We Have To Go Back Or Feaster Island
Taking a hint from our stomach’s audible displeasure with the lack of dinner ideas, my lady and I had to come up with a game plan on an uncharacteristically cold night in San Diego. The solution? A retreat to Coronado Island, which we have only been to a handful of times, to satisfy our hunger for a warm meal and our thirst for adventure. A few things spring to mind when I think of Coronado Island: American flags, the Navy, the Hotel Del Coronado, rich white folk, and bizarre love triangles that end in a murder suicide. Making a quick pact to avoid the majority of those thoughts, we packed up our hunger pangs and decided to set sail and see if Coronado was all it was cracked up to be.
There are two popular ways to find your way onto the island. First, you can travel by ferry. This involves an inexpensive, thirty-minute boat ride which offers spectacular views of the city but may or may not turn you into an ice cube before you arrive. The second, and more common route, is to head directly over the Coronado Bridge. Midway through the drive you will get the feeling that you’re flying directly into the clouds, which is a bonus, but finding parking on the island isn’t always so heavenly. We chose to drive over and after a few minutes of awkwardly parallel parking on the busiest, and only noteworthy street, Orange Avenue, we set off. Without a clear destination in mind we decided to slowly gravitate towards the Hotel Del Coronado and pick a restaurant at random along the way. Passing several moderately appealing, and packed, fine dining eateries and a smattering of half-assed hideaways charging a premium for the basics, we weren’t quite sure how fruitful this quest was going to be. As luck would have it, just before reaching the Hotel Del we spotted a faint glow by our feet. An array of mason jars, each containing a faintly flickering candle, led the way past an outdoor patio and down a flight of stairs, into a nearly-underground restaurant. Citronella candles if I had to guess, because this place had somehow managed to keep out all of the WASPs.
After being effectively Hansel and Gretel’d by the smell of warm food and a couple of shiny lights, we found ourselves inside The Tavern. A perfect name for the place, really. The Tavern is unpretentious, dimly lit, comfortable, and full of alcohol. It’s also one of the newer restaurants to grace Coronado. At first glance, it looks like the kind of place where you and a handful of other wayfaring pirates would gather to exchange tales of plunder and enjoy a grog or two after washing ashore. Well, that would be the case but the only pirates left are either crammed into a tugboat off the coast of Somalia or lurking in the corners of the deep web. The enormous, high-definition televisions which can be seen from nearly any seat in the house do their part to ruin this fantasy as well. We sunk into a large booth and instantly felt comfortable, admiring the dark wood and brick that surrounded us.
The menu is compact and simple: drinks on one side, food on the other. The Tavern has a good selection of local, draught beers and a full bar; complete with several custom and seasonal cocktails which should find their way to your table. We went during Christmas season and tried the Chocolate Peppermint Martini which, well, tasted exactly how you would guess. For an appetizer we shared the eggplant bruschetta which included all fresh ingredients loaded on three tasty bits of bread – just enough for us to fight over the last piece.
The lady ordered a meaty hunk of Salmon that reigned supreme over a bed of vegetables and mashed potatoes. “Absolutely glorious!” she exclaimed. A pescatarian’s delight. Myself? I drilled a well into my bloodline and ordered the house-made Shepard's Pie which came out steaming hot, covered in mashed potatoes, and stuffed into a personal-sized skillet. I could bore you with the details of its contents or I could just recommend it. It tasted amazing and I will not hesitate to order it again on our next inevitable visit. Seeing as how we were in search of a warm and hearty meal, I’m not sure if we could have done any better. Hypnotizing us with it's warm and enticing vibes, The Tavern was clearly trying to wedge its way into our relationship. It was the love triangle we had prepared to defend against. Not today, Coronado, but we'll be back to visit.
It seems like we may have passed judgement on dear ol’ Coronado a bit too soon. We ended up having a lot of fun there and feel ashamed for always counting it out of our plans. It’s definitely worth the short hop across the ocean to have a whole new neighborhood at your disposal; one that is unlike anywhere else in San Diego. Sure, you may not exactly “fit it” with the locals but they’re too preoccupied with keeping up their social graces while having secret affairs with each other to notice you. That’s were most of them go wrong - they should be having an affair with the beautiful Island they live on, not it’s residents. When you finally do make it over, be sure to check out The Tavern for a hearty meal or a impressive happy hour. The rest of Coronado will be begging to be explored when you emerge from this sub-level location in a gleeful, drunken haze.