Cucina Urbana

Cucina Urbana has been one of my favorite restaurants in SD for a while. Its somewhere I know serves consistently awesome seasonal food and has consistently awesome service. Whenever I have friends or family visiting I love bringing them to Cucina, especially if its Thursday and they have their half off pizzas deal (TRY THE MUSHROOM PIZZA!).

Cucina Urbana Mural

Cucina Urbana Mural

Ok disclaimer. The restaurant is kindof dark inside so I had to use flash to take most of the pictures hence everything is very contrast-y. Let’s pretend this is a review done chiaroscuro style yes?

Cucina is a modern Italian restaurant: their appetizers consist of salads, vasi (spreads that are served with bread), and other small plates like fried ricotta-stuffed squash blossoms. For mains you have many pizza options, pasta and regular meat-centric entrees. We decided to stick with appetizers this time; for some reason lately I’ve been really enjoying ordering two appetizers instead of one entree.

DRINKS: They have a great drink program here, including some non-alcoholic concoctions. They infuse some of their liquors at home and for Christmas they did a panettone-infused vodka, such a neat idea. This time I ordered their White Sangria. Its crisp and refreshing and comes with cubes of green apple and orange.

White Sangria

White Sangria

For the bread basket they usually give you white loaf bread and then a toasted brown bread. Even though I love brown bread this one is not my favorite. It also comes with plain butter. And yes I know that picture is super bright.

Overexposed Bread

Overexposed Bread

APPETIZERS: I love their Lacinato Kale + Hearts of Romaine Caeser here. They mix kale and romaine with a super savoury Caeser dressing. They then add shaved parmesan cheese, English mustard bread crumbs and fried “esca”. Esca is Italian for bait and these are super salty little fried fish. Not to everyones liking I imagine but I thought they were a good addition. The mustard bread crumbs also add a nice sharpness to the salad.

Kale Caeser

Kale Caeser

We also ordered one of the vasi, I hear the chicken liver one is great if you’re into that kind of thing but we decided to try the Burrata and Roasted Garlic Confit vasi. Burrata is like fresh mozzarella but instead of being made with milk its made with cream so its richer and creamier and oozier as opposed to a solid cheese. The burrata comes inside a jar and its perfectly seasoned with herbs. The roasted garlic comes on the side and its meltingly soft and ready to be squeezed out of the clove and smeared onto the bread. Since the burrata was seasoned it alone was delicious on bread but with the garlic this was fantastic. This came with a grilled bread, white loaf bread, and brown bread. My only complaint with this and is that our grilled bread tasted a little too charred but they happily brought us more non-grilled bread so this was not a problem.

Burrata and Roasted Garlic Vasi

Burrata and Roasted Garlic Vasi

Burrata

Burrata

Another great appetizer to share is their meat and cheese board, the Formaggi+Salumi. You can pick 3, 4, or 5 items and then choose how many meats and cheeses you want (if you picked 5 you could do all cheese or 3 cheese and 2 meats, etc.). We decided on 4 and did 3 cheeses and 1 meat. You have quite a few options for meats and cheeses and the servers are more than willing to help you if you are not sure what you would like. For cheeses we did a Parmesan-like cheese, a younger goat cheese and another mild cheese (we don’t like blue cheese!). For meat we ended up deciding on Coppa, a cured pork collar. They also had salami, prosciutto, and another meat I can’t remember.

meat and cheese board

Formaggi + Salumi

The board came with white loaf bread and the brown bread as well as various spreads + olives. In the picture you can see at the top left corner is what is left of our olives, these were a mix of black and green and they were in olive oil with herbs. To the right of that is a red pepper spread, next is grain mustard, regular mustard, strawberry jam and on the far right is honeycomb and fresh sliced apples. Basically this is one of my favorite meat and cheese boards because with all the spreads, olives, breads and fruit you can literally make every bite you take different. You can have a savoury bite with the coppa and cheese and red pepper spread then maybe have just coppa and mustard. Then switch to sweet and have some of the goat cheese with honeycomb and apple. I know the cheese portions look small but we couldn’t even finish this.

Cucina Urbana Pizza Oven

Cucina Urbana Pizza Oven

Lastly I had ordered a grilled octopus appetizer. The server came to check if I still wanted it given the cornucopia of food we had in front of us and I said yes. As soon as she walked into the kitchen I changed my mind. I could barely finish my salad and just could not eat another dish…unless it was dessert. So I called her and apologized and she was so nice about canceling it. This is another thing I love about this restaurant; they always go above and beyond with service. Last time we were here we wanted to order this baked squash goat cheese appetizer we had loved but unfortunately it was seasonal and it was gone, our waiter felt bad and gave us the ricotta-stuffed fried squash blossoms on the house saying maybe we’d like these instead (they were awesome). Another time we sat at the communal table and there was a father and daughter eating across from us. We had ordered at the same time but we got our entrees first and after waiting for theirs for a while the server came with free glasses of wine for them, apologizing profusely for the long wait. Seriously not only is everyone super pleasant here if there ever is a mistake they fix it immediately and make sure your experience is a positive one.

Cucina Urbana Interior

Cucina Urbana Interior

DESSERT: So yes I switched that octopus appetizer for dessert. Naturally. We went with the Pineapple Coconut Panna Cotta. This was a fairly decent sized cup of coconut panna cotta topped with cooked pineapple and crumbled sometypeof cookies. I loved the pineapple in this as it was sweet and tart and a good contrast to the creamy panna cotta. The panna cotta was not as good by itself as I thought it needed a little more sweetness and the texture was a little less creamy than I like my panna cotta. If you don’t like coconut too fear not because it was not overly coconut-y at all.

Pineapple Coconut Panna Cotta

Pineapple Coconut Panna Cotta

Overall it was a great experience and I can’t wait to come back on a Wednesday when they have their burger + beer special.

CHECK:
White Sangria (Happy Hour price) $5
Burrata + Roasted Garlic Confit $8
Lacinato Kale + Hearts of Romaine Caeser $9.50
Formaggi + Salumi (4 items) $15
Pineapple Coconut Panna Cotta $8
TOTAL: $49.14 (w/ tax)

Cucina Urbana
505 Laurel St.
San Diego, CA 92101
www.cucinaurbana.com

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Albertacos

Craving some tasty and well priced Mexican food? Need an enormous burrito to satisfy your craving while you’re in North County? Sun Diego Eats has got you covered! As a native and former resident of Vista, Albertacos has been a staple of my life for over 10 years. In fact, I still make semi-regular pilgramages up there just to chow down on some of their food. So what’s so great about this little taqueria? Read on and find out.

Breakfast Burrito

Breakfast Burrito

Albertacos is in the classic taco shop mold; bright red and yellow paint, a fuzzy drive-thru intercom and delicious Mexican food. Some of their more popular eats include rolled tacos (loaded with guacamole, sour cream and cheese), the California Burrito, Carne Asada fries, and of course the Breakfast Burrito. The Breakfast Burrito includes eggs, bacon, fries, cheese, and ham. To enhance your experience, add in Carne Asada and make it even more filling. It is well worth the extra 50 cents, especially since the burrito only costs ~$3.25 to begin with.

Breakfast Burrito and Carrots

Breakfast Burrito and Carrots

What happens next is magic. The ingredients fuse together to create one of the best Breakfast Burritos I have ever experienced. The carne is juicy and flavorful, the eggs hot and fluffy, and the cheese is melted all over the place. In short, it is a super hearty burrito which will quickly convince you to order another for the road. Just look at that thing!

Breakfast Burrito Closeup

Breakfast Burrito Closeup

Of course, no Mexican burrito would be complete without hot sauce, but fear not, Albertacos delivers once again. Their red hot sauce is fiery, well balanced, and we encourage you to consume it in large quantities like we do. Recently, Albertacos has installed a salsa bar which includes a second red hot sauce as well as a green tomatillo hot sauce. The green is also quite good and it’s refreshing aspect contrasts well with the red. Lastly, don’t forget to order a couple sides of spicy carrots! They are done to perfection here. The carrots are tangy, spicy, and contain just the right amount of crispiness. It sounds simple, but spicy carrots are messed up at so many other Mexican places that I never take them for granted. So next time you’re in the area, make sure to make the stop in from the 78 and get the Mexican order of your choice. You won’t be disappointed.

Red Hot Sauce

Red Hot Sauce

DSC00020

Green Hot Sauce

CHECK:
Two Breakfast Burritos – $8.00
3 Sides of Carrots – $1.00 (They usually only charge for 2 bags at max)
Total – $9.00

Note: There are multiple Albertacos locations throughout San Diego, I believe near SDSU and also in San Marcos. We cannot vouch for these spots as we haven’t tried them and are unaware if they are owned by the same folks. The Albertacos we so strongly endorse is the one on Sycamore Ave in Vista.

Albertacos

601 Sycamore Ave, Vista, CA 92083
(760) 598-6047

Bronx Pizza

Bronx Pizza Counter

Bronx Pizza Counter

Ok. This is not somewhere where you come on a date night and order a Pinot Noir then linger over dinner while picking between pizza with zucchini blossoms and fresh figs or mashed potatoes or whatever is trendy to throw on pizzas these days. This is somewhere to stop by and grab fast, fresh and delicious no-nonsense pizza with friends before hitting the bars or picking up a whole pizza to go when you’re to lazy to cook and you just want to eat yummy pizza  in front of the TV (it happens).

Bronx Pizza

Bronx Pizza

Bronx Pizza is located on Washington St. between 3rd and 4th in Hillcrest. The place looks rather small on the outside but there’s actually a lot of seating inside. When you walk up all the pizzas available by the slice are displayed. You walk in, tell them what you want, pay (cash only) and then go find a seat. It’s efficient, and if you see a long line fear not because they easily clear long lines and even though there were 5 people ahead of us we waited less than 5 minutes.

Pizzas

Pizzas

They have all the traditionals flavors – pepperoni, cheese, vegetarian, meat lover’s – and some more inventive options but nothing too crazy – pesto, white pizza (plain, with spinach or with mushrooms), tomato basil, pepperoni and peppers, artichoke pizza.

White Pizza with Spinach

White Pizza with Spinach

ENTREE: We ordered the Tomato-Basil (actually a white pizza with no sauce and fresh tomatoes and basil on top), the Pepperoni and Peppers (jalapeno and cherry to be exact) and the White Pizza with Mushrooms (mozzarella, ricotta, mushrooms). We loved the pepperoni with peppers; it was spicy, salty and cheesy with the cherry peppers adding more dimension and taste to basic pepperoni with jalapenos. The white pizza with mushrooms was also excellent. They mix the ricotta with herbs so it has more flavor and white pizza pairs well with mushrooms. The mushrooms were also well-cooked instead of those paper-y dry things you get with a lot of chain pizzas. The tomato basil was nice but rather bland we will probably order the artichoke pizza next time instead. The crust wasn’t super thin but it was definitely New York style, we would have preferred a little more char and a little more chew but with the toppings it wasn’t bad at all.

Pepperoni and Peppers (left) and Tomato-Basil (right)

Pepperoni and Peppers (left) and Tomato-Basil (right)

White Pizza with Mushrooms

White Pizza with Mushrooms

Overall we really liked Bronx Pizza, its a no frills establishment serving good food and its cheap and fast. We will be returning for the pesto pizza and the arthichoke pizza (and for how fast it is!).

Bronx Pizza Window

Bronx Pizza Window

CHECK:
Pepperoni and Peppers $2.50
White Pizza with Mushrooms $2.50
Tomato-Basil $2.50
TOTAL: $8.10 (w/ tax)

Bronx Pizza
111 Washington St
San Diego, CA 92103
www.bronxpizza.com

Board & Brew

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The Famous Baja Beef

Board & Brew is a local family-owned sandwich shop that serves awesome fresh food and what might just be the best sandwich in San Diego . Their first and main spot is in Del Mar (this is the one we like to go to) but they also have locations in Carlsbad and San Clemente. We’ve been going to Board and Brew for years, usually about once a week, and we love the consistently great food and the awesome staff. We have also been bringing visiting friends and family here for years and more than one person has declared the Baja Beef their favorite sandwich EVER. I know, it’s a bold claim, but it isn’t a stretch.

The Baja Beef has marinated steak, grilled onions, jalapeños, mayo, and melted jack cheese on a toasted French baguette. The steak is juicy, tender, and full of intense flavor! The cheese and mayo add creaminess, the peppers add spice and the crisp, sweet grilled onions round everything off. Its not a super complicated sandwich, but it is as good as it gets. We’ll go ahead and say it, the Baja Beef is the best sandwich we’ve had in San Diego. It is Board n’ Brew’s best seller and the definition of pure happiness in a quick meal. We dare anyone to try it and say they weren’t blown away.

Baja Beef Close Up

Baja Beef Close Up

Look at it. How can you say no to that? (Unless of course you are a vegetarian or not fond of spicy food…if its the latter I recommend you get it with no jalapeños and you’ll be golden)

Although in our opinion the Baja Beef does reign supreme, Board & Brew has other tasty options like the the “Vegi” Supreme (vegetarian), their Turkado (turkey + avocado naturally), and lastly another favorite the Spicy Beef Dip.

Spicy Beef Dip

Spicy Beef Dip

The Spicy Beef Dip has roast beef, melted swiss cheese, thinly sliced red onions, mayo, dijon, jalapeños, and is served on a toasted baguette. Lastly like any dip its served with au jus on the side. The roast beef and cheese meld together so well, and the dijon and jalapenos add extra dimension and spiciness. Dipping the toasted bread in the super flavorful au jus ends it perfectly. If you are not a mustard/spicy fan you can always order the Beef Dip which does not have them.

Board n Brew Menu

Board n Brew Menu

Overall Board & Brew is a great casual sandwich stop when you want something satisfying (the sandwiches are huge) and affordable but are not willing to compromise on taste. There’s something for every one, and they have a decent selection of beer to boot. On weekends it can get pretty crowded so we recommend calling or texting in ahead to order and avoid the line. When you next get the chance, do yourself a favor and cruise on down the coast for nice scenery and an epic meal.

CHECK:
Baja Beef $6.95
Spicy Beef Dip $6.95
Chips $1.50
TOTAL: $15.40 (w/ tax)

Board & Brew

1212 Camino Del Mar
Del Mar, CA 92014

201 Oak Avenue
Coastal Carlsbad, CA 92008

979 Avenida Pico, Unit C
San Clemente, CA 92673

http://www.boardandbrew.com/

Bailiwick

After seeing pictures of Bailiwick here I decided that’s where I wanted to go for brunch on Saturday morning with a friend. It’s primarily a cocktail bar but they serve brunch on weekends.

Bailiwick – sdcitybeat.com

The restaurant itself has a whimsical decor; a lot of light blue and white with big chandeliers and vintage bird cages. Oh and a bathtub full of champagne by the front entrance:

Tub full of champagne at Bailiwick

Tub full of champagne at Bailiwick

The whole place is light, airy, and a nice option for brunch. Especially if you intended to go to Cafe 21 (which is right next door) but encountered a 2 hour plus wait. Instead of a bread basket you get Frozen Grapes Infused with Syrah to nibble on while you wait for your food.

DRINKS: They have the usual brunch suspects; mimosas and bloody marys. The mimosas come in different flavors besides just orange and you can opt for grapefruit, pineapple, and cranberry. I got the Pineapple Mimosa and it was nicely flavored and not overly sweet like I feared. My friend ordered the Belvedere Bloody Mary and it came with all the fixings, including pancetta. You could also go bottomless for $15.

APPETIZER: I got the Breakfast Cheese Plate which I thought was unique. I was afraid it would be too much cheese (and not enough bread!) as is common with cheese plates (disclaimer: I woke up ridiculously early that day and so had already had breakfast…) but it was perfectly portioned. You get two types of bread (raisin and marbled rye), ricotta and shavings of two strong cheeses. It also comes with cubed fruit (pear, apple, dragonfruit) and some honey yogurt that is lovely but awkward to eat out of a flat board. The dish is a starter and might be too small for someone with a healthier appetite but I was a fan.

Breakfast Cheese Plate

Breakfast Cheese Plate

ENTREE: My friend ordered the Continental Omelet which she added veggies too. It was served with slabs of (VERY) thick-cut bacon and home-style potatoes. This was served in a cast iron pan and the portion was fairly large. Bacon was crisp, potatoes were good, and the omelette was huge. Definitely a good option if you are hungrier.

CHECK:
Pineapple Mimosa $8
Bloody Mary $12
Breakfast Cheese Plate $9
Continental Omelet $9
TOTAL: $41.04 (w/ tax)

Overall this was a enjoyable and affordable brunch place that would perhaps cater to girls over guys given the decor and restrained portions. The menu was fairly small but had good options that covered both classics like the egg+meat+potatoes or french toast crowd but also something for those wanting something more original or lighter fare with the Breakfast Cheese Plate or the Brown Butter Grilled Oysters. Will be returning here. Perhaps not when ravenous/hungover.

Bailiwick
756 Fifth Avenue
San Diego, CA 92101
http://bailiwicksd.com/