Cafe Reviews > Ritual

Ritual

By GREG MAFFETT
Published: November 14, 2010

Who:
me
What:
ritual Tavern
When:
2009-2010
Where:
San Diego
Why:
Because I went in
How:
through the door

There was an abstract painting in a gallery in Santa Fe. It was nonrepresentational as best as I could tell. However, part of it looked like a doorway. As you will see, we are not a society that is suffering from a door deficit.

The world is full of doorways that you never walk through. Writing that produced a search of just how many doors there are. In the USA alone, we manufacture 60-90 million doors a year, depending on how the housing market is going. To paraphrase Billy Bob Thornton in Bandits "That's a lot of doors."

My point here is that there are more doors that are you not going to pass through in life that doors you will pass through. I'd say it is reasonable to estimate that in a country with 330 Million people we have well over 2 Billion doors that you could pass through. A mere 1% of that total would be 20 Million. I don't see anyone making that many doors in a lifetime. So, you pick your doors. When you choose not to go through a door, you are choosing not to experience the world on the other side of that door.

That was my experience with Ritual Tavern for roughly my first 6 months in San Diego. I saw it on the "other side" of 30th street and didn't know what it was. There was nothing to indicate the type of business conducted inside. On my side of the sreet there was a coffee shop, an adult store, a dentist and a tax guy. You can see the issue, could have been anything.

Eventually I popped in and it soon became my home. Not my home away from home, as I really am away from home more than I like. So it is more my other home when I'm home. I'd say that is right.

I'm "The Mayor" there. That designation comes from checking in there more than anyone else who used the smartphone app called Foursquare. In exchange for being Mayor, I get the current deal, which is 10% off whatever I get there. If they remember. Which they often do. Then they forget. Then they remember they forgot and they give me a free beer. I never remind them, because, well, I'm not there for the discount. It's nice and I appreciate it, but that isn't why I eschew other doorways in favor of theirs.

This place works for me. In particular order, I'll explain why. First, it is relatively quiet. Many of the other places in town are just too noisy. They build places with hard surfaces, no sound absorption and the places quickly become deafening. Rarely a problem here, even with a packed house.

That is the building itself. After that comes the choices they make. The music that plays on the iPod come with about 70-80 percent overlap of the songs I'd have picked. It is often the same bands I've listened to over years. I'll not list them here, other than to say they are what I'd hear at home or on my iPhone if we swapped players.

The next choices have to do with the food and drink. Both the beer and food menu's are small. Fitting for a small gastropub. There are 6 or 7 staples that they don't dare mess with. The Shepard's pie, the gumbo and the burger are constant and brilliant as is. Then they flex with some of the other dishes based on seasonal ingredients, sales of the prior items and, I suspect, boredom by the kitchen staff. I think the last one is key. If those guys behind the grill get bored, the entire operation suffers. I sat at the bar one evening next to two of the chefs on a week where they came across a cache of duck breasts. Sitting next to them as they plotted the duck's fate was one of my more memorable experiences. I wasn't sure the duck would ever actually make it out of the kitchen given the interest the two chefs had in preparing it and the variations that might arise when they finished their debate.

Beer selections run the same way. I really enjoy being there early in the week. A Tuesday or Wednesday after a really big weekend. Everyone else in North Park has blown their budgets over the weekend and I'm often in there on a day when there is more staff than customers. These are among the best days as the staff is often figuring out what beers to do next, often with a new product or two to test. One such tasting resulted in a 20 minute debate over a red ale with no consensus. The outcome? Telling. "If we could argue over it for 20 minutes, we had to order it." Nothing like buying a controversy to get customers engaged in the experience.

And that is where I'll end this review. One final not on engaging the customers. Being what I am, introverted to the point of being autistic, I'm one of the least engaging customers they have. I'm quite happy to sit off in a corner, observe the others and enjoy the beer. And other days I'll get into the discussion, the admittedly as little more than a sniper who doesn't have the best of aim. That said, they are incredibly tolerant there.

This isn't the place where everybody knows you name. It's the place where everyone feels welcome. And that is why I keep going through that door.

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