Carnitas Snack Shack

Carnitas Snack Shack is, as the name hints, an inconspicuous little shack in North Park on University Av. that serves a delightfully pork-centric menu. You order at the window on the front and then walk towards the back where you’ll be surprised to find a nice spacious shady patio with an herb garden and another shack towards the back that pours cool draft beer. How handy.

Rib Eye Sandwich

Snack Shack Steak Sandwich

The food is inexpensive and portions are generous. Yet they use high quality all local ingredients and have inventive if sometimes over the top dishes. Not that that’s a bad thing. Its a casual but pleasant atmosphere and despite the uncharacteristically high temperatures and humidity that has been plaguing San Diego lately it was a nice spot to linger at with friends – especially in the evening when it cooled down a little.

Carnitas Snack Shack

Carnitas Snack Shack

Anyways onto the food. Some of their dishes change daily and they’re really good about updating their menu on their website but we ordered dishes that were all staples. You can order their Carnitas in either taco or torta form. The taco form is topped with guacamole and tomatoes on a tortilla and the torta form has guacamole, tomatoes, lettuce and mayo on a roll. I chose taco. Seeing as you only got 2 tacos I was concerned I would still be hungry. This was a completely unnecessary concern because they PILE ON the meat and I could barely finish my plate.

Carnitas Tacos

Carnitas Tacos

Carnitas Tacos

Carnitas Tacos

The carnitas are pretty good but not as amaaazing as I expected. Still really good though. I was hoping for more crispy bits but then again that might be a personal preference. There was a lot of meat and not a lot of just bits of fat which is nice because it sucks when you realize that half your carnitas portion is just blubber. And as always the combination of carnitas + guacamole + tomatoes + greasy tortillas (from the carnitas of course) is always a winner.

The entrees all comes with the corn salad you see in the picture. Its corn tossed in a spiced mayo with some herbs. Its cool and creamy and really tasty and goes well with the fatty meats that seem to populate most of their dishes. Yum.

Another popular item is their Snack Shack Steak Sandwich. This is reminiscent of Board & Brew’s Baja Beef which we boldly declared the best sandwich in SD here. Its sliced rib eye steak, pepper jack cheese, pickled serranos, chipotle mayo and tomatoes on jalapeno bread. And its glorious. Its steak-y and creamy and spicy and super messy but really satisfying. If you’re not super into pork and come here this is the way to go.

Snack Shack Steak Sandwich

Snack Shack Steak Sandwich

Lastly we also ordered the Triple Threat Pork Sand which is a pork loin schnitzel + pulled pork + bacon + pepperoncini-pickle relish + shack aioli sandwich. Pretty much pork every which way. Now sadly I did not get to try this but it was decided that this was superior to the Snack Shack Steak Sandwich which surprised me because that had been my favorite.

Triple Threat Pork Sand

Triple Threat Pork Sand

Dammit I should have tried it.

Oh and we got the fries too. They have bacon salt on them and come with a salsa like condiment that might be an attempt at homemade ketchup. These were pretty tasty and perfectly fried, reminiscent of McDonald’s fries – which is a very high compliment for any attempt at fries by the way. And for only $2.50 well worth it.

Fries

Fries

They have a very decent beer selection too. I went with the Cherry Cider which was crisp tart and not too sweet. Very nice.

Cherry Cider

Cherry Cider

For dessert I got the Banana Split Truffles. You get 2 super chocolate-y ganache truffles covered in dark chocolate and then drizzled with white chocolate, salty peanuts and banana chips. Really tasty. Sadly no pictures because they disappeared too fast. I wished there were more salty peanuts and banana chips to balance out the richness of the ganache but can’t complain too much.

Anyways. Great atmosphere and great food. The only mild annoyance is that on hot days you have flies around because they’re trying to hang out with you on the shade. They light candles that are supposed to keep them away but I would recommend sitting underneath the fans so they stay away definitively. Can’t wait to be back here and try the Triple Threat Pork Sandwich!

CHECK:
Snack Shack Steak Sandwich $9
Triple Threat Pork Sandwich $9
Carnitas $7
Fries $2.50
TOTAL: $29.70 (w/ tax)

P.S. Can’t remember how much the Cherry Cider was so left that off. Sorry kiddos.

Carnitas Snack Shack

2632 University Ave, San Diego, CA 92104
(619) 294-7675

http://carnitassnackshack.com

Related links:

URBN

[Edit: This post was updated with new pictures because we went again and pretty much ordered the same gosh darn thing. But took better pictures because the old ones were taken with my Jurassic-era iPhone 4 with a smashed screen. Damn you Barcelona pick pocketers for taking my sister’s phone so that she had to steal my upgrade. And damn you AT&T for your ridiculous early upgrade fees. Anyways]

urbn Pitcher

urbn Pitcher

urbn Pizza

urbn Pizza

If you like your pizzas thin and crispy with a good char and most importantly free with a pitcher of beer, URBN in North Park needs to be on your radar. URBN is owned by the same people as Basic in downtown that also put out crispy, thin Neapolitan style pizzas with yummy toppings and blistery crusts. And while Basic gives out free slices of pizza during happy hour you do have to fight other patrons over the slices while here you get an entire free pizza with a purchase of a pitcher of beer from 5-6pm!

urbn Pitcher + view

urbn Pitcher + View

URBN has an amazing craft beer selection, lots of taps on draft and an extensive bottle collection. Once one of my dining companions inadvertently ordered a $48 dollar bottle of Imperial Russian stout…she swears it was worth every penny though. We were not trying to order a $48 dollar bottle of anything so we went with the brewery that was on special that month so that you can get a discounted price and picked a nice crispy Hefeweizen pitcher for $18 dollars.

urbn Interior

urbn Interior

The interior is nice too, huge with super high ceilings and huge fans. Definitely more of an industrial look but it suits the place and you’ll be hard pressed to not find seating.

Along with pizzas they have some salads and appetizers if you’re not in the mood for pizza. I decided to complement my pizza with a Caprezanella, which is a mix of a panzanella and caprese salad with bread croutons, olives, red onions, fresh mozarella and tomatoes.

Caprezanella

Caprezanella, why yes I did eat all the mozzarella before I took a picture

The small portion is more than suitable for a side and could even pass as a meal if you’re not that hungry. This was simple but tasty and went well with the pizza.

Now for the pizza. You get a free small pizza but the small pizza is actually quite large and we could not even finish it between 2 hungry people. You get 2 toppings free but we added 2 more because we’re greedy people. Topped off with salami (SO GOOD. BETTER THAN PEPPERONI. DO IT.), cherry peppers, garlic and mushrooms this thing was a beauty.

urbn Pizza

urbn Pizza

Slice

Slice

The crust was delicious and my only teensy complaint is that despite loving some good char on pizza crust there was a smidgen too much char but nothing that stopped me from thoroughly enjoying our pizza.

You also get little containers of sea salt, shredded parmesan, oregano and red pepper flakes to liberally apply to your pizza.

Pizza Condiments

Pizza Condiments

Overall a great deal and for a good price. Sadly they include 18% tip on the original price of the meal (i.e. with the price of the pizza included) so it wasn’t quite the deal we were expecting but definitely still a nice happy hour.

CHECK:
Pitcher of Hefeweizen $18
Pizza (free with purchase of pitcher) $0
Caprezanella small $7
Mandatory 18% gratuity for happy hour $7.74
TOTAL: $32.74

URBN Coal Fired Pizza

3085 University Ave, San Diego, California 92104
(619) 255-7300

www.urbnnorthpark.com/

Related links:

Polite Provisions II

After being quite smitten with Polite Provisions the first time around, we decided to revisit the place during the afternoon to see what it’s like a little earlier in the day. It was definitely less crowded on a Thursday afternoon compared to a weekend night which is when we previously attended. We were able to sit at a table and it was a more casual vibe with most people ordering food from neighboring Soda & Swine next door.

Polite Provisions

Polite Provisions

Polite Provisions

Polite Provisions

As usual the cocktails we got we’re all spot on. The cocktail menu changes a bit everyday but there are a couple constants. They try to incorporate seasonal beverages and change up the cocktails on draft. Below is the cocktail menu for that day:

Polite Provisions Menu

Polite Provisions Menu

On to the libations…

The cocktail I ordered was the Ocean Side. This came with London dry gin, fresh lime, mint, sea salt and celery bitters.

Ocean Side

Ocean Side

I really, really liked this drink. It’s refreshing, not cloyingly sweet, and herbal as well as sweet and savoury at the same time with the sea salt and celery bitters. The celery flavour is noticeable but subtle, it played really well with the mint and lime. I’d reckon if you like gin and tonics and you like Bloody Mary’s you would like this guy.

One of the other drinks we ordered at our table was the Uncle Jalapeno, with Blanco tequila, jalapeno, and T-Bone’s pineapple soda.

Uncle Jalapeno

Uncle Jalapeno

I love spicy flavors in drinks like the habanero infused beer Ballast Point does or the jalapeno infused drink at Whisknladle (cannot remember its name right now even though I always order it!). I am not someone who can handle suuuper spicy food so don’t worry if you are wary of that, these are not meant to burn your palate, the peppers just add the slightest zing and more of their flavor than just blunt spice. The pineapple soda tastes like fresh pineapple and complemented the jalapeno and tequila flavors really well, without being too sweet. If you like those Mexican fruit cups with the spices and little limes on them you will love this.

The last drink we had was the Kentucky Buck. This drink was a little sweeter and fruitier but not anything excessive. It has bourbon, fresh lemon, strawberry and ginger beer.

Kentucky Buck

Kentucky Buck

Ok so the best way I can summarize this drink is that it tasted EXACTLY like strawberry fruit roll-ups. IT WAS AWESOME. And other people at our table agreed. Not very bourbon forward and very drinkable. If you’re not a fan of spirit-forward drinks but like fruit roll-ups (and who doesn’t?) you will like this drink.

Overall we had another great experience. Drinks are still all mostly $8 bucks, you are getting such good value for your money. The only $10 dollar drink was the dessert one. Cannot wait to come back yet again and try the punch bowls…

Polite Provisions

Polite Provisions

Polite Provisions
4696 30th St
San Diego, CA 92116
politeprovisions.com

Cafe 21

Cafe 21 has long been ranked #1 brunch in SD and being a fan of Hash House I always wanted to go to see this restaurant that upstaged Hash House’s pizza-sized pancakes and my favorite pesto scramble with chicken

sangria, cafe 21, san diego

Sangrias at Cafe 21

Cafe 21 has two locations, one in the Gaslamp and one in North Park. Brunch tends to get pretty busy so we would advise you to go early or late and in general the North Park one is less crowded than the Gaslamp. We went to the North Park location around 10 am and only had to wait a couple minutes for seating at the bar.

You know when sometimes you go to a restaurant and one dish stands out so you know what you absolutely must order? At Cafe 21 there were 4 dishes that I absolutely wanted to order. I considered ordering 2 and taking the rest home but finally decided I should not completely cancel out the benefits of the hot yoga session I attended that morning and decided on only one dish – it wasn’t easy.

Cafe 21 has 4 kinds of sangria and they’re all displaced on the wall – two red wine ones and two white wine ones. We were stuck deciding between the Pineapple Citrus and the Watermelon Cantaloupe. We asked for a taster and ultimately decided on a pitcher of the watermelon one. It was very refreshing tasting and tasted more like melon than wine. This was served with a slice of fresh watermelon and lots of ice; perfect for a hot day.

watermelon, sangria

Watermelon Cantaloupe Sangria

The menu has quite a few options ranging from frittata-style omelettes that come in cast iron pans (you can get one side dish with them), benedicts that come on corn cakes, salads, sandwiches, yogurt parfaits and specials. I decided on the Filet Mignon Omelette that comes with bell peppers and goat cheese with a salad for the side.

salad, strawberry, cafe 21

Side Salad with Strawberry

filet mignon, omelette

Filet Mignon Omelette

The omelette was fluffy and delicious, it comes super hot in the cast iron pan. I loved the goat cheese but wished the bell peppers were a little more cooked as I like them soft instead of crunchy. The filet mignon was cooked medium-well, I suspect it was rarer but cooked while sitting in the cast iron pan. The side salad was delicious, simple greens but dressed with a slightly sweet berry dressing and garnished with fresh strawberries.

My friend got the Prosciutto Omelette. This came with prosciutto, mushrooms, and cheddar cheese. It looked amazing and I think I would pick that one over the Filet Mignon Omelette next time. All the omelettes come with toast as well.

Prosciutto, Omelette

Prosciutto Omelette

Overall everything was quite good, the service was excellent, and we kept staring at dishes come out of the kitchen and inquiring as to what they were as everything looked amazing. Can’t wait to come back here and try the lavash bread with turkey sausage topped with cheese or the smoked salmon, egg, and avocado sandwich. And the baked pancakes with apples….And the shrimp corn cake benedict! Clearly will have to return more than once…

Cafe 21

750 5th Ave
San Diego, CA
92101

2736 Adams Ave
San Diego, CA
92116

http://www.cafe-21.com

Jayne’s Gastropub

Jayne’s came highly recommended from a friend and after leaving Polite Provisions we were hungry then what do you know…Jayne’s Gastropub was right there. On the corner of Adams and 30th. How convenient.

On the outside it looks like a simplified English pub. White building, dark green trim, and Jayne’s discreetly written on the front. Once you go inside its quite cozy with lots of dark wood. Its a smallish space with a smallish bar but the drinks sounded good and the place was packed, which is normally a good sign.

We wanted to sit at the bar and just order appetizers then bounce, we told the hostess this and she was quite gracious and said we could wait for a spot at the bar or sit at a table outside. We chose to sit outside and this was quite lucky because their outside patio is gorgeous.

Jayne's Gastropub Patio

Jayne’s Gastropub Patio

There are tall hedges surrounding the patio and then a tall wall with aged brick on one side. There are globe lights overhead and heaters to stay warm and the tables have white tableclothes and red roses. Its quite the charming place to have dinner and probably a perfect date spot.

White Linens and Red Roses at Jayne's

White linens and red roses at Jayne’s

APPETIZERS: We ordered two appetizers, the Gambas al Aljillo and the Calamari. The Gambas were shrimp in a spicy garlic sauce with sliced baguette bread. Though the shrimp were good, the sauce was somewhat lacking. The chilis and garlic didn’t have enough time to infuse in the oil, so the oil was relatively flavorless. It was a little pricey for 6 shrimp as well. The calamari on the other hand was great. It was served piping hot and had the perfect amount of breading. Sometimes you get too much cakey breading and its slipping off the calamari rings. Here it was crunchy but not greasy and you could tell it had just left the fryer. The calamari comes with cocktail sauce and aioli.

Gambas Al Aljillo

Gambas Al Aljillo

Calamari

Calamari

Overall, we thought the food could’ve been a tad cheaper but its hard to be upset when you’re dining in such a pleasant environment. Their menu also had some really great sounding dishes like their crostini with white bean puree and roasted peppers, the brick chicken and especially the gnocchi with cream, mushrooms, and chicken.

CHECK:
Calamari $10.50
Gambas al Aljillo $15.50
TOTAL: $38.88 (w/tax)

Their drinks sound good, their burger won best burger in SD at one point, and they have a $5 dollar happy hour plates special. Jayne’s: We will be back.

Another view of Jayne's patio

Another view of Jayne’s patio

Jayne’s Gastropub
4677 30th St
San Diego, CA 92116
http://jaynesgastropub.com