Duck Dive Adds Style and Grace to the Pacific Beach Bar Scene

May 5, 2012
Food Photos by Kiera McGill

Pacific Beach can be a lot of fun, but it is certainly not known as the most refined neighborhood of San Diego.   Well, there’s a new hotspot in town looking to add a touch of style and grace to PB.  Duck Dive has moved into the spot previously occupied by Hennessy’s Tavern and is doing its best to class-up a neighborhood saturated with dive bars, tattoo parlors, and surf shops.

That's a duck dive!
Duck Dive’s conceptual design pays tribute to surfing.  From its name, to its logo, to the images on the wall, Duck Dive embraces the surfer bro and betty-filled locality that is PB, all with flair and a modern design.  The ceiling has shaped wooden beams intended to mimic the form and flow of a wave.  The back wall is lined with sand-toned circular booths, and the stocked bar is constructed with rugged raw wood, making for a bold yet neutral and natural appearance.  Just steps from the beach, Duck Dive’s garage door windows and side patio allow patrons to breathe in the ocean air.

The huge bar in the center of the restaurant offers customers a great selection of craft beers, many of them local, as well as a healthy wine list and a slew of signature cocktails.   Happy hour is Monday through Friday from 4pm to 6pm.

The menu at Duck Dive definitely offers some unique dining options: grilled Duroc pork sausages ($10), deviled eggs ($8), grilled asparagus wrapped in prosciutto ($11), and even a smoked trout salad ($11), to name a few.  We were told that the menu remains ‘under construction’ as the new business works out its growing pains.

We started with the ahi poke ($14), as we wanted to sample a San Diego mainstay menu item for comparison’s sake.  Duck Dive’s version was refreshing and wasn’t overwhelmed with sesame oil like many places, although a definitive fishiness did linger.  The toasted won ton crisps were light and crisp.  Unfortunately, the cucumbers on the plate seemed like an afterthought, and so, on the plate they stayed.

On recommendation, we next sampled the Cubano sandwich ($14), a pork-lovers’ dream, stacked with roasted pork tenderloin, pork belly, smoked ham, Swiss cheese, caramelized onions, pickle and mustard sauce, all between a ciabatta roll.  While definitely not the prettiest sandwich, even my anti-pork companions couldn’t help but admit that the flavors were on point, the meat was tender, albeit a bit greasy, and the combination of ingredients made for a very tasty sandwich.    

Our host also urged us to try the Angus beef burger ($12).   The half-pound, all-natural patty is topped with pimento cheese, tomato relish, caramelized onion, garlic aioli, and served on a toasted brioche bun.  There is no need to use condiments with this burger, as it comes packed full of flavor.  It was definitely a great burger for my preferred taste, but this flavor profile may be too ambitious for some of the pickier patrons. 

Both sandwiches came with the duck fat fries.  While the fries were yummy, the accompanying condiments were the real stars.  The roasted tomato aioli was addictive, and Duck Dive’s homemade ketchup adds a nice spicy kick. 

My favorite dish of the day was the bacon wrapped shrimp with white cheddar grits ($18).  Although ‘bacon-wrapped’ was a misnomer, I appreciated how the giant shrimp sat perched on crispy pieces of thick-cut bacon.  The grits were probably some of the best I’ve ever had, and the dish as a whole was artfully plated and very delicious. 

Lastly, we sampled the tableside s’mores ($7 for two, $13 for four).  This dessert is served with all the ingredients to make your own s’mores and a cast iron sterno for toasting your mallows.  While I appreciated the nostalgia, as did my female guests, I am not a fan of doing work when I dine out.  The dessert was also quite expensive for what you get, but as you can probably tell, Duck Dive is a bit pricier than most of the neighboring bars. 

All in all, Duck Dive has successfully differentiated itself from the crowd, and the presentation of their plates demonstrates their pride in doing so.

4650 Mission Blvd., Pacific Beach (at the corner of Emerald and Mission)
(858) 273-DUCK (3825)

Daily - 11am to 2am (with breakfast hours in the near future)

Happy Hour:  Monday to Friday 4pm to 6pm

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