Well hello, it's Industry Dish, a bi-weekly feature on Eater San Diego. In this space, our town's restaurant and bar pros weigh in on their favorite eats and drinks, give their thoughts on local food trends and talk about what it's like to work in the San Diego community. Know a chef or bartender who wants to do some sharing? Let us know.
[Nate Stanton by Don Mirra]
Washington native Nate Stanton first started bartending at age 21; in 2007, he opened El Dorado in the East Village with his twin brothers, Matthew and Marshall, and a close friend, Ryan Kuntz. In 2010, he partnered up with Neighborhood's Arsalun Tafazoli to create Noble Experiment, followed by Little Italy's Craft & Commerce. The two co-founded Consortium Holdings, which also encompasses Underbelly and the just-launched Polite Provisions and Soda & Swine. Stanton tells Eater that, "it's my job to create awesome restaurants and bars", and he does everything from getting behind the bar to overseeing daily operations and brainstorming ideas for future concepts.
What's your favorite drink on (or off) your menu right now?
I tend to enjoy simple cocktails with very few ingredients. My personal favorite is a Cocchi Americano and club soda. It's a light aperitif that has a nice amount of bitterness to it. My friends and co-workers tend to give me shit because I'm essentially drinking wine spritzers.
And Ryan Kuntz and the other bartenders at El Dorado do a simple Old Fashioned called the Vanilla Bean with house made vanilla syrup and orange bitters. Once again, simple, whiskey forward and delicious.
Where do you eat and drink when you're not working?
Sticking with simplicity, one of my favorite restaurants right now is Oscar's, a small Mexican seafood spot in Bird Rock. Even though the drive is a huge pain in my ass from my apartment in Little Italy, I make the trek at least once a week. The small place only has about 10 items on the menu, but they are consistent. All the fish tacos I've tasted are very good, but the ceviche is what stands out to me. Make sure to get both the fish and the shrimp, you won't be disappointed.
When it comes to cocktails in San Diego, I'm loyal to my team and I humbly believe that the crews at El Dorado, Noble Experiment and Craft & Commerce are making the best drinks in town. I'm really excited to see what the response will be at Polite Provisions. I also believe a couple other spots are making great drinks, most notably The Lion's Share. Hass and Roy have taken the time to ask questions and learn how to make balanced cocktails, and their entire staff truly understands hospitality. Perfect for me because it's within walking distance from my house.
Anything that you're "over", in terms of played-out bar trends or cocktail ingredients?
I'm over the word "mixologist". Get rid of it all together. Exactly what is a mixologist anyway? Last I checked there wasn't a diploma or accreditation for this title. Anytime I see the word in print or people referring to themselves as mixologists, I immediately think they are full of shit. You make drinks for the public, you are a bartender, plain and simple.
Do you have a wish or request for the local bar scene or San Diego drinkers?
Support those that are trying to make things better and to give those operators honest criticism about your experience, be it good or bad. I ask that if you have a criticism of a restaurant or bar that you engage the servers, bartenders or managers immediately. It may be a little awkward to tell someone that you think the drink tastes like shit, but it is our goal to make you to be happy in that moment. We would prefer to get you something that you would really enjoy...you are paying for it after all.
If you don't feel comfortable approaching someone on the spot, tell the owners or managers directly through a phone call or an email. I don't have a problem with Yelp, but if you really care and you have something relevant to say, send a message to the decision makers directly. We will then decide if your request will help us better the experience for all customers or if you are the one that is full of shit. I value someone telling me that they had a great experience at one of our spots as much as I value someone telling me that we sucked the last time they were in. The honesty gives us a chance to evaluate, make adjustments and hopefully avoid less than memorable experiences in the future.
What makes San Diego unique as far as the bar and bartender community?
I honestly think San Diego has a lot of bartenders who have severely overhyped themselves without understanding the fundamentals of bartending. The San Diego media has helped overhype them as well. Damn mixology.
I do think we are in a unique position, as a city that is still in the developmental phase of bringing in great new cocktail and bar programs. We have the ability to learn from other great cocktail cities that have already paved the way and laid out the fundamentals. If we take the time to learn from both the mistakes and successes, we can get creative, do really unique things, and compete with the best of them.
· All Polite Provisions Coverage on Eater San Diego [~ESD~]
· All Industry Dish Interviews on Eater San Diego [~ESD~]