Food, Drink, Us or Keep It Simple Stupid
San Diego’s East Village doesn’t necessarily have whole a lot going on. It' on the up and up but the majority of the area is still filled with roving groups of vagrants that's perpetually empty during the day. If you wind up looking for a spot to eat or a place to grab a couple drinks here, start heading towards the beautiful PETCO Park and never look back. The closer you are to the stadium, the more options will pop up. One of our favorites? Bar Basic. It's just about a block or two from the stadium and Basic is the epitome of the roomy-brick-and-wood, bar-and-restaurant-maybe-a-garage aesthetic that dominates the East Village area. Simpler? it’s a great place to grab a homemade pizza and a couple pints.
Basic is split into two separate, but equal, parts. One half is a lounge/bar with plenty of televisions to catch up on whatever game may be on at the moment and enough booze to help you forget that San Diego’s sports teams will continually disappoint you. The other half of Basic is a big, open restaurant space with it’s own bar and plenty of tables waiting to play pedestal for your pizza.
Red brick, industrial style lighting, and giant, open, street-facing windows don’t make you feel like you’ve escaped East Village – they throw you right into it. You know, something way more hip and urban. I’m not using these words by accident. Creating this image was clearly in the forefront of the owner’s minds. I mean, the dress-code listed on their website is “urban casual” - is that even a real thing? That's not a dress code, those are just buzzwords. It just sounds a bit bombastic. Well, using bombastic may be a bit bombastic too. In both cases, it’s only a small nuance you’ll have to look past. The overhead fans are also worth mentioning. They’re almost like ordinary ceiling fans, except that they look a lot more like giant turbines – looming over your family. They probably power the pizza ovens in the back, but they definitely are mesmerizing.
The table settings are daringly uncomplicated – just a handful of paper napkins and a few paper plates. Simple, simple, simple. While I didn’t see it for myself, I assume that the clean-up process here consists of dumping the table on its side and shimmying whatever was left into a large trashbag. The only time Basic dares to get a little complicated is when the sun goes down and the place transforms into a club. Even then, all it takes to complete this metamorphosis is a little dimming of the lights, the whisking away of chairs, and plugging in DJ Dimeadozen into whichever corner seems most appropriate. The bar half already has that chic, minimalist flair everybody wants – all that's missing is an urban casual shirt, pounding bass drums, and a cocktail in every hand.
We sat ourselves in the relatively empty restaurant portion of Basic, and I immediately raked the red pepper flake shaker closer to my seat. My wife didn't notice a thing. I tried not to make it obvious, but I'm going to need to use that first. A classic pizza-loving power move. We found our food and drink menus located on the orange placards atop our table. First you choose your base: either red or white sauce, with or without mozzarella. Then, you choose your toppings from a long list of interesting choices. Cherry peppers, mashed potatoes, meatballs, and more. We couldn’t decide. This was going to take some time to mull over, so we decided to decide over a drink. While you could go ahead and get one of their custom mason jar cocktails, Basic’s carries enough craft brews to wet your whistle. I settled on a Stone IPA which was presented to me in a 32 ounce bottle and an accompanying chalice. The wife ordered a Wyder’s Pear Cider – a light and fruity hard cider that has quickly become one of her favorites. Refreshing. Now, back to the real reason we showed up.
Taking this opportunity to become as creative as I could ever be, I set out to create art with pizza as my medium. My canvas was a white pie with mozzarella cheese. For toppings, I chose mashed potatoes, chicken, and red peppers. To me, the mashed potato were an obvious choice. You only get so many chances in life to order it as a pizza topping. I dubbed my creation “The Country Boy”, mostly regarding the hearty ingredients. Maybe also because this choice could only be replicated by an illiterate bumpkin pointing to the first three familiar words he recognized on the menu. It may not look pretty, but the garlic of the potatoes mixed unbelievably well with the light white sauce. Chicken ain't bad, either. Polishing off my pan of fresh baked pizza was a simple challenge to undertake. With each bite of my delicious brick oven baked pie, the idea of getting a to-go box seemed further and further away.
The other side of the table went with the, obviously, healthier choice. 'Twas an eggplant and spinach white pizza that was lightly garnished with mozzarella cheese. When it arrived, the pie looked like something that had escaped to this world through a vegetarian’s wild dreams. Obviously pleased with the pizsa’s appearance, the wife savored every single bite of her doughy imagination. She even managed to ration a few pieces with the intent of a late night rendezvous. I’ll admit, even from a strict carnivore’s perspective the lightly fried eggplant medallions looked delicious. She done good.
The pizzas came out hot and smelled incredible. Our waitress even went so far as to compliment our creations - a job well done. The dough is very clearly homemade, with each pizza having it’s individual bumps and lumps spread throughout the floury crust. Speaking of dough, taking the size of each pizza into consideration, the price is absolutely reasonable. Especially considering a less ambitious couple probably could have split a single pie. Since you’re in charge of picking out your own toppings, any financial woes you experience are entirely your own fault. Chances are your head will be swimming in too much beer and cheese to care anyways. It doesn’t take much to make a great meal and Basic is one of the few restaurants in San Diego that thrives off this concept, despite our attempts to complicate it with our toppings. Just don’t forget to wear your finest urban casual.