Bankers Hill Bar + Restaurant
Back in 2010, I reveled at being one of the first to break the news that celebrated chef-restaurateur duo Carl Schroeder and Terryl Gavre of Market Restaurant + Bar fame were building a casual neighborhood eatery concept in Bankers Hill. Featuring ultra-seasonal cuisine consistent with Schroeder’s high-end Market fare in a lower-priced context, Bankers Hill Bar + Restaurant became an instant hit, leading a dining resurgence in its namesake ’hood along with spots like Cucina Urbana, Hane Sushi, and Barrio Star. Five years later, the place is still packed on a consistent basis; a feat in sometimes fickle San Diego.
I recently returned to Bankers Hill’s dark-wood, minimalist dining room to check out the restaurant that shares my initials after a half-decade of steady business. What I found was a place and a menu that is strikingly consistent with what I saw on day one. Schroeder has held fast to the restaurant’s ethos of procuring the freshest of the fresh and remaining flexible so as to utilize any farmers’ market gems that fall into their possession. This means the bill of fare turns on a dime. There are certain mainstays (deviled eggs, truffled French fries, the aged white cheddar-adorned BH burger), but if you see something on the menu that strikes your fancy, it’s best to strike while the iron’s hot and order it rather than dog-ear that entry to enjoy at a later date.
Particularly delicious right now is a tender filet of Cabrilla grouper sharing space with warm, floral Chardonnay broth and naturally sweet bay scallops as well as pieces of soft potato and Andouille sausage that are indiscernible from each other, making for a brilliant bit of deception on the palate. On the uncooked seafood front, a stack of citrusy, avocado-spliced yellowtail tartare tastes spectacular on a generously salted, house-fried tortilla chip.
Bankers Hill’s take on Colorado chili verde is earthy, warming, and elevated by a touch of lime juice, as is an accompanying miniature crispy-shelled Tiger shrimp taco that rivals the size of a standard street taco. While most of this eatery’s cuisine can be described as Californian, worldwide cultural influences salt-and-pepper the menu. Glazed, Chinese-style duck sausage tastes of sweet tangerines with a mild chili kick, while Italy gets a nod in the form of toothsome, pea tortellini served with salty shards of Manchego cheese, rapini, and meaty hedgehog mushrooms. Dressed perfectly in tarragon-infused butter, it offers a hint of something unidentifiably yummy (nutmeg?).
Craving dessert? Rich butterscotch pudding cut by crème fraîche and served with light, shortbread fingerlings tastes great on its own, but gets taken to the next level with a cordial glass of Madeira.
Banker’s Hill was a big deal when it opened. It’s rare to command as much respect years later in such an ever-changing, fad-driven dining industry, but this one’s built to last. (619.231.0222, www.bankershillsd.com) Brandon Hernández
Photography by Vincent Knakal