined it precisely!

                            2. re: Fake Name

                              It appears BG now offers Happy Hour Sunday-Friday, 4-6 pm (as of yesterday). This is the first time since opening they have explored these discount waters, n'est ce pas?

                              Perhaps, the new Patio on Goldfinch is influencing the MH competition even prior to its debut. Or perhaps, as Mr. Name put it, MH might have trouble supporting all of these neighborhood eateries. Nothing says fun like a little downward pricing pressure from the neighbors.

                              For me, a dozen oysters @ $15 and $6 craft cocktails will warrant a pit stop every once in a while.

                              1. re: Stiflers_Mom

                                "For me, a dozen oysters @ $15 and $6 craft cocktails will warrant a pit stop every once in a while."


                            3. re: jmtreg

                              At least a sports bar didn't go into there...

                              (Trying to get FN's blood pressure up a bit.)

                            4. With the closure of City Wok, why not an upscale Asian--Chinese, Vietnamese, Thai place? Seems like that would have worked well.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: wrldtrvl

                                I'm all for it!

                                Better yet, something downscale that DELIVERS.

                                On that I'd be all over.

                              2. Oh the Gathering finally closed? Sheesh, 35 years and 3 fires later. Not bad for a place that was never any good

                                5 Replies
                                1. re: Eater15

                                  Hmm. I think 35 years is pushing The Gathering's age by a decade.

                                  1. re: foodiechick

                                    I don't think even Piret's had opened there 35 yrs ago. The Perfect Pan was first, and then they opened up Piret's, which closed around 1990. Yeah, more like 25 years ago.

                                    1. re: foodiechick

                                      The Gathering started in a spot where Brooklyn Girl is now- I know it was there in the mid-80's.

                                      1. re: Fake Name

                                        Had no idea...I've been schooled by the neighborhood master.

                                        1. re: foodiechick

                                          I had to stretch my memory to even vaguely recall that -- but didn't at all until after FN's post. Good to have a "neighborhood master" and historical scribe to get things right.

                                  2. Interesting that this place should have risen to the top of the SD board when it did.

                                    I happened to have eaten there just yesterday. Some good, some just so-so...

                                    The good:
                                    - the remodel of the interior space is very nice. It is no longer the dated, kitschy space it was as The Gathering
                                    - The organic salad with strawberries, gorgonzola and candied walnuts was pretty tasty. Plus you can order it in full size or half size.
                                    - Their happy hour pricing is pretty decent.

                                    The so-so
                                    - The angus blue burger was a disappointment. It wasn't awful, but it was a heck of a missed opportunity. I asked for medium rare but got something just past medium, but still very edible and not at all dried out. The brioche bun was tasty but there was just W-A-Y too much of it. The bun to burger ratio was off to the point where the taste of the meat got lost in the bun and accompanying lettuce, tomato and onion. The crumbled blue added a nice zing without being overpowering. This hamburger had the potential to be really good but was done in by a bun that was far too much bread for the size of the meat. The fries on the plate were very good.

                                    My friend and I split dessert, and it's a good thing. I'm not sure any single diner could tackle the Mile High Mud Pie all by themselves. So tall, so dense and so frozen it comes with a steak knife in order to cut it...and, yes, we had to use the steak knife. Oreo crust, generous layer of rocky road ice cream, layer of peanut butter, layer of vanilla ice cream, layer of fudge sauce, all of which is frozen and then topped with whipped cream and drizzles of chocolate and caramel sauce. The thing is enormous, and very, very good. So if you ever get a craving for ice cream, check this thing out.

                                    The salad and dessert were very good, the burger? not so much. Since this isn't in my 'hood, it wasn't good enough to draw me back on a regular basis. However, if I get an ice cream craving, I do now know where to go ;-D

                                    3 Replies
                                    1. re: DiningDiva

                                      Sounds like the 'hood will benefit quite a bit with the opening of The Patio...I hear it is happening within the week.

                                      1. re: foodiechick

                                        Just drove by moments ago- full staff, in uniform, standing on the sidewalk. Appears training has commenced.

                                        1. re: Fake Name

                                          Supposed to open this Friday. Think I'll try to go.

                                    2. Compared to the competition, I think Harley Gray is trying to fill a niche that is already saturated in the MH area...I think what this neighborhood needs is a casual, sit down (but not over priced) Mexican place (likes of Jimmy Carters, El Comal, Cantina Mayahuel, etc)...

                                      4 Replies
                                      1. re: sds

                                        "Jimmy Carters"

                                        Which used to be in Mission Hills.....

                                        1. re: sds

                                          Agree with you for the most part, but I think a broader-scope Mexican-run place like Romesco would fit into MH better than a semi-hole-in-the wall place like Cantina Mayahuel (which I like a lot, by the way -- where it is).

                                          Don't remember Jimmy Carters in MH at all, but don't doubt our MH neighborhood expert. (That would be FN.)

                                          BTW, I think The Patio is proving to be a quality addition to the MH restaurant lineup -- the right kind. Harley Gray isn't nearly as exciting (to me, anyway).

                                          1. re: DoctorChow

                                            Olivetto would make a great location for a restaurant offering a Baja Med menu. Decorate it up with some contemporary Mexican furnishings, offer a great Valle de Guadalupe wine list (tho' it won't be inexpensive), some traditional favorites, some great seafood.

                                            You didn't miss anything at Jimmy Carter's. I never had a good meal there.

                                            1. re: DiningDiva

                                              Olivetto would make a great location for any other restaurant other than Olivetto.

                                        2. We had an office on Goldfinch in 2000-200x.

                                          Phil's BBQ was still there - nobody in our office wanted to go there for lunch.

                                          The French bakery, whose name escapes me that was on the northeast corner of the block - nobody wanted to go their for lunch.

                                          The Gathering - nobody wanted to go there for lunch.

                                          Jimmy Carter's frankly scared them.

                                          The only time I made everyone happy was by bringing pizza in.