The particular stretch of Fifth Avenue where Local Habit is located and thereabouts is one of my sweet spot neighborhoods in San Diego. Two large used bookstores, a multi-purposed art/media coffeehouse, several hard-copy music stores, an expansive haberdashery. For vintage pleasure, what is not to like? The entrance and interior of Local Habit has a vintage quality, seemingly entrenched in Hillcrest for many years, and yet the restaurant is less than three years young. Enter, open the menu, check the draft board at the bar. You’ll soon find that there is more here than meets the eye for the contemporary brew scene lover.
First of all, the food cozies well to a fine brew. This is by intention. Executive chef and partner in the restaurant, Nick Brune, has designed it that way. There is an obligatory but dandy lineup of Nepolitana-style pizzas with some singular ingredients like cheese curd, toasted coriander, and pickled zucchini. Entree listings have a small vein of New Orleans running through with the copious use of andouille sausage. Indeed, on a previous visit I devoured a truly first-rate gumbo, with its patina of roux following me to the last drop. The menu has an amicable rapport with vegetables and includes a pair of entrees and several sides, most notably oven-roasted brussels sprouts with house made mustard.
But tonight, I’m here to drink only. At the compact bar built out with abstract wooden bric-a-brac. Monday IPA night, with many of the drafts from California breweries. Indeed, the ever-changing lineup at LH has offered me my first introduction to breweries like Eel River and Ironfire Brewing. I could splurge tonight and opt for a flight of all nine IPAs for $16. Instead, I order a pint of Ladyface Ale Companie IPA, raw and floral with the sumptuous palate of a goat blue cheese. Then on to revisit the Stone 16th Anniversary IPA with Green Tea Leaves, a masterful gem of the San Diego IPAs. IPA Night, I decide, is a really good idea, because the many different approaches and nuances invite contrast and contemplation.
The crowd is relaxed, talking with the bartender or partners of the restaurant, or writing into their tablet devices. The atmosphere invites one to hangout and establish this as your craft beer hoodie. Next week is Barrel Aged Beer Night, I am informed. The combination of a timeless decor and feel with a rotating menu and newfangled concoctions on tap, makes Local Habit a place I’ll come back to many times. For the theme nights, the meet-the-brewer events, special dinners, or simply to enjoy a fresh perspective on beer.