Many world travelers are familiar with the scenario of Bare Back's birth--visiting a restaurant so impressive and unique, one can't help thinking, I should start something like this back home!
Matt Baker and P.J. Lamont found themselves thinking exactly that as they bit into the best burgers they'd ever tasted, at a restaurant called Ferg Burger in Queenstown, New Zealand. During a time when the idea of using organic, hormone-free meat in a burger seemed altogether relegated to distant farm communities and overpriced hippie hangouts, Baker and Lamont felt it was time to bring this honorable and tasty Kiwi tradition back home.
Having been personally trained in New Zealand by "Ant", the owner of Ferg Burger, Baker and Lamont determined a way to use fresh, organic ingredients to provide high quality entrees and appetizers at an affordable price. Upon returning from New Zealand and enlisting the partnership of P.J.'s brother, Mark Lamont, the guys found a spot on Mission Blvd. in Pacific Beach to bring their dream to life--they called it the Bare Back Grill.
During construction, the partners found themselves doing a large proportion of the physical labor--however, it made the final product that much more genuine. While the restaurant's open, beachy atmosphere and friendly service welcomes diners back for more, the logo of a Kiwi bird on a surf board says it all.
Bare Back's menu is made of solid wood, hand-cut and laminated by P.J. Lamont himself. Once you've overcome the urge to whack your friend over the head with it, you'll probably notice the prices on the piece of wood are quite un-intimidating. The partners made sure to instill a sense of humble Kiwi authenticity--and eccentricity--in their cuisine.
Burger choices range from the seemingly standard Bare B'rger for $6.99, to the aptly named Bare Big & Dirty for $12.99. The latter boasts two large, organic New Zealand beef patties, decorated with traditional down-under toppings like fried eggs and beet root, and topped with cheese, lettuce, tomato, red onion and bacon. It may be a gut bomb, but at least you know you're stuffing with nothing other than 100% organic, steroid-free beef from the spacious grazing fields of New Zealand. All beef is freshly ground onsite, and all veggies are organic and locally grown.
If red meat--organic or not--just doesn't float your schooner, you've still got options on the other side of the piece of wood. The words 'Hot Chicks' might catch your eye, but they're not referring to your waitress--just a variety of chicken entrees. From tenders to tandoori, the chicken is all-natural and all-tasty.
On the lighter side, you'll find 'Townie Faves', featuring fish sandwiches, tofu with peanut dressing, B.L.T., chicken salad, and the Bare Lil Lamb, another of Bare Back's signature items. As New Zealand is the only country in the world where sheep outnumber humans (it's a good thing sheep aren't too smart), lamb is a staple in the Kiwi diet. The Bare Lil Lamb burger is uniquely prepared with bleu cheese crumbles, mint dressing, and also has the option of beet root.
"Beet root on a burger seems strange to most Americans, but people who actually try it seem to really like it," says P.J. Lamont. "I think it adds an unusual sweetness that's kind of refreshing on something as familiar as a burger."
Almost every menu item has an ingredient called B.B.G. Sauce. This stands for Bare Back Grill Sauce: a thick, chutney-like tomato sauce, New Zealand's hardier version of ketchup. It's sweet and strangely delicious.
Even the Bare Back's side dishes, like calamari and onion rings, are filled with surprises. The fries look ordinary, but they taste extraordinary. When asked what the restaurant uses to season them, P.J. Lamont responds mysteriously: "That's a secret. Lots of people guess. A few have come close. But nobody has ever nailed it--which I like."
Thirsty folk should be pleased to note the Bare Back's bar offers Steinlager beer (New Zealand's finest), and the Bareback Amber Ale, among standard domestics. It also serves four Australian wines and three New Zealand wines, for those interested in dependable, down-under pairings. Order a round, and raise a toast to the Bare Back trio for bringing unique New Zealand flavor to San Diego's beaches.
Head to Bar Back Grill to join the Bare Big & Dirty VIP Club. Membership includes free snacks, bigger beers, and the intriguing "Ass-kissing service".
Check out the brand new Bare Back Grill in downtown San Diego, and view photos here from their Monday Night Football party.