They must be reading the Reader at Ballast Point’s Little Italy tasting room, because the kitchen has already implemented many changes to the “new” menu that ran in January and February. Sandwiches/burgers ($9-$14), tacos, and personalized versions of contemporary bar food favorites ($9-$14) replaced most of the quasi-Euro gastropub fare of the former menu, which didn’t do much for the brewery one way or another.
The new menu does some of the same (steak and fries, calamari, wedge salad, etc.), loses a few notables (goodbye to cioppino, the goat cheese tart, and the tasty duck confit salad), and rearranges itself mightily. The tacos ($10-$14), formerly a single dish, get their own section, and the cute but unhelpful Land/Sea/Garden breakdown makes way for a more logical layout.
In truth, the menu is probably 80% the same as it was before, but the little tweaks add up to the point where it’s 50% better. Rather than goofing around with out-of-their league dishes like yam enchiladas and the underwhelming white bean cassoulet, the management is sticking to their guns and filling the people with wings, tacos, and sandwiches. One possible exception to that would be the lemon poppyseed cupcakes, which may be the least sugary cupcakes on the globe. They’ve made menu copy just a hair less purple by removing words like “inspired” and “artisan,” which makes the place look more like the beer garden that it is.
The cooks are getting in the groove of things, too. The chicken wings, served in a Southeast Asian curry fashion with coconut rice on the side, may be a small portion of wings for a bit of cash, but each one is scrumptious and the only thing diners are going to look for is more of them.
Same with the calamari. The only problem with the tender bites of squid, each bathed in a bright, zesty arrabbiata sauce and a pungent aioli, is that there’s not enough of them!
Not to pick on Ballast Point too hard (“Your food isn’t good enough! Now it’s good enough, but there isn’t enough of it!”), but the company is becoming one of the most significant food and beverage outfits in town! It goes to show how important little differences are, seeing how the kitchen in Little Italy has made small changes, and how those changes make the menu fit the space so much better than did the wayward stab at sophistication.