Common Theory Public House, which opened and created some nice buzz a couple of months ago is one of those places that leaves me torn. There's so much about the place I really like.
I love the lay-out, the folks manning the bar are usually really nice.....especially "Dave" who has been there on most of our visits. Yep, we....this is the Missus' favorite place for Happy Hour, they've (usually) got a nice selection, though I wish they'd keep more up to date lists on Tap Hunter or their website. One of the partners, Cris is the nicest guy ever and they've got an awesome progressive happy hour which starts with three bucks off draft beers starting at 3pm.
Any issues I have with the place is based around their food....though admittedly, much of the bar grub in San Diego is pretty basic stuff. After trying some of the regular menu items, we decided to stick with Happy Hour. And while there are a few "Asian" influenced dishes on the menu; it is heavy on the fried stuff. Now all of the above is fine with me; it is reasonable and perhaps in the business sense, realistic. To us, and we've been here over a dozen times is that the same dish can vary wildly from visit to visit.
The Missus really only orders two things here, the first being the truffle-duck fat fries, which is a nice happy hour bargain at five bucks.
It can run the gamut; never terrible, but different every time. One the visit above, the fragrance of truffle was rich, the duck comfit moist, the fries limp, and it was way too salty.
The next time the confit was dry, it was barely salted and it seems that the truffle flavor was AWOL. Then there are times when they get it so close.
Doesn't that look like two different dishes....crisp fries, nice truflle flavor, the confit was on the dry side but fine....where was the salt?
The one item we sometimes get that has never let us down are the pickled eggs......
The eggs are fine; it's that pickled watermelon rind, with a anise flavor that just raises it.
The Missus favorite by far are the Truffle Duck Fat Chips, it is usually nice and crisp.
The one item on the dish that always seems different is the cotija-garlic bechamel like cream sauce. Once or twice it has been close to perfect. That's the one in the photo. At other times it has been too salty, or totally lacking in flavor, we could barely make out the garlic in the sauce.
I actually thought the white corn tamales were not bad...moist, nice pork flavor. Not bad at all.
I understand that Cris's Mom makes these.
So, as you can see, it's about the beer here for us...and who's going to complain when you can get a Liefmans Oud Bruin for four bucks? Or a Three Philosohper's?
On one evening, Cris told me his cousin runs Golden Chopsticks and an Uncle cooks at Mandarin Canton. So I just had to try the Salt and Pepper Chicken Wings. Which came out looking a bit different from what I expected.
Still, these were pretty good, nice flavor, crisp, moist, it could have used a bit more garlic...and MSG.... Which I mentioned to Cris, who laughed and described to me the story of his cousin coming over and trying to teach the chef how to make these, handing him some MSG. The chef had never, ever used the stuff in his career and really didn't know what to do with it. I thought these were good enough to mentioned that this might be the best version North of the 94.
Until my next visit at lunchtime with a good friend of mine. The wings were greasy, flavorless, not very crisp. I recently tried them again with the Missus.
There were a few weeks where it seemed that the usual selection of beers - up to 32 taps seemed a bit out of alignment. On one visit there were 5 Porters or Stouts, on another 10 IPA's...I know, this is San Diego, but man, a third of your taps? Recently things seemed to be balanced a bit better, but they are still a bit short with regards to sours...at least in the Missus's opinion.
Here are a few other menu items I tried.
This is the beast they call the Bourbon Bacon Wrapped "Corn" Dog.
Good God, who hired Chicken Charlie? This is basically a battered and deep fried smoked garlic sausage. For some reason the deep frying and the batter does this no favors as it just really muddles all the flavors.
I tried the Hellfire Wings, which weren't very spicy; pretty much kicked up Buffalo style wings.
Not bad, but not memorable either.
The Chorizo Scotch Quail Eggs were hard and dry.
Something that I don't think is on the menu anymore is the Korean Seafood Pancake - Haemul Pajeon.
It was a bit short on seafood and more gummy than I prefer, but that classic soy based dipping sauce just made you want to keep on eating the thing.
Like I said, there's a lot to like about Common Theory. It's a really nice spot run by super nice folks. Polling all my good friends we came to the same conclusion; this place could really be a special spot if they got their kitchen and menu in order.
I hope that day will come soon. Until then, we'll still be coming for Happy Hour, it's the Missus' favorite watering hole......she;s happy with a Monk's Cafe, Hitachino Nest, or the place's best seller, Avery White Rascal.
Common Theory Public House
4805 Convoy St
San Diego, CA 92111
Cheers! Kanpai! Ganbei! Yo! Gun bae!