Uptown Tavern Makes Brunch Chic in Hillcrest

February 22, 2013
By Laurel Vozely | SanDiegoVille Contributor

Situated on University Avenue, amidst the hustle and bustle of Hillcrest, Uptown Tavern is establishing itself as a neighborhood hot-spot, despite its difficulty shedding locals’ familiarity with the space’s former occupant, Ono Sushi.  Not only is there buzz about the dinner menu, but positive word of Uptown’s weekend brunch spread my way, so I had to try it. After all, who does brunch better than San Diegans?

Perhaps the major selling point of any brunch is that fact that it’s socially acceptable to mimosa in the morning, and the Milwaukee Mimosa ($3) definitely didn’t disappoint. The freshly squeezed juice carried a sweet flavor unique to Uptown and a testament to the freshness that would continue to reveal itself in the food. If mimosas are too brunch-typical for your liking, the St. Germaine Sangria ($7) is a must: it’s light, fruity and invigorating as opposed to its wine heavy prototype.

When I dine out, I seek aesthetic amazement - I want to be impressed by organization, size or simple beauty. Uptown Tavern successfully elicited this favorite feeling of mine on multiple occasions.  They say that a meal is healthy if it shows a variety of color and the market vegetable scramble dish ($9.50) was huge and packed with vibrant colors. Pickled jalapenos, tomatoes, mushrooms and bell peppers heightened the flavor of perfectly scrambled eggs; garlicky, oniony, and buttery breakfast taters competed for plate space - hands down the best breakfast potatoes I have ever had. The scrambles’ ingredients are always market-fresh and change weekly, which we love for local sustainability purposes.  Oh, and be sure to try the house jam on your toast, as it is sensationally smooth.

Attempting to quell cravings for a nostalgic favorite, my date ordered the Tavern chicken and waffle ($10.50). While this dish always looks random and ridiculous to me, I couldn’t resist dipping the tender and crisp free-range chicken tenders into Woodford reserve maple syrup. The waffle was infused with bacon, which, while unnecessary, was a unique indulgence, as this was not your typical chicken and waffle, folks. A garlic butter spread added to its revelry, oddly completing this overachiever of a dish.

Apple Pancakes ($10) were next, and as the server exclaimed, they really are bigger than your face - and I wasn’t complaining. Apples and watermelon accompany this comfort food, providing a fresh palate cleanser between bites of thick, syrupy pancakes, giving this dish a down-home appeal.

We hadn’t had brunch’s requisite egg intake yet, so we sampled the wild mushroom Benedict ($10). Upon a toasted English Muffin sat spinach, shallots, fried leeks, fresh herbs, eggs and a citrus hollandaise sauce. As compared with the others, this was probably the most simple and modest dish of the morning.  Nonetheless, it was jam-packed with flavor and the crispness of the muffin was a textural complement to the other fluffy components.

While I usually dabble in some seated-dancing when enjoying delicious foods, contemporary music facilitated even funkier moves and a genuinely cool vibe inside this industrial-style restaurant.  Uptown Tavern left us both contently full, without the notorious post-brunch waddle back to the car and back to bed. The fresh vegetables ensure that you are doing the right thing and may even encourage additional, healthy choices throughout your day. Portions are huge and prices are extremely reasonable.  Though one dish is surely satisfying, with the wide variety on the brunch menu, you might find it crafty to share a few dishes with friends.

Brunch is served from 10am to 3pm on weekends only. And check out Uptown Tavern for a drink-themed happy hour from 4-6pm seven days a week.  Enjoy!

1236 University Ave, Hillcrest
(619) 858-0322

Mon – Fri: 4pm to 2am
Sat-Sun: 10am to 2am