I've lived in San Diego for most of my life and had never been to Mr. A's (excuse me, Bertrand at Mr. A's) until this week. I hadn't been actively avoiding it, it just somehow never happened, which is shameful since it's been there since the 60s. My exposure to it had been limited to seeing the sign from planes while landing at the airport and hearing from my dad that he used to go there when I was a kid. So, when Natalie, one of my oldest and dearest friends, suggested we meet there for happy hour, I was all over it.
I got there right at 5:30 and snagged the last table on the patio. It's a gorgeous setting with views of downtown, the Bay, the airport, and beyond. The tables inside have nice views too, but outside is where it's at on a beautiful summer day.
The Happy Hour deals include $7 glasses of wine and discounts on appetizers, so we took advantage of both. (I'm pretty sure the waitress actually chuckled softly when we said we wanted the fries, the calamari, AND the mussels. But only pretty sure. Not positive.)
Crispy Mediterranean Calamari: zucchini "spaghetti", almonds, local olive oil
This was served with a spicy aioli and the calamari pieces themselves also had a bit of an unexpected kick to them. They were above-average in quality, but didn't have nearly enough leggy bits for my liking (mmmm, leggy bits). The almonds were a nice touch, but the zucchini "spaghetti" underneath was a bit superfluous and soggy.
Mediterranean Black Mussels Provençale w/ garlic butter crust
These were quite yummy and attractively presented. It had the very classic flavors that usually accompany mussels and the shellfish themselves were very fresh. Even though there were heaps of garlic, it was cooked just right and didn't overwhelm the other flavors.
Even though my love of truffles is well-documented, I tend to be wary of truffle fries. Lots of places think that they can just use the cheapest truffle oil by the boatload, and the fries end up tasting like dirt (and not fancy French terroir dirt, more like regular ol' shoe dirt). These, however, were great! They tasted like they were flavored with actual truffles. The light spices on top added a lot of depth. We actually had eaten most of them plain by the time we realized that they had also brought out house-made ketchup.
Tahitian Vanilla Bean Crème Brûlée: Palmier, fresh berries
By the time we made it around to dessert, it was no longer happy hour, so we ordered this off the main menu. This was an excellent crème brûlée and they obviously have been making these for years and have honed it down to a science. It was thin enough to where you got a bit of crunch and creme with each bite. The berries were very fresh. The Palmier wasn't really necessary, but it was good nonetheless.
We had a great time drinking wine, nibbling at the food, and catching up, all with the amazing view as a backdrop. I will have to return on a special occasion to try out the full dining experience.
Verdict: A great setting for happy hour if you're feelin' fancy.
Bertrand at Mr. A's
2550 5th Avenue, Top Floor
San Diego, CA 92103
Side note: the restaurant is on the top floor of the Fifth Avenue Financial Center, a 1965 high-rise that was the first building of its kind in Banker's Hill. You enter the lobby and then take the elevator up to Mr. A's. The lobby is all kinds of retro and AMAZING.
I especially loved this Brutalist chandelier:
I would like one for my house, please.