La Valencia’s Whaling Bar & Grill is full of La Jolla traditions
By Kelley Carlson
The majority of restaurants in the Spanish Revival-style La Valencia hotel have a Mediterranean influence, but its Whaling Bar & Grill stands out as classic Americana. It’s a “meat-and-potatoes” type of establishment, with shellfish platters and large cuts of meat — “macho food,” as described by Andrew Mosblech, director of food and beverage.
And its clientele base includes everyone from the tourist in flip-flops and a trucker hat to the businessman in a three-piece suit.
“It’s part of the charm here,” Mosblech said. “You get neighborhood chaps (along) with cosmopolitan women from Europe.”
The Whaling Bar & Grill has also hosted La Jolla politicos and Hollywood stars and starlets over the years, such as Dr. Seuss and Gregory Peck, and current celebrities whose identities are generally kept under wraps for confidentiality purposes. During the La Jolla Playhouse season, the restaurant draws a lot of the L.A. entourage, according to Mosblech.
Families are also welcome and made to feel comfortable, with spacious, black-cushioned booths that have dividers to provide a sense of privacy. It’s not unusual to see parents enjoying a martini or Classic Shrimp Cocktail while their children are stretched out and sleeping next to them after a hard day of playing at the beach.
There’s an Old World feel to the place, too, with its mahogany bar and paneling and antique wooden shutters. Pewter candleholders and Egyptian cotton napkins are set on the white-clothed tables. Several artworks by Wing Howard decorate the brick red-colored walls, including “Whale’s Last Stand,” and whaling tools and a model ship are displayed in glass cases.
Yet the Whaling Bar & Grill has modern touches, as well, including several TVs in the bar area that often feature sports programming. But unlike many present-day bars, it doesn’t get loud, Mosblech noted.
Even the music is on the mellow side. From Thursdays through Saturdays, rotating musicians perform quiet, funky, bohemian and vaudevillian tunes, rather than mainstream songs.
For a more “refined, proper” dining experience, patrons may opt to sit on the Café La Rue side of the restaurant. A fireplace offers a more romantic, calm and cozy atmosphere; the menu is identical to the bar’s.
To fully enjoy all that the Whaling Bar & Grill has to offer, Mosblech recommends coming in with four to six people and hitting the whole menu. But before ordering, make sure to inquire about the “black market” items — those aren’t listed on the menu.
Start with shellfish and a classic cocktail, such as a Ruby Manhattan or Resident Mixologist Scotty Moises’ award-winning Grand Cosmo. Or there’s the newly introduced Dark and Stormy, a highball-style cocktail that is sometimes described as “Bermuda’s National Drink,” which consists of dark rum and ginger beer over ice.
Next, order a salad, with selections from Mixed Field Greens to the summer specialty of Grilled Peach and Burrata.
Follow up with a glass of red wine and a selection from the ample-portioned “full fare.” Choices include Brick Jidori Chicken with pea risotto and pea tendrils, and the Braised Short Rib with Cipollini onion, sage and fontina polenta and carrots.
For dessert, it’s rumored that Bananas Foster and Cherries Jubilee have been among the “black market” delectables. And there is also The Whaler, an “adult milkshake” that is a creamy concoction of brandy, Kahula, creme de cacao and vanilla ice cream — a perfect “end-of-the-night capper,” as described by Moises.
Of course, there are more casual dining options: Wednesdays feature beer and burger specials, in which toppings and brew combinations change weekly. The Whaling Bar & Grill’s cicerone (aka beer expert), Tanya Schmidt, assists with pairings and even presents monthly seminars on the art. Additionally, the happy hour tapas menu is available weekdays with appetizers such as Bacon Wrapped Dates with a spicy tomato sauce and Spanish Torta with egg, potato, sweet onion and chilies.
Kids are able to select simple fare, including grilled cheese, chicken strips, grilled chicken plate, burgers and Kobe beef hot dogs.
“There’s not a lot of novelty,” Mosblech said of the establishment. “The history (here) runs too deep to be kitschy. … We are what we are, and we embrace it.”
Whaling Bar & Grill at La Valencia Hotel
Address: 1132 Prospect St., La Jolla
Phone: (858) 551-3765
The Vibe: Old World, relaxed, romantic
Signature Dishes: Paella Valencia, The Whaler 3/4 lb. Brandt Beef Burger, Apple and Hooks Ten Year Aged Cheddar Salad, Filet Mignon, Classic Shrimp Cocktail
Open Since: 1940s
Patio Seating: No
Take Out: Yes
Happy Hour: 4-6 p.m. Monday-Friday
On The Menu Recipe
Each week you’ll find a recipe from the featured restaurant online at lajollalight.com. Just click Get The Recipe at the bottom of the story.
This week: Whaling Bar & Grill’s Paella Valencia
- It’s all about thin-crusts at Amici’s East Coast Pizzeria in La Jolla
- Piquant flavors of Mexico City come to La Jolla at Puesto
- Brockton Villa oozes charm and flavor for a true taste of La Jolla
- On the Menu: Sooner or later everybody stops by La Jolla’s Cottage
- Hennessey’s Tavern offers a wee bit o’ Irish spirit each day of the week
Short URL: http://www.lajollalight.com/?p=90295