830 25th Street, Golden Hill
Having lived in or around Golden Hill for several years, I've spent plenty of time drinking in all the same spots everybody else has — there just aren't many to choose from. Here's the typical where-to-drink discussion among my friends:
"What was the other choice again?"
When Counterpoint opened as a wine bar five years back, I was thrilled for the new local option, and especially about the quality of its taplist (I admit, I've never ordered a glass of wine there). Initially, I was thrilled about its food as well, but that sort of dissipated as I tried a few things I deemed just okay for the price, and one or two I didn't enjoy that much. Eventually, I was just going for the beer.
A year or so back I did hear they were overhauling their menu in efforts to improve it all around, but I still didn't eat there. I think around the same time I was hearing about how they got a full liquor license and could now served spirits, including home-made mixers and barrel-aged concoctions. This distracted me, and I returned to drink craft cocktails a few times, but still skipped the food.
This finally changed last week, when a burger-obsessed friend of mine told me he'd tried the Counterpoint cheeseburger, and that I had to check it out. He reinforced this two days later by telling me he'd returned already and, once again, had the burger. His recommendation carried weight — not so much because he's a reliable burger advisor, but because he'd violated his self-imposed gluten-free diet, twice, to eat the thing bun and all.
So I paid Counterpoint another visit on an empty stomach. With the Santa Ana weather in effect, my friends and I grabbed an outdoor table and ordered drinks (with both Alpine and Lost Abbey on tap, my decisions were easy). We ordered a couple appetizers to get things going. First came the cheddar-stuffed fried olives ($5). These were breaded, crunchy and fantastic — all the class of olives but also good to eat while watching basketball on the TV behind the bar.
Next up we tried the bone marrow, served with bacon onion stout jam and sliced baguette ($9). The bacon onion jam had a really nice flavor to it, but then so does the bone marrow. Together they were fine, but I wound up alternating between the two, spreading one at a time so neither had a chance to overshadow the other. Still a pretty decadent lead-in to the burger.
It's not fancy — simple bun, house pickles, spicy aioli and a half-pound of beef. And is that… American cheese? It shouldn't taste as good as it does. Then again, for 12 dollars, including fries, it better.
Three of the four in our group got the burger, and all left happy. The fourth opted for the smoked duck sausage pasta, and maybe even left happier. I nabbed a bite of that sausage, and mentally noted it for my next visit. Also noted were the steak frites, and beef tongue pastrami sandwich. One holdover from the original menu — the fried bologna sandwich — will likely remain in my unsolved mystery files. Still, the place is looking pretty good these days. Granted, there's little competition for the title, but Counterpoint may have become Golden Hill's best restaurant.