Remember sneaking into your creepy uncle’s basement man-den late at night to drink beers on the sly while challenging your friends to a Frogger tournament? It was a warm summer night in the late 1970s when the digital age was on the rise and Atari, records, and rock ‘n roll seemed to rule the world.
Now imagine if the formerly off-limits den suddenly began to serve munchie-licious Bacon Wrapped Meatloaf, Lobster Corn Dogs, French Toast Churros, and Pot Brownies on demand. It’s as if you finally pass that fifth level of Frogger and suddenly your whole crew is teleported into a magical realm where rhythmic equalizers tell time, reality is punctuated by with your favorite record covers, Brady Bunch Punch flows like wine, and it’s your turn to belt out an epic Elton John ballad before a packed-room of adoring fans.
In celebration of our journey into the digital era, Matt Spencer and Tyler Charman’s newest creation Analog has landed in the Gaslamp Quarter with a vengeance to rattle the cage of boredom and bring something fresh to Fifth Avenue.
Suited like a vintage recording studio with wood walls that mimic anechoic chambers with crisscross paneling for acoustic absorption, the Michael Soriano-designed space boasts two venues in one: Recording Room and Control Room. The rooms are divided by clear, soundproof sliding doors, creating two separate yet equal environments.
Through the Fifth Avenue entrance, you first meet the Control Room: A full-service fork ‘n knife restaurant home to the elevated revival of your uncle’s den, a shimmering gold art fixture made of 513 Olde English tall cans equalized across a massive mirror, and retro black booths straight out of the Sports Arena’s vintage VIP area, guarded by hundreds of old and new record album covers strung across the wall – the ultimate conversation piece.
Although Analog will not be known for bottle service, The Den is the “cool space” that will offer said VIP amenities accented with gold shag carpet and macramé plant hangers. And no, don’t you worry – not one precious ounce of Olde English was wasted during the creation of the bar’s artistic display. Matt Spencer doesn’t believe in waste, so he organized a legitimate O.E. drink-off with over 43 cases in order to empty 500+ cans. The equalizer is a thematic symbol used consistently throughout Analog, and the O.E. cans are placed in such a rhythm throughout the glass as to show a shimmer of gold and leave guests wondering: Is that seriously all Olde English cans?
Giving new life to the Sports Arena’s tried and true black booths, Analog has stacked cinder blocks between them, filled with cascading plant varieties. Above the booths is a mural of sorts made of 100+ record album covers, ranging from Barry Manalo, Michael Jackson, and ACDC to Dr. Dre, Naked People, and Ludacris. A very cool fact to know: Many of these album covers were donated to the Analog vision by local DJs Scooter and Fresh One, and the rest were found in Spencer’s personal collection and at Father Joe’s Village. This vibrant and memory-filled wall literally captivates your attention continues and to surprise you with new album finds.
**New venue and food images coming soon.
Let’s Eat: The full menu is served in the Control Room (served in a pink “Pee Chee” folder!), with a selection of Starters, Lil Burgers, Totchos, Fries, Signature Entrees, and Desserts to choose from. Get the party started with Lobster Corn Dogs, Popcorn Brussel Sprouts, Proscuitto Mac & Cheese, or the Best Grilled Cheese Ever (they swear) with gruyere, mozzarella, and truffle cheese on brioche toast served with real honeycomb. Lil Jon says sliders are so-last-season, so Analog is hooking you up with Lil Burgers (and then some), such as the Classic Cheeseburger, Bacon Wrapped Meatloaf Burger, BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwich, and will-make-you-turn-vegetarian Roasted Portobello Sandwich with mozzarella, baby arugula, red onion, tomato, and pesto mayo.
Like nachos? Take your craving to the extreme with Analog’s Totchos – gourmet tater tots done nacho style. Varieties include Cheesy Mushroom, Pulled Pork, and Firehouse Chili. For something a little more sophisticated, check out the Grilled Scallops, Grilled Shrimp Cocktail Shooters, Smoked Duck Salad, Lamb Lollipops, Mac Daddy Burger, or the Piquillo Pepper Popper that is stuffed with chorizo grifts and cheddar cheese. Don’t forget about the fries! Analog’s fries come two ways: shoe-lace or spiral. And in more important news, let’s discuss dessert: Twinkie Tiramisu – twinkies layered with Kahlua cream and chopped chocolate; and Pot Brownie – pot de crème and brownies topped with whipped cream. Holy hell, I’ll take seven. If you’re thirsty, order the Brady Bunch Punch, and for a real karaoke-confidence builder, opt for a Mattarita – Matt Spencer’s favorite drink which he can only describe as a “Cadillac Margarita, but really, really strong.”
Warning: If the “On Air” signal is flashing, do not enter the Recording Room … unless you absolutely love karaoke and classic arcade games. In essence, the Recording Room is all about interactive sensations with a “just press play” motto, featuring a DJ Command Station that doubles as a stage for Rock Band-style super karaoke, two dual-sided drop-down projection screens loaded with old-school arcade games via Sony Playstation, a walk-up bar serving all drinks and grab-and-go selections from the main menu, open-kitchen bar seating, four main booths facing each projection screen, and walls painted with graphics reminiscent of the Analog era.
OK kids, here are the rules: When Analog opens at 4pm, the projector screens will float down to take us back in time. Guests are invited to play such classic arcade games as Space Invaders, Tetris, Donkey Kong, Frogger, Pong, Duck Hunt, Star Castle, and more from 4-7pm. As long as you’re drinking or eating, or not being a total hog and pissing everyone off, the arcade games are free and open to all guests. You can play people at your booth, or your whole table can challenge another group to a game. All projector screens are programmed to share the same game, leaving the gaming options open ended. At 7pm sharp, the projector screens rise up – yes, even if you’re about to beat the last level in just 10 seconds more! – as Analog prepares for the next portion of the evening.
Analog offers karaoke from 7 – 10pm every night of the week. During this time, the sound proof sliding doors are kept shut, so that the nice people in the Control Room can enjoy their Pot Brownies without listening to you miss that note for the eighth time in a row. All the karaoke classics will be available, and guests will sign up on a list for their turn to rock the house.
Behind the Scenes: As compared to Matt Spencer’s other well-known San Diego ventures, including Firehouse American Eatery + Lounge in Pacific Beach and Vin De Syrah Wine Parlor in the Gaslamp Quarter, Analog seems completely random and obscure, yet at the same time predictably on point and destined for success. I sat down with Spencer to get the low down on a few lingering questions: Why burgers and why karaoke?
When I raised a slightly-touchy subject about the current burger craze in San Diego, Spencer brought up a very intuitive point: “Five years ago sushi restaurants were popping up on every corner. Burgers are doing now what sushi did five years ago, and you don’t see any of those sushi spots closing down.”
A fan of popular San Diego burger joints, including Neighborhood and Burger Lounge, Spencer shares that he’s making the trend his own by avoiding the overdone slider phase and instead introducing Lil Burgers, as inspired by social media lingo and pop culture icons. And with a smirk on his face, Spencer declares that also he loves Neighborhood burgers, he won’t be afraid to use ketchup at Analog.
As for the karaoke, it’s a simple tale of five-too-many cocktails inspiring brilliant ideas that we just can’t get out of our minds. Spencer was admittedly hammered at Lamplighter during karaoke night and was shocked at how fun and diverse the crowd was – old and young, of all backgrounds. Like many of us can relate to, Spencer wasn’t the one on the stage, but had a great time and wondered why karaoke isn’t more prominent in the San Diego entertainment industry. He decided it was because people want karaoke, but only in small doses. At typical karaoke bars, you’re stuck with it all night and there is no escape. He decided to introduce a new concept: “karaoke in a box” – hence the soundproof walls and set time schedule.
What You Need to Know: Analog will serve a late night muchies menu until 3am on Friday and Saturday nights, starring the drool-worthy French Toast Churros and other cool takes on breakfast treats. Happy Hour is from 4 – 7pm Tuesday – Thursday, with half-off a select menu of food and drinks. After the gaming and karaoke madness is complete, Analog will bring out local DJs to spin an eclectic playlist, including your favorites DJ Scooter, Craig Smoove, and Junior the Disco Punk.
Analog celebrates an invite-only soft opening on Thursday, July 1, followed by a weekend of only bar drinks, entertainment and tray-passed menu items, and will be open for full business the following week. Analog is located in the former Mister Tiki Mai Tai Lounge space at 801 Fifth Avenue in the Gaslamp Quarter.
**New venue and food images coming soon.
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