Hole in the wall ‘Bar-Food’ joint packs a punch for cheap in Ocean Beach

SAN DIEGO (FOX 5/KUSI) — When you walk through the doors of this Ocean Beach burger joint, you’ll be swept away by a punk rock 90s vibe.

There’s Thrasher magazines plastered on the walls, gleaming neon purple under black lights.

Skateboards are lined up in an edgy décor accompanied by rows of stickers displaying alternative art and tweaked characters of familiar cartoons.

There’s even a red landline phone that’s used to take orders.

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It’s called Bar-Food. This spot is the newest creation by local entrepreneur Ryan Cunningham, aka “Chef Pennywise.” He and his wife, Kalina, created the business as a sister restaurant to Burger Kook, an event and catering company they started during in the pandemic.

“There were to many burger places in OB already, and it gave me the opportunity to expand the menu to other foods I really like,” Chef Pennywise told FOX 5. “So this spot will be Bar-Food, which Burger Kook uses as a commercial commissary for our catering and events until I can open a Burger kook location.”

The menu can be described as, well, bar food.

There’s mozzarella sticks, jalapenos poppers, corn dog bites, chicken wings, cheese fries and tater tots, along with specialty hamburger and chicken sandwiches.

A chicken sandwich
A chicken sandwich

Although many not think “quality” when bar food comes to mind, Chef Pennywise made it his mission to defy that notion. With previous experience in fining dining, he wanted to take his bar food menu to the next level, while also keeping it affordable.

“I know quality and wanted to bring more quality to burgers, po’ boys and other bar food we all love, but is normally over price and just gross, “said Chef Pennywise. “We cook all of our deep fried items in beef tallow. I handpick all of our ingredients.”

For instance, he sources their French bread from a popular New Orleans bakery called Leidenheimer Baking Co. As for their burger meat, it comes from Central Meat & Provision, a 125-year old San Diego company that makes a custom steak blend for Bar-Food’s handhelds.

“Everything is really thought out but just super simple, and the best quality I can bring to the table,” Chef Pennywise continued.

Burgers at Bar-Food in Ocean Beach, Calif.
Burgers at Bar-Food in Ocean Beach, Calif.

Hungry locals can enjoy this spot’s burgers and bites at a moderately affordable cost.

For example, a simple burger with ketchup and pickles, referred to on the menu as “McDonalds Style,” starts at just $2.50. The next level up would be their “Like In-N-Out, But Better” at $5.55, and then their “A Nod to White Castle” which costs $9.75.

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“As far as what we provide to the community, it’s a badass place to eat really, really great quality food at price that won’t break the bank,” said Chef Pennywise. “I have four kids so going to McDonald’s can be over $100 for a family of six.”

“Here we have something for everyone, at all range of prices with good quality food,” he continued. “You don’t need to break the bank to eat something quality.”

Once a a graphic designer in Los Angeles, the Ocean Beach native returned to his hometown where he now manages two businesses.

“I actually didn’t choose Ocean Beach at all; it chose me,” said the local entrepreneur.

Bar-Food is open seven days a week from noon to 2 a.m. It’s located at 5026 Newport Ave.

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