627 Fourth Avenue, Downtown San Diego
To me, a good breakfast is like a good blues CD: Talented artists work on an established formula, whether it be three chords or eggs, bacon, and potatoes. Done well, it’s simplicity with style. Brunch may be more like jazz: The basics are there, but there is more improvisation and innovation.
The breakfast as music analogy may be awkward, but give me a break: I’m still coming down from the Bloody Mary I had at Werewolf, a Gaslamp-area bar that manages the feat of seeming like a true neighborhood bar in an area that, at times, feels like a theme park’s vision of what an urban downtown might look like.
As for that Bloody Mary ($14), it leaned on the pleasantly salty side with pickled olives and veggies. Served in a skull-shaped mug, it had “perfect-way-to-end-morning-walk-of-shame” written all over it.
Werewolf is a place that looks like it’s been in Gaslamp forever, but because it’s on Fourth and not Fifth or Sixth, it’s more of a local’s place than a bar on those boulevards.
Werewolf has a few good brunch dishes that are surprising variations on classic breakfast dishes. First off were the Homer Cakes ($6.95): a stack of pancakes with a creamy donut glaze and sprinkles on top. Oh, and jelly between each cake. No syrup needed for these babies: They tasted like an old-fashioned donut on top while the cakes below have a slightly savory element to them.
“The kids would love these,” my wife said.
“I’m not sharing!” I blurted while shoving a bite in my mouth.
Yes, Werewolf is a bar, but there were young kids in strollers inside, so we could theoretically bring our kids here another time and get them their own stack.
My vegetarian wife got the Chilaquiles ($11.95 plus $2.95 more for braised beef) and was happy with her choice. Usually, chilaquiles are served as triangular chips, but Werewolf serves a single tostada shell and tops it with eggs, cheese, salsa, cotija, and corn salsa. To me, the star of the dish was the cotija cheese, alternately sweet and tangy, but my wife loved the corn. “Really fresh.”
I chose to get the Pork Belly Benedict ($14.95), the dish that inspired the jazz improvisation intro at the top. Rather than just top an English muffin with some Canadian bacon and poached eggs and hollandaise, this Benedict comes with three breaded potato cakes topped with juicy pork belly and poached eggs. No hollandaise, just a light maple glaze. Probably just as well: hollandaise is tough to do right.
Werewolf’s Benedict has the sweet and savory components of a good Benedict without leaving the lump in the stomach feeling. My only sticking point is that the ingredients tend to slide against each other when you’re trying to spear it with a fork, so some bites had more potato than others.