Wednesday, February 8, 2023

Date Night 2022, Last Year’s Top OTB Restaurant Picks

We all have our favorite places to eat and drink right here in Coronado. However, people often ask me where to take a date off the island. Venturing off the rock can sometimes take some thought.  

Many great food spots appeared on my radar this past year, but not all were date-worthy. Date spots serve exceptional food and cocktails and should inspire one to dress up a bit.  Kingfisher and Wormwood topped my list as my two favorite OTB (over the bridge) date spots for 2022. 

The bar at Kingfisher.

Kingfisher came highly recommended and didn’t disappoint. This small Golden Hill haunt impressed us. Dining at the bar can sometimes be challenging, but Kingfisher makes half the seats available for reservations. 

Stephen Mallory, the bar manager, was our waiter. His menu descriptions and recommendations were so illuminating we felt the chef’s presence.

Stephen Mallory bar manager at Kingfisher.

Kingfisher describes itself as “Vietnamese French-inspired with a California sensibility.”

The highlights of the evening were thoughtfully crafted cocktails, the Wild Mushroom Congee and the Crispy Chicken Wings. The rice porridge (congee) featured chanterelles, crispy garlic, garlic chives, cilantro, egg yolk, and a spicy house “Sim”bal sauce. 

Wild Mushroom Congee, Kingfisher.

The wings were glazed with tamarind, dusted with crispy garlic and peanuts, then served with house pickles, toasted coconut ranch, and hot sauce. 

Crispy Chicken Wings at Kingfisher.

Attention to detail was a constant. Post wings, tightly folded paper towels sprung to life as they were moistened with warm scented water poured from a teapot, precisely what you need to remove the tamarind glaze from your fingers. 

This date could not have been more perfect. I won’t wait for date night to return. The next visit will be for “Golden Hour” at the bar for a Fuji Apple Old Fashioned and some more Crispy Chicken Wings.

My date Georgia Chakos at Wormwood.

Wormwood, an absinthe bar and French Bistro, has taken the place of Jane’s Gastro Pub in North Park. This incredible find came to us from our friend Jessie, the bar manager at The Henry. 

Danny Romero heads the kitchen. He spent time cooking at Addison in Del Mar, a restaurant that recently received a Michelin Star, the only one in San Diego. The kitchen opens to the dining room and you can see Danny cooking. 

Wormwood alludes to the bar’s focus on the spirit absinthe. The drink menu features signature cocktails crafted with this spirit. As you look around the restaurant, absinthe fountains take center stage on guests’ tables. These fountains allow water to drip slowly onto a sugar cube held over the glass of absinthe with a slotted spoon. The sugar and water enable one to adjust the strength and sweetness of the drink.

Jason, the bar manager, was a pleasant surprise as we bellied up to the bar for dinner. Previously from The Lion’s Share downtown, Jason makes cocktails that are well thought out and masterfully executed. Working the bar that night, he and Zack walked us through the menu with great detail while giving us heartfelt suggestions on what to order.  

Sazerac cocktail at Wormwood.

Barbecued escargot topped our Ratatouille, each snail a flavor bomb on the palate. The Bone Marrow Tartare made our eyes close as the flavors danced in our mouths. Then came a dish with artichokes served three ways, accompanied by what I can only describe as a warm Caesar-like dressing. We returned to Wormwood for a second date no more than a week later, a testament to the food and service of this restaurant that tops my list and has a promising future. 

Wagyu Bone Marrow Tartare at Wormwood.

Date night should be about you and your partner. There is no better reason to leave the island, where chance encounters with friends and neighbors can detract from the focus of the evening, your date.


Clyde Van Arsdall
Clyde Van Arsdall
Clyde is a trained chef that has worked in hospitality for nearly 40 years. In addition to cooking, he is a freelance food writer and storyteller. Clyde is a third-generation Coronado local, CHS graduate, and father of three. He owns and operates Olive Avenue Supper Club, a boutique catering company specializing in culinary experiences. You can follow his culinary journey on Instagram @oliveavenuesupper.Have a story for The Coronado Times to cover? Send news tips or story ideas to: [email protected]