I missed the half of a ’57 Chevy jutting out of the wall, but otherwise, my first trip to the Tailgate since the great Hudson Grill changeover was a pleasant one. With a menu stocked with fries and milkshakes, the old joint hadn’t lost its charm in shedding its postwar décor.
While Hudson’s appeal was based on a nostalgia for a Happy Days-like meeting point, Tailgate embraces the growing subculture of the well-catered parking lot pre-party.
I took two friends for a sports bar lunch during a particularly lethargic Wednesday (shortly after the paper went to press). The atmosphere matched my and graphic designer Christy’s after-deadline mood: absent the motorcycles known to congregate, and before any avid sports fan rush, the overall feeling was subdued but upbeat.
I have a special place in my heart for a restaurant whose cuisine is based entirely on football-related, back-of-the-car festivities. True to theme, the menus are bound up in old license plates from around the country and feature tailgate party institutions — buffalo wings, a variety of burgers and creative salads that incorporate the best of comfort food ingredients. Looking at the menu, I realized the spread was indicative of everything I could possibly think of to throw together to share with hungry fans before a big game.
Christy ordered the bleu cheese burger, which came — as she put it — absolutely “stuffed with bleu cheese.” Cooked to order, the meat was tender and the burger hit the spot.
I went with the BBQ tri-trip. The actual tri-tip may not have been the best in the county (it was sliced more like roast beef, with a similar consistency, as opposed to the more tender slabs I’ve experienced) but the sauce was exemplary: a smoky slathering with a hickory kick.
Julian opted for the veggie burger with sweet potato fries. He was more than pleased with the patty, and the fries were perfectly cooked to a crisp.
What would a trip to a sports bar be without a quick drinkie? As Christy and I agreed we were born a couple decades late, long after the era of the two-martini lunch had died a miserable death, we excused the 2 p.m. indulgence in the name of science (or a fleshed-out dining review). Julian — who had the day off — and I each ordered a glass of house red — Shiraz for me, merlot for him. The standard brand was Yellow Tail, a pleasingly recognizable brand which (despite its always-marked-down status on Vons and Safeway shelves) is a dependable glass of vino. Christy was delivered a hefeweizen in a tall, frosted mug, which we all agreed was almost an artifact. None of us could remember the last time a restaurant or bar had frozen a cup for us.
We took our lunch on the patio, and the only drawback we could find was the location. The shopping center is optimally located for local earners to catch a midday meal, but as it isn’t located near any residential areas, the Tailgate may not function as a neighborhood bar (or an easy place to get “festive” during a game).