The internet is an amazing thing. It allowed us to read about the nascent cocktail resurgence and become a part of the excitement. You can read about the cocktail scene in far flung cities. Twitter and Facebook allow you to follow friends and acquaintances all over the world and share in their endeavors and successes.
Such is the way I followed the opening of San Diego’s Polite Provisions and its proprietor Erick Castro. Over the years I have met Erick at several cocktail events and was even able to introduce him to a friend at StarChefs one night at New York’s Milk & Honey. All this is to say I knew his talent behind the bar was superb and he had a personality to match. When he announced the move from San Francisco to San Diego to open his own place, I couldn’t wait to see how it worked out. As he built Polite Provisions, I watched via Twitter and knew I’d have to go visit.
The only problem? I have never been to San Diego! So when discussing our Christmas plans with my wife, I was excited when she suggested we take a few days away from visiting her folks in Cali and spend them in San Diego.
Which, a few days after Christmas, I found myself walking through the front door of Polite Provisions.
This bar is simply gorgeous. The tile floors, dark wood and metal seats and tables make you feel like you’ve stepped into a swanky soda shop. Now I can talk about how good the drinks are (fantastic) and how attentive and nice our bartender Frankie was (extremely) but I want to mention some of the small details that truly made drinking here a treat.
First, the chairs for the high-top tables have built in foot rests that are actually comfortable. If you can’t sit at the bar but still want to see the action, these are great seats. Second, there are copious hooks under the bar for coats, hats, purses, etc. Third, there is a perfect amount of light. It’s just dark enough that the candles and other sources of light provide great ambiance but not so dark that you can’t read the menu. I hate going to a bar and needing a flash-light to read a menu.
A few other things I noticed which really impressed me: Each bartender station had an antique desk lamp built into the bar allowing them to see their work (and their work to be seen!) without ruining the guests’ time with excessive lights. Along the bar at several intervals were multi-level lazy susans holding various bitters, tinctures and tonics. Much less bar space taken up with their prodigious bitters collection since they go up rather than out. One of the neatest things I noticed were the hidden storage built into the columns behind the bar. These were used to hold glassware, extra tools and at least one bottle of George Stagg Bourbon.
The bottom line is that if I lived in San Diego, Polite Provisions is a bar I would be spending a lot of time. It had everything that makes my haunts here in DC so loved – great drinks, great atmosphere and, most importantly, great people.
4696 30th Street
San Diego, CA