2013 has been quite a year for Ballast Point Brewing & Spirits. If you went to a Padres game this season, you’re no doubt familiar with their expanded presence at Petco Park. Linda Vista’s Home Brew Mart expanded by taking over neighboring retail space, and they added whiskey, bourbon and moonshine to their spirits portfolio. Monday was the latest 2013 milestone for Ballast Point when they opened the door to their brand new Little Italy location.
Located at the intersection of India and Ivy streets, the Ballast Point Tasting Room and Kitchen is a few blocks away from the craziness of Little Italy’s main drag. Step inside, and you’re immediately in front of the bar with taps pouring Ballast Point’s regular, seasonal and specialty beers. To the left is a large standing-room area with a flat-screen television and windows into the brewing area. To the right is the seating area for the open kitchen, but more about that later.
An exposed ceiling and picture windows give the space an open and airy feel. One interesting feature is a wall with a series of enlarged pencil sketches by local artist Paul Elder. These sketches give you a window into the creative process as he designs Ballast Point’s bottle art. “We’re most of the way there,” said Ballast Point CEO Jack White. “We just have a little more decorating to do, and maybe another television or two to install, but we’re pretty much there.”
The brewhouse, where specialty brewer Colby Chandler spends his days, is set up for experimentation. “Colby’s going to be doing something different in there every day,” said White. “One of the first beers you’re going to see is a pale ale with Italian ingredients as an homage to our location in Little Italy.” The beer, which they call “Little India Pale Ale,” has basil and olive oil in it, the latter of which promotes yeast health.
Back to the restaurant, Ballast Point brought in Colin MacLaggan, formerly of Avenue 5, to serve as executive chef. The menu has a “house favorites” section, and three sections of small plate items broken up into categories of “land,” “sea” and “garden.” Every dish has a suggested beer pairing, so the diner can get the full experience. Aside from the small plates, there are bar snacks like chips and salsa.
Bucking the normal trend, Monday night’s opening wasn’t a “soft opening.” “The sign out front actually said we’d be opening on Tuesday,” said White, laughing and pointing to the packed house.”This is it, the soft opening and the grand opening.” If Monday’s crowd was any indication, the Ballast Point Tasting Room and Kitchen will quickly become a Little Italy institution.