Eating burgers in boat country

Fresh fish isn't the only option, slipside

Casual service paired with a Lagunitas Pils.
  • Casual service paired with a Lagunitas Pils.

Harbor Town Pub

1125 Rosecrans Street, Point Loma

Shelter Island may be rightfully perceived as the domain of boat owners and fresh seafood restaurants, but every community needs a reliable burger and beer spot, and in this little corner of Point Loma, it's the Harbor Town Pub.

A large garage-style door slides up to open the place to the street, and inside you'll find a mix of surf and nautical décor, along with some local artwork and hundreds of stickers hyping everything from craft brewers and marine equipment manufacturers to obscure rock bands. In other words, super casual and beachy.

No false claims here.

No false claims here.

And it gets lively, with plenty of beer on the menu and relatively affordable food in the offing. Be prepared to hear plenty of up-talk at the next table; it’s a quintessentially Southern California atmosphere, attracting droves of young people speaking with the almost question-like regional inflection to a tee, as if they were participating in a linguistic survey.

There are a few apps and several choices of taco, but the burgers seem to be the central food item, so I went with the Cobb Burger — a half-pound patty with avocado spread, red onion, "bleu" cheese mayo, bacon and a fried egg, all nestled on a fairly fresh, locally-baked bun.

It would be a pretty darn good burger without the egg. Once you bite into it deeply enough that the yolk starts to run, it becomes a pretty darn great burger. The patty's got a nice char, and nobody's tried too hard to dress it up with excessive or unusual seasoning.

I'd wager the basic Harbor Town burger, with or without cheese, would taste just fine sans specialty toppings, but the savory simplicity of ground beef makes a great platform for the likes of bacon, jalapeño, et cetera. It might be worth trying the basic just to get an idea what their "house sauce" is all about.

They also offer a chipotle black bean veggie burger with goat cheese and sun-dried tomato pesto spread for vegetarians, as well as fried artichoke tacos. But this is clearly a meat-centric place, and for 9-12 dollars, carnivores can get a solid meal with perfectly crisped fries.

And if you're old enough, any one of the rotating selections of draft beers will be great way to wash it down.

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Tried this place for the first time last weekend after having it on my radar for a while - wife and I found the cheese steak sandwich and jalapeno burger completely serviceable, despite the sauteed peppers having no bite whatsoever and the burger disintegrating upon first attempt at handling it (I have no beef with fork-and-knife beef!).

Disturbing - expired product on the table. I understand that a lot of places refill condiment bottles even though they're labeled single use, but if you've got a date prominently stamped on a bottle that says your mustard went bad last November, don't stick that in front of your customer. Also had a couple pints that I'm very familiar with (the second was actually a much-more-generic-than-my-usual-tastes Fat Tire just to confirm) - the "unique" taste of the beer here suggested to me that the draught lines are more than overdue for a cleaning.

It's true, the Bucket-o-Condiments approach does little to engender confidence, though I suppose a part of me assumes mustard lasts forever.

The dirty beer lines concern me more. My pils tasted crisp as it should, with too little to taste if anything. Either I got lucky or you hit the rotten end of their cleaning cycle. Or, Lagunitas really makes a weak pilsner and relies on the congealing remnants of last week's keg to establish depth of flavor.

Might warrant an undercover investigation of SD tap houses to see who's keeping it clean.

If anecdotal evidence and hearsay are to be believed, then almost nobody.

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