Craft Beer and Burger at Station Tavern- San Diego (South Park)
Name: Station Tavern & Burgers
Where: 2204 Fern Street San Diego, California 92104
Cost: Hamburgers $7.50-$8.00 | Sides (Fries and Tots) $2.00-$6.00 | Kid Food $3.50 | Draft Craft Beer Pint $5.00 | Bottled Beer $4.50-$8.00 | Cocktails $7.50-$9.00 | Wine $6.00-$8.50
About: Beer is everywhere in fine dining these days. And there are some foods that just go better with beer than others; namely burgers, pizza, and spicy tacos.
I’ve been pairing these three food types with local craft beers a lot lately, looking for the perfect pairing. Which is why I tried Station Tavern recently.
According to their website, Station Tavern is located where an old San Diego Trolley station (1929-1948) once served “San Diego’s No. 2 line.” That’s why you’ll see artifacts of a trolley theme in and around the restaurant. Other artifacts on display are from the previous tenant, Snippy’s Tavern, which occupied the site from 1950 to 2003. Station Tavern has the feel of a hip, quirky pub, with the vintage trolley lights suspended above and Snippy’s Tavern sign on the wall.
The restaurant offers patrons hamburgers, sides of French fries and tots, a full bar, and a rotating selection of craft beers from San Diego’s premier breweries. It has a large outdoor area which they call a “backyard” behind the building.
What I ate: I ordered the 1/3 pound Cheeseburger ($8.00) made with Angus chuck (medium done) and fresh lettuce, red onion, tomato, and pickles; served on a toasted bun. With the burger I had a small order of Garlic fries, which were “tossed in roasted garlic” and sprinkled with flakes of parmesan cheese. The fries were amazingly full of flavor.
What I drank: Mike Hess Oktoberfest (6.2% ABV), a German-style Märzen. This drinkable lager has a copper color, clear, with an off-white head. It has a light, toasty aroma. Flavor is rich, bready, caramelly, with a low hop bitterness. Medium-bodied, clean dry finish, this is a refreshing beer. Like autumn in a glass.
The beer’s malty sweetness countered the garlic and spice of the French fries, and its toasty taste enhanced the toasty crust of the meat and bun. I suggest pairing it with any of the burgers on the menu.
Likes: The beer, which I loved, and fries were the best part of the lunch. The two complemented each other and the pairing brought out flavor nuances in each. I liked the fries better than the burger. Flaked parmesan over the fries is a nice touch.
I really liked the open-air building design, with the big front windows and their sunny views of the Fern and Ivy streets intersection. The garden in back is great, too: shady, cool, plenty of picnic benches, a play area for kids, room for dogs, and self-serve water taps. Clean restrooms are a must for me, and Station Tavern has them.
Service from my server was friendly and adequate, but see Dislikes below for one major concern.
Dislikes: Although the burger was beautifully made, the meat was bland and lacked flavor.
Flies are a problem at the restaurant, especially when sitting in the outdoor area. I was constantly waving my hand around to keep them off my food and out of the beer. I resorted to covering my food and beer with napkins. I should have moved inside.
Off-duty employees coming into the restaurant to socialize with on-duty employees at the expense of customers is a huge negative here. After placing my food order with my server, an obviously off-duty employee came in with a young woman he was trying to impress. They placed a food order ten minutes after I placed my order, but were served before me. Not cool.
But there’s more. While I was at the restaurant so many off-duty employees and on-duty employee’s friends came in to socialize that it was difficult to know who was working. This fraternization is unbecoming and noticeably affected service to customers, not in a good way.
The Verdict: A great local place for reasonably-priced draft craft beers, average burgers, delicious fries, and cocktails in a kid/dog-friendly environment. Customer service was a concern and needs to be looked at by the restaurant owner.