Walking up to Wang’s, it’s impossible to ignore the mural of a T-Rex being ridden by a more ambiguous creature. It’s part cartoon, part graffiti-as-art, and it acts as a preview of what’s to come. It promises youthful energy, a fusion of styles, and more than a little self-satisfaction. The restaurant itself delivers on all these promises.
Inside, the former bargain department store has been retrofitted to house a large bar, swanky upstairs private alcoves, and a surprisingly quiet and tasteful dining room. The décor is a mixture of upscale boho-urban and Cost Plus Imports, complete with gratuitous Buddhas and a lot of red accents. But don’t hold that against them. They’re just fitting in the neighborhood.
Across the street from Seven Grand and within an easy range of Urban Solace, URBN, Il Postino and other restaurants and bars riding a wave of neighborhood popularity, Wang’s is well positioned to draw a crowd that fancies the high life, and is ready to move beyond Hillcrest and the East Village.
So, is it worth it?
The bar is a win. Dark, as the best bars are, it still allows for a lot of open space and sight lines, but can still feel intimate at the smaller tables and window nooks. The drinks are interesting, with a focus on mixology that reflects recent upscale bar trends like the rebirth of the mule and specialized infusions. They aren’t cheap, but give good value. There are plenty of beers, including many popular Asian brews, and a solid selection of wines, including a range of sakes.
At happy hour, there are definitely some deals to be had on both drinks and food, with a range of appetizers coming down to very appealing price points. And happy hour is probably the best time to go, featuring all the best that Wang’s has to offer. The sriracha wontons are a particularly enjoyable appetizer, putting a nice bite into the shop-worn favorite.
Moving to dinner is a somewhat less satisfying affair. At regular menu pricing, the food is…fine. It’s pitched as a mix of traditional Chinese and Asian fusion, and it is that, but only just. The emphasis on fresh, locally sourced ingredients is a great ethos, but doesn’t always show in the final dishes, which sometimes get pretty far from their more traditional cousins in ways that are more hippie than haute. This isn’t a problem overall; it certainly works for other local places like Ritual and Casa De Luz. Here, though, there are just too many things going on for it to feel coherent.
This isn’t to say that the food is bad; it isn’t. In fact, it’s pretty tasty, and seems to reflect a worthwhile set of business practices. However, be aware that most things claiming to be spicy aren’t really, and that “authentic” dishes on the menu emphatically will not remind you of the versions prepared by the first- and second-generation immigrant families responsible for many of the city’s best—and most unironically authentic—ethnic meals.
Overall, it’s worth a look. If you’re heading out for a happy hour, or don’t yet know where you want to take in a little food and people-watching (check out the big picture windows!), give Wang’s a try.
Wang’s North Park
- 3029 University Ave. San Diego, CA 92104
- (619) 291.7500
- Dinner: Sun – Thurs 5:00- Close; Fri and Sat 5:00- Close
- Happy Hour: Mon – Thurs 5:00 – 7:00 PM; Fri/Sat 4:00 – 7:00; Sun 4:00 – 8:00
- Validated Parking: Validated parking is available in the parking lot behind the restaurant. The hostess can give parking passes; park first, then go in for a pass.
- Valet parking is available Friday and Saturday nights on Ray Street for $5.