Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Happy Hour Bite: Trade Winds Tavern

Most gastropubs are, let's face it, a little drab. Stepping into one, you can generally muddled brownish-gray tones, a few kegs, maybe some industrial design touches—and that's on a good day. Trade Winds Tavern, though, has a certain artistic flair. Driving by on Balboa in Kearny Mesa, the colorful punk mural outside catches your eye instantly, drawing you in through raw curiosity. Inside the theme continues: a wall painted with cyclops jellyfish, a giant game table, and... okay, some industrial decor.

I come after work for their food happy hour with surprising frequency. The other day I got the elote and the salt and pepper chicken wings. The corn, though a bit on the puny side, was sweet and pleasingly charred, doused in mayo, cotija and a little citrus. The cheese made it satisfyingly salty and funky. Adding some chili powder, though, would've brought an authentic spicy edge.

The wings were thickly battered and crunchy, as any good salt and pepper wing should be. The main flavor I got was most definitely salt, though the red pepper flakes and scallions occasionally asserted themselves. So while the texture was on point, I was thankful for the accompanying hot sauce to add some heat and flavor variation.

To be frank, the food at Trade Winds isn't mind-blowing. In fact, they've taken a couple of my preferred items off the happy hour menu. Yet I still find myself stopping by. I think it comes down to a combination of convenience, some interesting comfort food, and an offbeat vibe. A little creativity goes a long way.

Score: 6.5 out of 10 (Good)

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