Azuki Sushi

Azuki Sushi is in Banker’s Hill and from the outside it’s an unassuming little house but when you walk in the inside is surprisingly nice. The decor is simple but trendy-ish with accent lighting and they project movies on one of the walls, then past a narrow corridor they actually have a large covered patio area. Oh and the sushi ain’t bad either.

Azuki Sushi

Azuki Sushi

While I love pricier sushi options like Hane Sushi (a couple blocks up the street, see a review on it here) and Sushi Ota in PB sometimes you just want yummy sushi that’s affordable. But not too affordable like the gross discount stuff filled with cream cheese they peddle at so-so places like PB Sushi or god-awful places like Yakimono’s by the Vons in UTC/La Jolla. It’s closed now but has anyone ever been there? Every underage UCSD student used to go there because they did not card at all but the sushi was SO BAD.

Anyways Azuki has turned into our go-to stop; really good sushi at good prices and great happy hour specials. They have really good traditional nigiri and sashimi as well as creative entrees and super creative (and delicious) rolls.

Azuki Sushi Rolls

Azuki Sushi Rolls

Azuki Menu

Azuki Daily Specials

Normally we come for happy hour because they have great deals on sake and beer as well as appetizers like the huge super-garlicky Garlic Edamame for $3 and their amazing Tuna Tataki with ponzu and jalapeño for $6 dollas. However this would be a great Valentine’s Day stop (HAPPY VALENTINE’S CHILDREN) because sushi in general is a much better idea than overpriced red wine, steak and chocolate lava cake dinners. We did that last year for Valentine’s and afterwards you feel like a beached whale and you just want to lie comatose on the couch and watch Netflix…which is perfectly fine every other day of our lives but perhaps not the best way to spend Valentine’s. Sushi on the other hand is sufficiently fancy and very delicious but also light and you feel great afterwards. Sprightly even.

APPETIZER: To start with we got their Root Vegetable Fries. These are super thinly cut super crispy strips of carrot, green beans, zucchini, and potatoes that are tempura-fried and served with a creamy aioli.

Root Vegetable Fries

Root Vegetable Fries

Of course we finished all the aioli before I remembered to take a picture. Yum emulsified oil and egg.

ENTREES: We’ve tried so many of their rolls and they are all awesome but a favorite is the By the Border Roll which has spicy tuna and avocado inside and seared albacore, sliced jalapeño, signature ponzu and spicy aioli on the outside.

By the Border Roll

By the Border Roll

The avocado, ponzu and jalapeño are a great way to add flavor to the tuna so that it’s a good roll for sushi neophytes who are not yet crazy about raw fish. At the same time you get a very decent serving of tuna and albacore and their fat little dot of spicy aioli makes it the perfect amount so its not one of those rolls that is swimming in mayo.

By the Border Roll

By the Border Roll

Me on the other hand, am all about the raw fish, no accoutrements necessary. I went with the Adventurous Nigiri course that comes with (from back to front, might have some mistakes): chu-toro (medium fatty tuna), saba (mackarel), sake (salmon), kanpachi (amberjack), ebi (black tiger shrimp), hamachi (yellowtail) and snow crab. The snow crab actually should have been uni but I hate uni so I asked to sub in ankimo (monkfish liver, tastes like foie gras, is awesome) but they said they couldn’t substitute that in so I left it up to the chef. I got fresh snow crab and I was pretty happy with that because it was delicious.

Adventurous Nigiri

Adventurous Nigiri

This was amazing and I love the way they do their nigiri here with only a small amount of rice and a nice huge slice of fish that drapes over both ends of the rice. I’m constantly picking out rice from rolls that have too much rice but this is never necessary here.

Perfectly Draped Sushi

Perfectly Draped Sushi

Overall it was a great dinner, as always at Azuki (alliteration). The only disappointment was that on OpenTable I mentioned it was our anniversary dinner so I was hoping for a free dessert but no one read the notes or asked if there was an occasion so no dessert for us. Our waitress misheard me when I ordered the Adventurous Nigiri and thought I ordered the Adventurous Sashimi and that was brought out then had to be sent back so I felt bad being all ‘hey its an arbitrary personal milestone for us give us a thing for free’. Nonetheless, can’t wait to be back.

CHECK:
– Root Vegetable Fries $6.95
– By the Border Roll $13.50
– Adventurous Nigiri $28.00
– TOTAL (w/ tax) $52.48

Azuki Sushi

2321 5th Avenue, San Diego, CA 92101
619.238.4760

http://www.azukisushi.com/

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Pho Hoa

So I had never had pho until freshman year in college when I got introduced to this magical dish. I don’t know whether it really cures hangovers but I know its absolutely delicious and I love my pho tai. Even if it might be full of MSG.

There is nothing like watching those thin thin slices of rare steak cook in steaming hot beef broth with rice noodles, thinly sliced onions and herbs until the steak is mostly cooked thru but just kissed with pink in the center. At that point I add the fresh basil leaves, as much of the bean sprouts as I can (surreptitiously if I have to share my pho condiment plate with other people) and a couple slices of jalapeno. After that all I need is some hoisin and sriracha in a little side bowl to dip the slices of steak in. Ok that was a lot of steps but still. SO GOOD.

Pho Tai

Pho Tai. All IPhone Pictures Here Btw. My bad.

I’ve only eaten at a couple pho places in San Diego and so far I find them all good. I probably don’t know enough and haven’t had enough pho to be a good critic of it. I like the pho at Phuong Trang, Pho T Cali and Pho 5th Avenue. Pho La Jolla less so, partly because of the high prices and partly because even I could have guessed pho in La Jolla would not be super legit. But I was excited to try Pho Hoa in City Heights. A lot of people swear by it and its really well-reviewed on Yelp. All they do is pho too so one would think if they are still around they must be doing something right.

See Only Pho.

See, Only Pho.

Overall the verdict was this was pretty good but not amazing. Broth was a little oilier than I’m used to but had a decent beef flavor, noodles were a wee bit clumpy but there was a generous meat portion. However, and take this with a grain of salt as I mentioned before I am by no means a pho expert, I didn’t think it was leaps and bounds better than the pho I have at Pho Fifth Avenue or Phuong Trang.

Pho Condiments

Pho Condiments

I do like that they give you ngo sai (the hidden saw-toothed leaf thats peaking out from underneath the basil in the picture above and that I initially thought was a rogue weed that made it onto the plate) as I had never tried it before. I also pretty much like all herbs and often ate the herb garnishes off peoples plates as a child like a rabbit. So more/new herbs is always a good thing for me. Service was also very efficient, they take your order and set down the pho condiments plate and literally 5 minutes later our food was in front of us. The restaurant is definitely bare bones but decently sized.

We ordered the Pho Tai, which are thin slices of rare steak. Weirdly it seemed like some of the steak slices had a pearly sheen to them. No idea what this was and although it must be some kind of connective tissue there was no chewiness or detectable taste besides the steak. Steak was a little tough and could definitely have been more tender, but it was nice to have a lot of beef.

Pho Tai with Bean Sprouts, Basil and Jalapenos

Pho Tai with Bean Sprouts, Basil and Jalapenos

We also ordered the Pho Bo Vien which is beef meatballs. This was ok too but the meatballs could have been more moist. My dining companion was Vietnamese and she said the meat balls her mom buys have (I think) tendon in them so they are yummier/less dry. She also shared my opinion that the pho was good but not worth the drive there.

Pho Bo Vien

Pho Bo Vien

Lastly, I also ordered Che Ba Mau or tri-colored dessert (or three colored dessert? not sure). It comes in a cup with crushed ice which I thought was quite nice. You have the green jellies at the bottom, sweet red beans, and jackfruit; all covered with coconut milk sweetened with condensed milk and a sweet red syrup at the bottom. This was great except I don’t love the sweet red beans, I mostly just stir it up and eat the jellies with the sweetened coconut milk. Definitely melted a little (and ok I ate a lot of it) before I got around to taking the picture, trust me it was much prettier before I mixed everything/it melted.

Three Color Dessert

Three Color Dessert / Che Ba Mau

DSC_0239

DSC_0242

So the final verdict is solid pho but not out-of-this-world pho that is worth driving all the way to City Heights for. Fast service and low prices but in the end I’ll probably just keep going to Pho Fifth Avenue or Phuong Trang which are closer and have other good food options besides pho. Mostly those delicious charred beef rice paper roll things from Phuong Trang. Yum.

CHECK:

Pho Tai $6.50
Pho Bo Vien $7.50
Che Ba Mau $3.00
TOTAL (w/ tax) $18.36

Pho Hoa

4717 El Cajon Blvd, San Diego, CA 92115
(619) 283-6431

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Little Italy Farmer’s Market – San Diego

If you have never been to some of the great farmer’s markets in San Diego you are missing out on some great produce and tasty food. Two of my favorites are the Little Italy Farmer’s Market on Saturday’s and the Hillcrest Farmer’s Market on Sunday. The Little Italy one is more geared towards produce and buying ingredients whereas the Hillcrest one is better for grabbing a bite, with anything from Russian pierogi to Brazilian empanadas or Jamaican jerk chicken. Hillcrest Farmer’s Market pictures on a next post but here are some pictures from the Little Italy Farmer’s Market.

Little Italy Farmer's Market

Little Italy Farmer’s Market

The main thing you have naturally is a lot of produce for sale. Unless you are super pressed for time I recommend you browsing through the entire market first before buying any produce. Prices vary a lot as well as how nice the produce looks. We bought a bunch of carrots from one vendor and four stalls down they had a prettier bunch for half the price. Also note that although you are at a farmer’s market not everything is necessarily organic and local, many stands have signs saying they are or are not and you can always inquire the vendor if that is what you are after.

Eggplant

Eggplant

Squash

Squash

Carrots

Carrots

Most of the vendors also offer tasters so you can try some of the produce before you buy it, its always nice to try all the different kinds of apples, a new kind of avocado or some fruit you’ve never had before. Farmer’s markets are also pretty much the only place in the universe you can get a perfectly ripe avocado to use the very day you purchased. This is nothing short of magical in my book.

The Cravory

These guys are almost at every farmer’s market in SD, including the Little Italy, Hillcrest and La Jolla ones. They offer a rotating wide variety of cookies. These are a little pricey at $2.00 each but they are soft, plump, chewy mounds of cookie that never disappoint. You can try any/as many of the flavors before buying as well. I personally love the Lemon Bar cookie as well as the Almond Joyous. They always have some nice seasonal flavors too, in this case they had some great holiday flavors like Peppermint Schnapps and Caramel Eggnog.

The Cravory

The Cravory

Bread & Cie

Bread & Cie is also at most of the farmer’s markets and they offer a wide variety of yummy bread. If you are not sure what to buy definitely just ask them for recommendations and based on what you like you can try something new that might appeal to you as well. This time we got some great focaccia and the tasty dark chocolate thing you see in the last picture. It was brioche dough rolled with large chunks of melted dark chocolate and that thing was gone in a day. Rich and chocolate but not overly sweet I cannot wait to buy it again. We also got a brioche like chocolate bread studded with cherries and dark chocolate chunks. Due to the shape we thought it was panettone so we were a little disappointed with the brioche bread which is drier than a panettone but it made the best chocolate bread pudding in the world. Oh and the Fig & Anise bread is lovely too.

Bread & Cie

Bread & Cie


Amazing dark chocolate brioche roll

Amazing dark chocolate brioche roll

Saranya

Saranya sells fantastic Thai food and the stand has done so well that they have even opened a real brick and mortar restaurant! Their curries are really good and they also sell the curry sauces frozen so you can make your own with whatever meat/veggies you want at home. I always, always stop here and get an order of the coconut pancakes. These are small little pancakes made out of coconut milk and rice flour, they are chewy, slightly sweet, very coconut-y and cost I think $1.60 for 4 pancakes. No pictures because we ate them in 2 seconds. Saranya also has the best sticky rice with mango in the world. Or at least that I have tried. Better than anything I’ve had in Thailand even…

Saranya Stick Rice with Mango

Saranya Sticky Rice with Mango

Their rice is perfectly cooked and they drizzle a sweetened coconut milk on it. Every time I’ve gotten it the mangos are also ridiculously and perfectly ripe. Ask for extra coconut milk on top and you are golden. SO SO GOOD.

And to finish I have to post of a picture of this little guy that was hanging out at the Little Italy Farmer’s Market the week before Christmas:

Much Christmas. So Santa.

Much Christmas. So Santa.

Little Italy Farmer’s Market

W. Date & India Streets
Saturday – 8am to 2pm

http://www.littleitalysd.com/mercato/

Davanti Enoteca – Little Italy

I’ve been a huge fan of Davanti Enoteca since the first time I went so its about time I had a post on them. Davanti is fantastic for dinner but this post is on brunch which it turns out is pretty great too. We came here on a Saturday morning post-Little Italy’s farmer’s market and there were plenty of tables. Always nice to not wait 45 min+ for brunch.

Davanti Enoteca

Davanti Enoteca

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There are two appetizers that you absolutely must start with, and luckily they are available for brunch. These are the focaccia di Recco a Ligurian style baked focaccia filled with soft cow cheese (add the honeycomb option) or the vasi with ricotta and honeycomb. Not both at the same time mind you because they are quite similar but one time order one and the next time the other. I personally prefer the vasi but most people I know like the focaccia di Recco better.

Davanti Lunch Menu

Davanti Lunch Menu

Davanti Brunch Menu

Davanti Brunch Menu

We went with the vasi with ricotta and honeycomb this time. You get grilled Pugliese bread with a whiff of truffle oil, a jar of impossible creamy and rich ricotta with sea salt and olive oil, and a wedge of honeycomb.

Vasi with Ricotta and Honeycomb

Vasi with Ricotta and Honeycomb

Ricotta

Ricotta

Grilled Pugliese Bread

Grilled Pugliese Bread

The combination of the toasty warm bread with cool creamy ricotta and sweet honeycomb is completely addictive. I do not know how they get their ricotta so smooth and creamy, I’ve tried both whipping it and blending it at home to obtain the same effect and sadly have not yet matched this texture. I suppose for $8 I can just keep coming here to get my fix for the real thing.

Grilled Pugliese bread with ricotta and honeycomb

Grilled Pugliese bread with ricotta and honeycomb

This is a large appetizer for two people, you get a lot of ricotta and they will gladly give you more bread if you run out, which we normally do 🙂

Next we ordered their salad with escarole + gala apple + pecorino dolce + celery + hazelnuts. It is a simple fresh salad and its also a sizeable portion. Simple and tasty with a basic olive oil dressing this is a light salad that has interesting texture and taste with the slightly bitter escarole contrasting with sweet cubes of gala apple, nutty toasted hazelnuts, crunchy celery and salty pecorino. Even though I am an avid meat eater I would not mind having this salad as an entree even though it also makes a mighty fine side salad when you are ordering pizza as your main dish.

Love that even though the toppings might look scarce on top when you mix up the salad there are plenty of all the other components so as to ensure that you’re not just eating fistfuls of escarole like a rabbit.

Escarole Insalata

Escarole Insalata

Escarole Insalata

Escarole Insalata

So for the actual brunch dish we ordered we went with the Prosciutto e Uovo Il Pane which comes with toasted tuscan bread with prosciutto, fontina, parmesan cheese, sunny side eggs on top and roasted tomatoes on the side.

Prosciutto e Uovo Il Pane

Prosciutto e Uovo Il Pane

Prosciutto e Uovo Il Pane

Prosciutto e Uovo Il Pane

This was amazing and the portion was large enough that we split it between two people and still had leftovers (ok we also ate all that other food before too but I maintain its split-able). The prosciutto is super crispy and the cheese is nicely melted into the toast. Mix it together with the runny fried eggs (make sure to request them more cooked if runny is not your thing) and the juicy roasted tomatoes and you have a perfect bite.

Prosciutto e Uovo Il Pane

Prosciutto e Uovo Il Pane

Also appreciated the pesto on the roasted tomatoes as pesto makes almost everything better.

Roasted Tomatoes

Roasted Tomatoes

Prosciutto e Uovo Il Pane

Prosciutto e Uovo Il Pane

Overall had a lovely and very reasonably priced meal with fantastic service to boot. Our waiter was friendly, super attentive, and even offered to take our picture before we asked, most likely because it was hard to ignore my fat Nikon intrusively sitting on the table for the duration of the entire meal. It was also about 75 degrees and sunny so sitting on the patio was quite nice. Although I suppose I have to attribute that part to the amazingness that is San Diego in December.

Davanti Patio

Davanti Patio

Loved their Christmas decorations too.

CHECK:
– Vasi with Ricotta and Honeycomb $8
– Insalata with escarole $7
– Prosciutto e Uovo Il Pane $10
TOTAL (w/ tax): $27.00

Davanti Enoteca – Little Italy

1655 India St, San Diego, CA 92101
(619) 237-9606

www.davantienoteca.com/

Sab-E-Lee

Pork Nam Tok

Pork Nahm Tok

I’ve always wanted to try Sab-E-Lee having read many posts about the great quality of Thai food there. I think just mmm-yoso has about a million Sab-E-Lee posts, which all look verrry tempting.

After spending a month in Thailand a couple years ago its hard to be overjoyed with the insipid vaguely ketchup-y Pad Thai stuff that is passed off as Thai food in many places. It is also hard to will myself to drive to Linda Vista but getting a half day off work helped with that 🙂

So I stopped by the Sab-E-Lee on Ulric Rd and got some Pork Nahm Tok and their Papaya Salad to go. They have a Yum-Woon Sen salad with shrimp and ground pork on glass noodles as well as a Nam Sod Salad that sounded more interesting than the papaya salad but according to them their papaya salad is “VERY POPULAR!!!” and the use of not one or two but THREE exclamation marks won me over.

The location is verrrry small and despite them obviously being successful enough to open a second location this place is tiny and very bare bones. Don’t come here with a large group expecting to be seated right away. Or at all depending how large. The waitresses were friendly and the place was half full for lunch. I was happy to see the many kinds of chili you can top your meal with set out at the table just like we saw everywhere in Thailand.

Now for the food. The pork nahm tok was very flavorful, the pork was thinly sliced and topped with lots of cilantro, red onion, and rice powder. Could have been a little more charred but the abundance of spices and herbs guarantees its anything but bland. The nahm tok comes with cabbage and cucumbers for you to make little cabbage tacos with the pork.

Pork Nam Tok

Pork Nam Tok

Pork Nam Tok

Pork Nam Tok

Cucumber + Cabbage

Cucumber + Cabbage

The papaya salad comes with green papaya, dried shrimps, sliced chiles, tomatoes, green onions, peanuts and has a very strong dressing. I personally liked it but I think people who have more reservations about fish sauce might be discouraged.

Papaya Salad

Papaya Salad

Papaya Salad

Papaya Salad

Now the only downside: I read that their spicy levels are more legit than most Thai restaurants where a 10 is generally pretty unimpressive. So I was conservative and ordered a 4 (I would normally go with a 6). But even so the spiciness level was wayyy too high for me. For the papaya salad there are slices of Thai chili and biting into one of those larger pieces made my eyes water. I generally avoided them after that but for the nahm tok the sauce itself was pretty spicy so there was not much to do. I ate I think half of both and then just kind of drank copious amounts of water for a prolonged period of time….

I will readily admit that my spicy tolerance is kind of mediocre though as I did not grow up eating spicy food so perhaps take this with a grain of salt. I do however love hot sauce on my breakfast burritos, jalapenos in my sandwiches and have sriracha in my fridge at all times so I have somewhat been indoctrinated into San Diego’s spicy loving ways.

Pork Nahm Tok

Pork Nahm Tok

Overall despite the out-of-my-league spiciness I quite liked the food. Will be back to try the Pad See Ew and the Pork Neck Nahm Tok! Will also probably order a level 2 (the shame).

Sab-E-Lee

Two locations:
2405 Ulric Street, San Diego, CA 92111
(858) 650-6868

13223-2 Black Mountain Road, San Diego, CA 92129
(858) 780-0022

http://originalsab-e-lee.webs.com/

Banker’s Hill Bar & Restaurant II

The first time we went to Banker’s Hill we kind of have mixed reactions but loved the place and given it was new figured it just had to work some kinks out. We still haven’t been for the very enticing happy hour with $5 dollar appetizers…but we did stop by for SD Restaurant Week and I have to say this definitely won us over. Touche Bankers Hill.

Banker's Hill Bar & Restaurant

Banker’s Hill Bar & Restaurant

Banker's Hill Bar & Restaurant

Banker’s Hill Bar & Restaurant

Banker's Hill Bar & Restaurant

Banker’s Hill Bar & Restaurant

APPETIZERS: For the first course we got the Crispy Pacific Red Snapper with Lentils, Preserved Lemon and Remoulade. Although I didn’t realize the crispy meant fried this was a lovely dish. The fish was super crunchy and the beluga lentils were delicious, topped off with a tangy and creamy caper remoulade this was awesome. Didn’t really get too much of the preserved lemon but still overall my favorite appetizer.

Crispy Pacific Red Snapper with Capers, Preserved Lemon and Remoulade

Crispy Pacific Red Snapper with Capers, Preserved Lemon and Remoulade

The other appetizer I tried was the Bacon-Citrus Marmalade Bruschetta with Bucheron + Minted Apples on Grilled Levain Bread. Levain bread is an awesome sort of partially whole wheat sourdough and bucheron is a stronger goat cheese, it almost tastes like a mixture between brie and chevre. The bucheron was creamy and tangy and with the salty-sweet bacon citrus marmalade and crisp apples on the toasted bread this had a lot going on. In a good way. Couldn’t taste the mint on the apples but I was ok with that as I don’t know how mint would have tasted with everything else.

Bacon-Citrus Marmalade Bruschetta  Whipped Bucheron, Minted Apples, Grilled Levain Bread

Bacon-Citrus Marmalade Bruschetta
Whipped Bucheron, Minted Apples, Grilled Levain Bread

Bacon-Citrus Marmalade Bruschetta  Whipped Bucheron, Minted Apples, Grilled Levain Bread

Bacon-Citrus Marmalade Bruschetta Whipped Bucheron, Minted Apples, Grilled Levain Bread

ENTREES: My entree was a Mesquite Grilled Local Yellowtail with Roasted Garlic Masa, Corn & Pasilla Saute with Salsa Verde. The yellowtail was just charred on the outside and perfectly pink and rare in the middle. The roasted garlic masa was similar to grits or polenta and together with the tomatoes, corn and salsa verde this was a fresh but satisfying dish with that creamy garlic-y masa.

Mesquite Grilled Local Yellowtail Roasted Garlic ‘Masa,’ Corn & Pasilla Saute, Salsa Verde

Mesquite Grilled Local Yellowtail
Roasted Garlic ‘Masa,’ Corn & Pasilla Saute, Salsa Verde

The other entree I tried was Black Angus Bistro Tender with Crispy Bacon & Cheddar Twice-Baked Potato, Broccolini & Cabernet Reduction. This was cooked nicely to the requested medium-rare and its hard to go wrong with steak, potatoes, bacon and veggies. Nothing super inventive but still very tasty.

Black Angus Bistro Tender   Crispy Bacon & Cheddar Twice-Baked Potato, Broccolini, Cabernet Reduction

Black Angus Bistro Tender Crispy Bacon & Cheddar Twice-Baked Potato, Broccolini, Cabernet Reduction

DESSERT: It seems to be a recurring trend for me to not post dessert photos because everyone (read: me) gets too excited and it disappears before I think of snapping a picture. Either way we got the Spiced Apple Cobbler Walnut Streusel, Salted Caramel Sauce, Vanilla Bean Ice Cream and the BH ‘S’more’ Ice Cream Sandwich Graham Cookie, Chocolate Sauce, Toasted Marshmallow. Hot apple cobbler + vanilla ice cream is a classic and this was no different. Great fall dessert. The s’mores ice cream sandwich came with a swipe of toasted marshmallow to dip your ice cream sandwich in and the ice cream was studded with crunchy almonds. Although it was served a bit too frozen this was pretty great.

Banker's Hill Bar & Restaurant

Banker’s Hill Bar & Restaurant

Patio

Patio

Overall everyone really enjoyed their meals. The restaurant has a great sort of minimalist and masculine decor with all the dark accents and deer heads and whatnot. Hopefully we will get to enjoy happy hour on the patio which has a huge wall of succulents. I guess given its restaurant week its hard to comment on price but for $30 bucks this was a great meal.

CHECK:
Restaurant Week Menu $30 x 2
TOTAL: $69.94 (w/ tax)

Banker’s Hill Bar & Restaurant

2202 4th Ave, San Diego, CA 92101
(619) 231-0222

www.bankershillsd.com

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Doods Foods

We’ve heard a lot of good things about Doods Foods, the place is a small independent owned counter slinging burgers out of a little stand in the Tin Can bar with stellar Yelp reviews as well as cheap, cheap prices.

Now we love Burger Lounge but sometimes you don’t really want to pay $15 dollars for a burger and fries no matter how great that grass-fed burger and crispy fries are. Sometimes its ok that your burger was fed things other than grass…

The Tin Can Bar

The Tin Can Bar

Perhaps the best part is that Doods Foods is super close to us, in Banker’s Hill on 5th. When you enter the Tin Can its the ideal dive bar. Small, dark, Christmas lights, a great beer selection, a small crowd, 70s game shows on the TV and quirky live music. You order the burgers from the Doods Foods counter where it’s just one guy doing all the work. Note that if they’re pretty busy it can be kind of slow because as mentioned its one guy. You can get burgers, grilled cheese variations, sandwiches + fries and/or a salad with your burger.

Tin Can Bar

I got the Doods Burger, a classic burger a.k.a. thin patty, American cheese, tomato, onions, lettuce and chipotle buttermilk on a bolillo bun. Ok. Everything in this was very well done. The bolillo bun is AMAZING. The perfect amount of soft and squishy yet still held up to the burger. The tomato/lettuce/onions are super fresh and they also slice the onion suuuuper thinly which is nice because I for one think super thick crunchy slices of onion can completely overwhelm if not entirely ruin a burger. Lastly, the chipotle buttermilk is a nice touch, creamy and flavorful it definitely added a little twist to the otherwise classic cheeseburger.

Doods Burger

Doods Burger

Now for the bad news. The meat. The meat they use is apparently sourced from a Mexican market and its more fatty than usual chuck and super finely ground. Its definitely a little more greasy which I didn’t mind but the fact that it was super finely ground and tightly packed made the patty seem a little too mushy and too dense. The outside bites where that extra fatty chuck crisped up were nice but once those crispy edges are gone everything just seems so mushy and sadly the same cheap meat that makes the burger so attractively affordable also tends to be not so flavorful.

Doods Burger Inside

Doods Burger Inside

I got a side salad and that was good but nothing crazy. Just simple lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, shredded carrots and an Italian vinaigrette. I appreciated the freshness of the vegetables but I wish it had come with the chipotle buttermilk instead of the forgettable Italian vinaigrette.

Doods Foods side salad

Doods Foods side salad

The other more daring burger they have is the Flying Cheeseburger. This baby is a double patty, double American cheese, double bacon, lettuce, tomato, onions, chipotle buttermilk on bolillo bun MONSTER. Definitely a generous portion of everything but sadly the already kindof extra greasy pattys paired with all the bacon and extra cheese and whatnot makes this a super greasy mess. Tasty but hard to finish and afterwords you definitely feel a pang of regret for eating the whole damn thing. But then again maybe that’s how people like to feel after polishing off such a huge thing?

Flying Cheeseburger

Flying Cheeseburger

The fries are ok, a little too crispy/greasy for me.

Overall, I think Doods Foods is doing everything right except for the meat they use. Its definitely not a bad burger at all but it could be PHENOMENAL with a better meat selection. Then again that might be why the prices are relatively cheap compared to Burger Lounge.

Despite not entirely fulfilling our burger dreams I can’t help hoping that this place improves the meat and really nails it. Sitting in this hipster-ish little dive bar under the green glow of Christmas lights talking to the super friendly bartender, drinking good beer and listening to a girl sing about her crappy boyfriend from Riverside I can’t wait to be back and have a really great burger to top the whole experience off.

CHECK:
Doods Burger $4
Flying Cheeseburger $8
TOTAL w/ tax: $12.96

Doods Foods

1863 5th Ave, San Diego, CA 92101
(619) 381-2756

https://www.facebook.com/doodsfoods

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

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Greece – The Cyclades

So far we’ve only reviewed SD restaurants but after a vacation in Greece I thought it’d be great to share some pictures of the local food. And the beaches. The beaches are pretty nice too.

Koufonissia - Pori Beach

Koufonissia – Pori Beach

So some of the dishes we tried were at the beach above. Koufonissia is a small island, part of the Little Cyclades. You can get to Pori Beach by boat or by taking a ferry to Koufonissia then taking a bus to Pori. There are exactly two restaurants on the beach and besides that you’d be hard pressed to find any other buildings around. The restaurant closer to the beach had way more people in it so that is where we went.

Restaurant in Pori

Restaurant in Pori

The first dish we tried was Taramasalata. Our waitress simply described it as a dip that came with bread and that it was very good, so we were game. Only after it came and we were already halfway through eating it that we discovered there was fish roe in it. This was totally fine by us but I guess if you are vegetarian or have allergies I would tread carefully as in a lot of restaurants their English may not be super extensive.

DSC00709 Taramasalata

The basic ingredients in taramasalata are carp roe, olive oil, bread crumbs, vinegar, lemon and salt. It has a very nice salty, creamy flavor and is nor overtly fishy, I thought it had more of a umami flavor than an obvious fish flavor. Really good with the pita chips that came although I wish some soft bread would have come too.

The next dish we tried was a favorite of the trip, Cretan Husk. Cretan husk is very simple but its the one dish I can’t wait to make at home. They use husk bread which is a stale ish whole wheat country bread and then top it with a very simply, barely cooked tomato sauce, capers and a fresh cheese. We saw feta used as the cheese often but in some islands they also used a mild local goat cheese. I think I’m gonna try chevre or really good feta in olive oil when I attempt to make it at home.

Cretan Husk

Cretan Husk

It’s deceptively simple but soooo tasty. We must have ordered it at almost every restaurant we went to after we discovered it. The bread sops up the fresh tomato sauce and you have the creamy cheese and a hint of sharpness from the capers. If you like panzanella this is right up your alley.

After our appetizers I ordered the Naxos Sausage with Lentils. The sausage I think was goat and it had nice char marks and a slightly gamey flavor. A lot of food for one plate. One positive side of Greece is that its quite inexpensive compared to the Western European countries. Things are a little pricier in Mykonos or Santorini but even then you can easily find yummy, large meals for very affordable prices. Like this one.

Naxos Sausage with Lentils

Naxos Sausage with Lentils

The lentils were smaller than I’m used too but excellent. They were mixed with very thinly dressed onions, tomatoes and a light dressing which contrasted nicely with the fatty, smoky sausage. The whole thing was pretty delicious. The only thing I disliked was that the sausage was studded with pieces of fat which are not my favorite but its pretty normal for sausages and no one else was complaining 🙂

The other entree we got was the Baby Goat with Eggplant Puree. The meat was super tender and a little gamey with a mild tomato sauce and a puree of smoky grilled eggplant. The braised meat with the slightly sweet tomato sauce and the silky, smoky puree was amazing.

Baby Goat with Eggplant Puree

Baby Goat with Eggplant Puree

Everything we had was tasty and the ingredients and preparation were of great quality. For dessert I had a banana, milk, honey, cinnamon and sesame smoothie I didn’t take any pictures of. We were pretty happy with this meal. They also turn into a bar with live music later at night, that night they had Brazilian bossa nova. It went really well with the great food and the great view. Highly recommended.

Sunset in Pori

Sunset in Pori

So the next meal we have pictures of was slightly less successful. This meal was in Paros island right by the private marina. Also can’t remember the name of this restaurant but it was at the end of the first row of restaurants.

Paros

Paros

For appetizers we got a Cretan Salad. This was described as tomatoes, olives, onions, cucumbers, potatoes, and Cretan bread. Weirdly instead of potatoes we got cubes of Swiss cheese in the salad.

Cretan Salad

Cretan Salad

This came with no dressing so we mixed red wine vinegar and olive oil and poured it over top. Almost every restaurant will have olive oil and red wine vinegar at the table which is nice because they normally give you bread but no butter or anything to put on the bread.

For an entree I got the Stuffed Calamari. It said it was stuffed with feta, peppers and sundried tomatoes and came with rice and fries. I asked for roasted potatoes instead and although the waiter agreed to it I got fries anyways.

Stuffed Calamari

Stuffed Calamari

The squid was definitely overcooked and but the tomatoes were fresh instead of sundried and the bell peppers were too raw for my liking. The fries are softer in style than normal American french fries but we saw that a lot. The tartar sauce was ok. Overall it was unremarkable and I gave the rest of my squid to one of the many stray kitties that seem to be everywhere in the islands…

The other entree we got was Cretan Casserole. This was also cooked goat but what we got was not very casserole-y. It came with fries and rice but the waiter forgot the rice.

Cretan Casserole

Cretan Casserole

Although it doesn’t look super appetizing the meat was actually pretty good. Sadly there wasn’t a lot of it and there was a lot of bone, fat, and assorted tissues. Nothing like the baby goat we had in Koufonissia!

Paros

Paros

Overall we ate a lot of good food in Greece. Our number one tip would be to not eat at the restaurants that are right on the water/boardwalk especially if they’re close to the port or where the ferry arrives. These restaurants are mostly there for the cheap drinks and the food is definitely secondary. If you meander in a little into the towns you’ll find cheaper and much better food. Naturally it always pays to ask a local as well or to do some internet sleuthing beforehand.

Our favorite restaurant was in Naxos island. It was only a row behind the boardwalk restaurants advertising 4 euro drinks but it was nice and friendly with only one older lady manning the entire place. She didn’t speak a lick on English and as soon as we sat she handed us the Greek-English menus and after we sat an older Greek lady with a scarf neatly tied around her head came and sat in the table next to us. Always a good sign. Her food was simple but so good. Everything tasted fresh and she did all the cooking.

Sadly we can’t remember the name something like “Family Tavern”, if you get to Naxos by ferry go straight to the boardwalk with all the restaurants and go behind them and walk to the right until you see a white and light teal building. If you find yourself seated in the patio below you are golden.

Our Favorite Restaurant in Naxos

Our Favorite Restaurant in Naxos

The roasted potatoes with oregano and lemon are out of this world and the lady always gave us free dessert whether it was a slice of homemade orange cake or perfectly ripe figs. If we go back we will definitely be stopping by here again.

Sunset over Mykonos

Sunset over Mykonos

Azucar

So I’m pretty when people are thinking desserts in San Diego their first thought is Extraordinary Desserts. Which is completely understandable and pretty fantastic as far as desserts go, however I invite you to consider Azucar in Ocean Beach as well. Although it bills itself as a Cuban style bakery, they go beyond that and have fantastic offerings.

Azucar's Havana Cake

Azucar’s Havana Cake

Azucar

Azucar

Its definitely smaller and more casual than Extraordinary Desserts but I think a perfect afternoon would be perusing the antique stores on Newport Av. and then stopping and getting some coffee and dessert at Azucar. The cakes are mini sized and mini priced (your waistline and wallet will thank you!) but still feel very high-end and complex, with ingredients like passion fruit curd, flambeed pineapple, and champagne infused chocolate.

Azucar's Cake Display

Azucar’s Cake Display

You can also get yummy sandwiches (try the Cuban naturally) as well as amazing coffee. They also do more casual pastries like their flaky pastries with guava or cheese, ham croquettes, cookies, brownies, scones and cupcakes, etc. Personally I prefer their sweet to their savoury. As a disclaimer I will say that in life I also prefer sweet to savoury.

Azucar's Cake Display

Azucar’s Cake Display

As far as their more elaborate little cakes these are an incredibly affordable $6 bucks. One of my favorites is a white cake with passion fruit curd, raspberries, and a marshmallow toasted top. Next on my to try list is one that had rum soaked cake layered with coconut cream and flambeed pineapple. And their birthday cake is also inspired by the Momofuku birthday cake which would please anyone with a super sweet tooth. However, what I actually got this time was a white layer cake with dulce de leche filling and a vanilla frosting with sprinkles. Behold.

Vanilla Cake with Dulce de Leche

Vanilla Cake with Dulce de Leche

Sprinkle Close Up

Sprinkle Close Up

It WAS delicious. A little too sweet with the frosting but I tend to not be a big frosting person anyways. The cake is so moist and flecked with little vanilla beans (play find the specks on the first image of this post!). It pairs incredibly well with dulce de leche because really what doesn’t pair well with dulce de leche.

The other item I tried was their mojito cookie. This was awesome. The cookie is thin but chewy and a light green inside, topped with granulated sugar. It really does taste like a mojito sans the alcohol component. But the fresh mint and lime flavor with the texture from the granulated sugar really makes this cookie. And yes I had a bite on the way home before I was able to take a picture of it. Life happens.

Mojito Cookie

Mojito Cookie

Mojito Cookie

Mojito Cookie

Mojito Cookie - So green!

Mojito Cookie – So green!

I’d like to also point out that the service at Azucar is great. Everyone is really friendly and they don’t mind at all when people like me stand there for 20 minutes and read all the descriptions of every cake 3 times before deciding what I want to take home. Usually when I’m picking desserts there’s 2 that stand out of maybe 10 options but here I think I could’ve been happy with almost any of the cakes. It helps that I like that they use Latin inspired ingredients like tropical fruits and dulce de leche (which I love). Until next time I’m in OB I guess…

Azucar

Azucar

Azucar

4820 Newport Ave, San Diego, CA 92107
(619) 523-2020

http://iloveazucar.com/