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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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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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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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/