Let the light in at Station Tavern

by John Anderson

Wide windows and tasty bites expose diners to welcome sunshine and satisfied stomachs.| Paige Nelson, staff photographer
Wide windows and tasty bites expose diners to welcome sunshine and satisfied stomachs.| Paige Nelson, staff photographer

Station Tavern and Burgers’ most notable element is its cheerful ambience. At this South Park eatery, signal lanterns hang in a modern, woody interior while a small chalkboard in front announces the featured items of the day. A huge swinging door with a hatch handle opens to the back of the restaurant, emblazoned with peeling paint that suggests this is the kind of establishment that may have once sold cigarettes.

Seemingly in contradiction to the images this restaurant’s name draws to mind, Station Tavern is extremely airy. Huge windows and doors are thrown open, exposing the bar to the elements so patrons can feel as if they are outside, even while sitting indoors ordering drinks. High chairs near street-side windows also generate a subtle European feel.

The tavern’s layout encourages a breeze on warm days, making this a comfortable place to sit in the afternoon while sipping a hefeweizen.

Those who would prefer to engage the elements directly by sitting outside need only walk through the bar and a huge door into the backyard where more seating is available. Seats range from standard park benches to round, spool-like tables with padded seats. There is also a small play area for young kids to amuse themselves so adults can relax. Once outside, Station Tavern begins to look more like a café than a tavern.

Station Tavern offers a wide variety of sandwiches and hamburgers. Its star seller is a vegetarian option called the spicy black bean burger, which is made with a black bean and pepper patty, slathered with a lime cilantro spread, giving the burger a unique, biting flavor.

The tavern’s standard cheeseburger is no slouch either. When ordered with sharp cheddar and grilled onions, this burger is perhaps one of the best in San Diego. Diners can also order a variety of homemade sauces to accompany their food, including the lime cilantro sauce featured on the black bean burger, thyme honey-mustard and 22 habanero hot sauce.

Sandwiches take on a whole new dimension when paired with Station Tavern’s sweet potato fries and a side of bleu cheese dressing. Tater tots tossed in a blend of spices are also popular, along with garlic fries and standard French fries, leaving no shortage of side options.

The tavern’s beer selection may not blow beer enthusiasts away, but it is still worthy with several local brews, interesting American options and a few imports. Those in the mood for something a bit stronger can enjoy a house-crafted cocktail such as the refreshing Dark & Stormy, which includes black rum and ginger beer. The bar also offers a modest wine selection.

Station Tavern is open from 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. almost every day except Friday and Saturday when it closes at midnight. The eatery is closed on Mondays. Though the tavern does not host regular events, it does open its doors for the occasional art show or small concert. Details about upcoming events and additions to the bar menu are available on its website at stationtavern.com.

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