Vegan Friendly: Bar Snacks at Madison on Park
The Short and Skinny
This hip space, which undulates between indoor and out, is known for creative cocktails, but they also have some seriously great vegan options.
The soft blue paint of the simple façade blends into the clear skies above. Window frames popped up like visors offer glimpses of the wood-rich interior. Cedar planked walls are accented by geometric pops of blue, mustard yellow, and soft pink and modern fixtures resemble drops of white glass clenched in brass. Unseen from the street is the modern basilica of a dining room—a breezy semi-outdoor space enveloped by a 20-foot high arch.
The menu’s architect, Mario Cassineri, blends his northern Italian roots with Southern California culture.
Changing with the season, the current menu offers no vegan-as-is salads, but the fruit and vegetable forward section of the small bites menu holds its own with a tower of watermelon slabs infused with jalapeno heat and tart lime and slabs of Persian cucumber dressed with za’atar, chili, and mint.
Crisp panko coats thick cuts of mushroom caps in Madison’s strongly endorsed Portabella Fries. The supple ‘shrooms are served with avocado cilantro aioli (basically guacamole), a thin yet punchy chipotle lime sauce, a fresh lime wedge, and a little tuft of microgreens.
The waiter claimed these were one of his favorite dishes. After trying them, I believe he was telling the truth.
Much of Madison’s produce is collected from farms by local supplier Specialty Produce. The specials menu is based on the new fruits and vegetables that Specialty—an open to the public warehouse that specializes in locally procured exotic fruits and vegetables—brings in for Madison’s kitchen to play with.
At the bar, farmers market fruits are muddle into cocktails that run from lithe sparklers to cask-aged amber pools. A favorite is the Mogwai, a dark blend of Elijah Craig Bourbon and St.George Pear Spice Liqueur with a light finish of sweet persimmons cut with lemon.
Pro Tip: The Portabella Fries are ($6) during happy hour. It’s one of the best deals on Park Avenue.
What to Order
Portabella Fries ($10) - A popular starter throughout the dining room for diners of many manners.
Watermelon Stack ($12) - A cool summer stack of watermelon, radish, and jalapeno under a confetti of mint and a liberal splash of lime. A supple wedge of avocado tops the tower.
Garden Ravioli ($18) - Gluten free dough holds up to delicate vegetable filling under a pulpy tomato sauce. Islands of fresh greens strewn through the layers of pasta and sauce, wilt in the heat.
Mogwai ($13) - A dark blend of Elijah Craig Bourbon and St.George Pear Spice Liqueur with a light finish of sweet persimmons cut with lemon.
4622 Park Blvd, University Heights, San Diego
Hours: Tuesday and Wednesday, 4pm-11pm; Thursday, 4pm-11:30pm; Friday, 4pm-midnight; Saturday, 9:30am-midnight; Sunday, 9:30am-10:30pm; Closed Mondays