3936 30th Street, North Park
Supporters of long-standing punk haven Scolari’s Office had a knee-jerk reaction of disdain when, in 2008, the place traded hands, remodeled, and reclaimed its title from the ’50s, “The Office.” It felt off. Its manicured interior didn’t sit well with those who were accustomed to Scolari’s grungy whateverism. It was a glaring pillar of gentrification in a neighborhood wary of becoming flooded with Pacific Beach runoff. And, though the place has had seven years to adjust to its surroundings, the instinctual scorn that many originally felt for the Office has proven, by and large, to be justified.
Let’s start with the theme — a vague tribute to Mad Men, which is really only exemplified by drinks with names like the Don Draper (Gentleman Jack, amaretto, Lillet Red, two cherries) and the Mad Men Mule (Finlandia vodka, barrel-aged bitters, lime juice, ginger beer). For anyone unfamiliar with the AMC series about cutthroat New York ad executives in the ’60s, it’d be fair to assume that the mad men in question refers to the Office’s notoriously belligerent bouncers and surly bartenders, who generally make you feel as though you’ve interrupted a life-or-death business meeting just by ordering a drink. That alone has led many to give up on the joint altogether.
What really grinds my gears is that, despite containing quality ingredients, every cocktail I’ve tried at the Office has fallen flat, especially at $9 a pop. Overly sweetened with not enough sauce, the cocktails are more about gimmicky titles and filler than the inherent pizazz of liquor. To their credit, happy hour spans five hours daily with half-off everything from 4 to 7 p.m. and $5 cocktails from 7 to 9 p.m. Further, their booking took a colossal leap forward in May, when Allen Colaneri (formerly of the Hideout) turned the music focus to more live rock and punk, jazz, experimental beats, West Coast bass sounds, cover bands, and the burgeoning Grand Ole Office — a monthly night of folk, blues, alt-country, and Americana by some of San Diego’s finest pluckers.
In the end, the Office isn’t all bad. The live music is finally on point for the neighborhood, the happy hour makes underwhelming mixology forgivable, and the bathrooms are downright immaculate, if you’re into that sort of thing. Just be prepared to take some abuse at the door.
Capacity: About 100
Prices: Cocktails, $8–10; beer, $4–8; wine, $7–9
Hours: 4 pm–2 am daily
Daily Happy Hour: 4–7 pm; half-off all drinks and drafts; 7–9 pm; $5 specialty cocktails
Parking: Street; garage on 30th and North Park Way
Food: Delivery from neighborhood joints
The Deal: $2 16-ounce PBR during happy hour