True North Tavern | Where Some Like it Hot

September 12, 2011

Just off bustling University Avenue in the heart of North Park, enter True North Tavern -- literally one of the hottest spots in town. This neighborhood favorite offers a casual, laid-back atmosphere, boasting heavy wood encased booths, medieval-style chandeliers, exposed brick, a couple full size pool tables, and over twenty flat screen televisions.

The tavern offers a simple menu with choices prepared by the kitchen staff at neighboring Urban Solace. The offerings include an extensive appetizer list and quintessential bar favorites from burgers to sandwiches to salads. And there's a wide selection of craft brews from the bar. Oh, and on Wednesday night, grab a seat and watch some poor bastard burn their taste buds out competing in the weekly hot taco eating challenge.

If you know anything about San Diego, you know we have perfect weather and we love our tater tots.  True North's well-renowned loaded taters take tots to a whole new level:  tossed in a house-made secret spice blend and then layered with marinated carne asada, cheddar cheese, scallions, spicy crema, salsa fresca, and topped with fresh cilantro ($8.50). While every last nacho-y tot was enjoyed to the fullest, we believe guacamole or sour cream would have put this starter over the top.

For our main courses, we sampled one of the six offered burgers (including a veggie option) as well as one of the six sandwiches which vary from grilled cheese ($6.50) to pulled pork ($9) to a meatball sub ($9). You guessed it: all burgers and sandwiches are served with tots! The Burner burger, an 8 ounce prime ground chuck, comes smothered in pepper jack cheese with chipotle mayonnaise, fresh sliced jalapenos, jalapeno jelly and crispy fried onions ($9.75). The crisp crunch of the spicy jalapenos, combined with the sweetness of the jelly made this flavorfully juicy burger totally crave-worthy. The grilled ancho chicken sandwich comes on a hearty toasted bun with spicy mayo, creamy white cheddar, avocado, tomato and crisp iceberg lettuce ($9.75). The coveted smoky flavors from the grill artfully infiltrated and elevated this simple chicken sandwich.

And whether you're at True North for dinner or drinks, no matter the night of the week, there are always exciting specials and events going on. If you happen upon True North on a Wednesday, like I did, you are in for quite a fiery show: each Wednesday the Wall of Flame Challenge is held from 7pm-10pm. Crowds cheer on (or jeer, depending upon your shade of red and level of sweatiness) as fellow patrons, not the faint of heart, take on and suffer through the two taco challenge: donning a Mexican sombrero and poncho and signing away his or her rights, a challenger has five minutes to eat two ghost-chili-infused tacos ....and then grin and bear it for an additional five minutes without quelling their smoldering palate with water or food, all of which the poor victim is taunted with as he/she sits there struggling. The sauce, a mixture of Japanese chili, habaneros, serranos, and ghost chili extract, is sure to make even the most daring challengers sweat...after all, it's over 400 times hotter than Tabasco.

Whether your picture makes it to the Wall of Flame, or the Wall of Shame, you'll surely want to make your way back to the bar for an icy cold beer or margarita ($4 on Wednesdays). ¡Salud! And I mean to your health in the sincerest of ways if you try this challenge, as I bore witness to three different "successful" contestants writhing in pain in the bathroom.

So if you didn't know about True North before, now ya know, so stop in and enjoy the scene, the grub, and if you're masochistic, the heat.

3815 30th Street, North Park
(619) 291-3815

Mon.-Friday Noon til 2:00 a.m.
Sat.-Sun. 11:00 a.m. til 2:00 a.m.

Happy Hour:
Daily from 12:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. - $1 off all Beer, Wine and Spirits

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