Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Vegan Zone, Pacific Beach

It still shocks me that for such a gastronomical explorer such as myself the majority of my friends in San Diego have aligned themselves with the vegan movement! Focusing on the glass-half-full mentality, this does offer me the opportunity to dine at establishments that I might tend to overlook, or at least not actively seek out. One of these is Vegan Zone, an all-vegan restaurant in Pacific Beach, somewhat off the beaten track on Hornblend Street just a few blocks from the beach. Our Bostonian friend assured us that though small, the selections were good and prices reasonable for the animal-friendly Asian bistro. We stopped by for snacks and light fare, and with seating for only about 25, at 3 o'clock the place was deserted.

The menu was standard Asian fare sans any animal product, but looked tasty and the prices decent. We shared an order of the Golden Nuggets (fried soy chicken nuggets) with their "barbeque sauce", which tasted like cocktail sauce mixed with BBQ sauce with a dash of black pepper. Not the greatest, or even exciting, but not bad by any means. A clean presentation added some bonus points.

Ashton got the Tom Yum soup (traditional Thai soup flavored with khaffir limes leaves, chili and lemon grass served with soy shrimp, straw mushrooms and tomotoes), which was great! Served hot in a crisp white bowl, it was chock full of fresh ingredients and the perfect amount of lemongrass. The faux shrimp was wonderful and made me believe it was swimming in the sea only a few short hours ago. For $5, it was a lip-smacking delight.

For vegans, definitely a place worth trying. I can't vouch for the quality of the entrees, but based on the solid ingredients and elegant presentation, I'd guess that it would be a nice experience!

Vegan Zone
859 Hornblend St
San Diego Ca 92109
Delivery/Take Out

Tuesday - Sunday
11:30am - 9:30pm
Closed on Mondays

Monday, September 28, 2009

The Station

South Park is what I consider to be the "mature" North Park. For as much as North Park is booming and expanding with plenty of art galleries, shops, and restaurants opening up, South Park enjoys a slightly more established neighborhood and quieter tree-lined blocks, along with a closer vicinity to Downtown. It's one of my favorite neighborhoods in San Diego, with a small but solid community of local businesses ranging from family-owned delis, a fixed gear bicycle shop, the quintessential corner coffee joint, and now a new tavern to boast as their own- The Station Tavern and Burger Lounge on 30th.

The Station opened its doors the last week of August 2009, and had an absolutely insane soft opening. Owner Sam has already had a successful run in his other ventures, with include the Riviera Supper Club in La Mesa, Turf Club in Golden Hill, and a couple other establishments that San Diegans are more than happy to frequent. People poured in from all directions, and it seemed like South Parkians had really claimed this as their own place on their own turf. I worked a few shifts there running food and waiting tables, and this is EXACTLY the type of place I'm likely to frequent. Tons of regulars, good tunes on the stereo, small but solid menu, and some good brews. There's not much of a selection, so unless you're in the mood for a burger you're SOL. There's only 5 beers on draft, and 4 available in bottles, but with selections like Stove Leviathan Ale, Paulaner Oktoberfest, Tiger, and a few more, you're bound to find something to tantalize your tastebuds. The menu is simple- burgers. Hamburgers, cheeseburgers, black bean, turkey, or veggie. That's it. Your side choices are fries, tater tots, garlic fries, sweet potato fries, or a house salad. Personally, I'll recommend the Spicy Black Bean burger with either tots or sweet potato fries. I wouldn't steer you wrong!

Like I said, don't bother going unless you're in the mood for a great burger and good times. The bar is an inviting curvaceous triangle, and The Station offers outdoor and indoor seating with great corner views of the nearby streets. Kid-friendly gravel lines the outside patio, with a bona fide choo-choo for the younguns to play in. A fun decor is splashed inside, with multicolored faux train lights above the tables, and if you're looking to rest your tired tootsies at the bar, just plop them on top of the train rails that line the bar wall!

What they lack in choice they make up in quality. You can spruce up your burger with caramelized onions, avocado, or dip your fries in their feta-red pepper-paprika aioli, or perhaps smear their cilantro/lime sauce on your veggie burger. Whatever you get is sure to please.

The Station gets an A for atmosphere, price, quality, and service. Now add a few things to the menu, open for lunch, and you'll have an unbeatable place!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Broken Yolk Cafe- Pacific Beach

As breakfast/brunch enthusiasts, we had yet to experience the oft-recommended Broken Yolk Cafe, which is known throughout San Diego as a great place to grab a diner-style breakfast anytime with an emphasis on quick, cheap comfort food. Quick, cheap, and comfortable- now that's speaking my language! As hunger tore through our insides one fine day in Pacific Beach, we realized our close vicinity to the fabled eatery, and decided to make a long-overdue stop there. The menu offers all breakfast staples, plus some hispanic flair scrambles and omelets, along with burgers, sandwiches, soups, and salads. Nothing out of the ordinary for this place, and I hoped to find some good homestyle cookin' without all the unnecessary trappings.

What I found is pretty much what I should have expected. Nothing extraordinary, basic ingredients and assemblage, and my Rueben was exactly satisfactory. I WAS pleased with the inclusion of a side pepperocini with my sandwich! However, the omelets seemed to be the pride of the establishment, fully loaded with ingredients and toppings to create a mountainous effect of spilling off the plate. Ashton's Rancher Omelet (bacon, home fried potatoes, bell peppers, tomato, green onion, and topped with sour cream) was an experience in delicious, with perfectly beaten eggs, a generous amount of sour cream, and filled to the brim with fresh ingredients, crisp bacon, and some damn good potatoes.

All things considered, not a bad place to snag some breakfast. With 4 locations, they're doing something right, and based on what I saw I'd say it's attracting tourists who want to eat something they can get at home. Their slogan is "We've got Huevos", and it shows. I'd recommend sticking to the egg dishes, and skipping the sandwich/salad options. A perfectly average experience with the potential of being somewhat tasty with quick service.

Rueben Sandwich

Rancher Omelet

Broken Yolk Cafe
Pacific Beach
1851 Garnet Ave. Pacific Beach, Ca. 92109
858-270-YOLK (9655)

*884 Eastlake Pkwy. Chula Vista, Ca 91914
619-216-1144 (Village Walk Mall)

La Costa
7670 El Camino Real, Carlsbad, Ca 92009

355 6th Ave. San Diego, CA 92101
619-338-YOLK (9655)

Friday, September 25, 2009

The Bruery- Autumn Maple

Ah, autumn. Time for pumpkin pie, zucchini bread, spices, cinnamon cookies, and of course Oktoberfest! Autumn is my personal favorite time of year for exciting flavors that really bring out the season, and Fall brews are, in my opinion, the absolute best for experimentation and production of a variety of flavors. The Bruery is a relatively new brewery in California that I was introduced to at the Whole Foods tasting (blogged about here), and I was hooked immediately. America is going through an exciting explosion of microbreweries and beer connoisseurs that are being born daily across this nation. The Bruery is family-owned and becoming increasingly more available, and just released the first casks of their Autumn Maple bottles, which we were lucky enough to spot at Whole Foods during our search for Gyro ingredients.

I'm not a giant fan of Pumpkin beer. It's pretty plain, and somewhat gratuitous, but a good fall brew is a beautiful thing. There isn't a single pumpkin to be found in the Bruery's Brown Ale, but they do include about 17 lbs. of yams per barrel! This lends itself beautifully to the crisp and incredibly flavorful taste with hints of molasses and maple, and with 10% what's not to like? There isn't even the slightest hint of over-alcohol-y taste, and it goes down oh-so-smooth. A definite recommendation from an intense Autumn Beer enthusiast!!

Photo courtesy of

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Pizza Port Solana Beach

I have discovered my new favorite place to grub. Let me just tell you, this is not whatsoever a minor thing to declare. It's not terribly hard to impress me with pizza and beer, but Pizza Port, established in 1987, takes it to an entirely new level. One of my best friends and the person responsible for my foodie-ism, Andy, arrived in San Diego for his first ever West Coast trip for a weekend in which we planned on spending the majority of the time inebriated with beer and also food. We knew that only the best of the best could be considered for his short time here, and Pizza Port came highly recommended from several sources. You can't really go wrong with a good pie with a nice selection of beer, and I can assure you that Pizza Port has both. We drove to the closest one of three, the original location in Solana Beach on Highway 101 (the other locations are San Clemente and Carlsbad), and the line at 6:30 PM on a Saturday was understandably out the door. However, our determination fueled us to stand our ground and surprisingly the line moved faster than expected. I had my doubts as to the possibility of sitting based on the communal sitting arrangement of picnic tables and a few bar tables outside, but in the 15 or so minutes it took us to order our pies there was enough coming and going of patrons that it wasn't a problem. For parties larger than 3 it might have been more problematic, but with a watchful eye and a quick pounce for spaces opening up you should be fine.

We had decided to get 2 small pizzas, the Carlsbad (Pesto, mesquite grilled chicken, sundried tomatoes, artichoke hearts, & feta) and the Monterey (Pepperoni, mushrooms, onions, & artichoke hearts) sans onions, but at the recommendation of the cashier who assured us that getting a medium half-and-half was not only bigger, but cheaper, we obviously jumped at the chance. At the recommendation from my cousin (an Encinitas native and Pizza Port enthusiast) we also got an order of garlic Beer Buddies (Bite sized pieces of signature crust or wholegrain beer crust brushed with GARLIC or CAJUN SPICE served with Ranch dressing or Marinara sauce) to snack on while we enjoyed a few brews while awaiting our meal. The medium pizza measuring 14" seemed to be enough for 3 hungry twentysomethings who planned on filling up with a few beers as well, and it ended up being just the right amount.

Besides being told about their great pizza, Pizza Port's other claim to fame is their un-bottled, cask-only homemade brews that are only available in-house or at select local retailers. They had about 12-15 house beers available along with an assortment of local brews for those who can't live without their favorites. At the recommendation of the bartender, my first beer was the California Honey Ale (recommended for those who enjoy a good lager). Despite the name, it was not thick or syrupy at all, but extremely crisp and refreshing. For a house beer, a fantastic selection. Since I was driving, over the 2 or so hours we spent dining, I only enjoyed two refreshing beers, but both were top-notch. The second beer was the Cardiff Chronic, an amber ale with absolutely no bitterness an a medium body. The color was slightly deceptive, and I anticipated a much maltier finish, but happily it sailed down my tongue without leaving the wince often left behind with heavier amber ales. That particular pint is pictured below on the far left, with the house porter and the house Belgian-style, both excellent.

For a guaranteed great experience, kid friendly, casual, inexpensive but fun, be sure to check out any of the locations. I can guarantee you'll most likely run into me there!

Port Solana Beach
135 N. Highway 101
Solana Beach, CA 92075
(858) 481-7332

Port San Clemente
301 N. El Camino Real
San Clemente, CA 92672
(949) 940-0005

Port Carlsbad
571 Carlsbad Village
Carlsbad, CA 92008
(760) 720-7007

Monday, September 21, 2009

World Championship Competitive Eating- Grits!

Only in the American South would such an event take place. As a relatively new south-of-the-Mason-Dixon-line transplant to California, grits are one of the few food items that I was confident not to experience superiority in San Diego. It's like expecting to find great pizza in L.A., or jambalaya in Wisconsin. It's just not going to happen. There are certain dishes that can't be experienced to their full potential anywhere but the source. These competitive eaters take it to an entirely new level, with the winner Tim Janus taking home top honors from Louisiana with a belly full of 14 lbs. of the stuff. That's nowhere near the record of 21 lbs. set in 2007 by Pat Bertoletti, but still an impressive stat!

Movie courtesy of iReport CNN.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Nature's Express

"Meat is murder!" Even as a proud carnivore, the vegan movement is consistently on the rise and awareness of animal cruelty for food purposes is increasing with every day. More and more alternative options are being made available for those who still enjoy eating out and wish to maintain an animal-free lifestyle. Nature's Express is an all vegan and organic DRIVE THRU for vegans on the go! With 2 locations, on in Yuma, AZ and San Diego, CA, this is the first vegan drive thru that I have personally seen/heard of. Formerly Kung Food, the San Diego location boasts an in-house buffet option where you pay by the ounce, and also a drive thru with an indoor and outdoor seating area. The menu is extensive and completely animal free, with catering also available.

On the recommendation of several vegan and non-vegan friends alike, we made the short trek just next to Balboa Park, and I was surprised at the variety of options. I settled on the "Chick'n" Chipotle Sandwich and sweet potato fries, while Ashton opted for the Pesto Burger and our vegetarian friend Joe got the pre-made Tofu Pesto wrap. Unfortunately for Joe, the wrap was a little bit TOO fresh, and some tufts of mold were apparent inside the wrap. He replaced it with his own Pesto Burger, and was extremely satisfied with the switch. I thought the Chipotle chicken sandwich was just great. The chipotle sauce that they used tasted fantastic, a far cry from many of the vegan sauces I've tried, and the fake chicken was cooked firmly and was as close to real chicken as fake chicken can get! I was expecting to get some soggy patty quickly thrown together like "fast" food, but with a 10-15 minute wait it appeared as though they were cooked to order, and cooked RIGHT!

The sweet potato fries were equally delicious. Not greasy at all, cooked crisply but not burned, and an ample amount to share. Even their water was tasty- inside the tank floated fresh cucumber slices to add just a hint of flavor and hydrate to the maximum! All in all, it's definitely worth the try and repeat visits, especially from hungry vegans craving deliciousness!

Nature's Express
2949 5th Avenue (at Quince)
San Diego, CA 92103
F: 928.317.8304
Dining room open: 11am—8pm Daily
Drive-thru open: 11am—10pm Daily

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Kiki Sushi

Sushi is not something I take lightly. I don't like to waste my time with anything other than remarkable-to-the-point-of-giving-me-a-food-orgasm sushi. I hadn't heard much about Kiki Sushi on University in Hillcrest, but thought I'd give it a shot with some friends when the opportunity arose. Hey, you never know when you're going to find the best sushi place on a whim!

However, I didn't have huge expectations going in. Generally, I find the best sushi at hole-in-the-wall places tucked away, dark, tiny, and full of Asians. Kiki Sushi is large, bright, in a small strip mall on the corner and just screamed Americana Sushi, which is NOT what I am looking for. I want authentic, fresh, amazing sushi served to me by a tiny woman who doesn't understand "Tuna" but nods approvingly when you order "O-Toro". The menu was pretty cheesy, but I suppose the pictures of the rolls were helpful to those who are ignorant when it comes to ordering. Decent selections, seemed to be geared more towards "value" sushi which is a GIANT RED FLAG to me. However, I ordered the Sushi sampler and the Harumaki (Japanese egg rolls) to start, and waited to be impressed.

The only thing that really impressed me was their use of actual crab meat in the rolls. Unfortunately, America seems to love imitation crab more than shootin' guns and eating hamburgers. Imitation crab is now the absolute standard for rolls everywhere, and let me let you in on a little secret. THEY DON'T TASTE THE SAME. Their crab was a pleasant addition to their rolls, which overall I'd rate a B-. I'm looking to be wowed, not simply satisfied with my sushi. The fish was fresh and tasty, but obviously not of the highest quality. The tuna lacked real sustenance, and the salmon was mediocre at best. Actually, the squid (ika) was very tasty and a great consistency. The Harumaki should be avoided by anyone looking to have an experience differing from Chinese takeout. I couldn't tell the difference between that and a deep-fried egg roll from a cheap Chinese to go place to save my life. The sauce was sticky and of the most mediocre flavor. Skip it.

Will I be going back to Kiki? Most likely no. However, if you're looking to have a bargain experience with a sushi newbie who wants a Bento Box for a great deal, I'd recommend it.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Westgate Pizza- Bethlehem, PA

For over 30 years, Westgate Pizza in Bethlehem, PA has been a family-owned town icon with a fantastic variety of pizzas, subs, stromboli, and more. Luckily, the lovely Marylou Ivey, native of Bethlehem, knew just where we should stop on our journey to Vermont. After a quick tour of the town (voted #88 of the 100 Top American Cities to Live in!), we stopped here to begin what would prove to be The Greatest Week of Eating in the History of Beth. Scott and I were overwhelmed as first time visitors, but Ashton took charge and made some great suggestions. Eventually I settled on the "small" stromboli, and weighing in at about 1-2 lbs. of pure cheese, meat, and veggies it was anything but small. I got through about half before I succumbed to the food coma threatening to pop my buttons and expose my quickly swelling belly. Ashton and Scott stuck to the famous cheesesteaks, and were kind enough to share bites of the majestic concoctions. The marinara they provided as a dip wasn't the greatest, but the hot n' heavy sandwiches and stromboli more than made up for it.

As if we needed more, their perogies couldn't be passed up, and they were great. Obviously quality, the edges had just a tiny crisp while the molten middle melted in my mouth. My only regret is that I didn't have another stomach to try the Sicilian Pizza, which was voted BEST PIZZA in 2000. If you're in the mood to drool, check out the menu, and if you find yourself in the neighborhood I assure you that anything you get will be fantastic. There are few things better than a greasy hot sandwich from a local deli, and I'm hoping to make a repeat visit to this one in the future.

Westgate Pizza
Located in the Westgate Mall, next to Eckert Drug
Bethlehem, PA

Tuesday, September 8, 2009


The LBC! Home to the Queen Mary, Port of Long Beach, Snoop Dogg, and Roscoe's! One of the 5 locations in Southern California, this monument to the infamous chicken and waffle combination requires a hajj by foodies everywhere. Not only am I a huge Snoop Dogg enthusiast, I had never had the pleasure of experiencing this seemingly wonderful combo. What better opportunity than the present?!?! In true Doggfather style we rolled up 6 deep and hit the bar while we waited for our table. Even at 9:30 PM on a Sunday this place was packed!

Believe me when I say the ambiance of the place is cheap. Neon lights, wood siding, and old-fashioned trappings that looked like they haven't seen an update in about 30 years. Nonetheless, under the neon flickers and decades-faded paint job the place was bustling and the food looked solid. Our server D. was one of the best servers I've had. No kidding. I'm not talking about fancy schmancy schmoozing, I'm talking about get down to business pleasantries and fast, accurate service. Truly a pleasure to have him serving us. I even asked him what if the grits were any good, and since I'm from South of the Mason-Dixon line he couldn't fool me. He didn't know what that meant, but offered me a free plate of grits for me to make up my own mind! They were fine, by the way.

In our inebriated state everything looked like the best option, so finally I decided on a #9 Country Boy- 3 wings with a waffle. The service was fast, despite the crowds, and the waffle was great. Not anything standing head and shoulders above regular batter, but I have an inkling that the atmosphere lent itself well to the experience. The wings, unfortunately, were pretty tough and nearly meatless- nothing a little ranch dressing couldn't fix! Actually, the ranch was great. Nice and thick, not the cheapest variety to be had.

All in all, the experience outweighed the food, but the next time I find myself in Long Beach with the munchies, it will be the first place I go!

Roscoe's Chicken and Waffles
730 E Broadway
Long Beach, CA

Monday, September 7, 2009

Frosted Cupcakery in Long Beach

This weekend my friend from Philly happened to be in Long Beach visiting her old roommate, so I thought I'd join them for a girl's weekend of drinking, debauchery, and of course massive guilt-free sugar consumption. After a lovely evening in which we were the absolute role models to young ladies everywhere, we grabbed some lunch in Belmont Shore and decided we deserved a hard-earned sweet fix. Luckily, Frosted Cupcakery was just across the street, and came recommended by our Long Beach resident friend.

I know that right now the big fads are "fro-yo" and cupcakes (of the two weddings I have attended this year, both have had cupcakes in place of a cake) so I was interested to see just what made these cupcakes so special. They had a nice selection of about 15 different varieties out, and I can assure you that every single one looked amazing. I was torn between a few, but ultimately settled on the Cookies n' Cream cupcake.

One (of many) thing(s) that I truly enjoyed about this cupcake was their masterful application of frosting. Here in America we are trained to think bigger is better, and more more more is preferred! It's sickening to see a stale, shabby looking cupcake with a mountain of frosting to try and disguise its poor exterior and bland flavor by relying on a never-ending swirl of mediocre sugar piled on top. This cupcake was moist and obviously had homemade icing gracing the top in a perfect amount of sweet goodness to fill the mouth.

Other selections were the Chocolate/Peanut Butter Buttercream and Red Velvet/Cream Cheese cupcakes, and since I have the best, most generous friends ever, I got to sample both in the name of food blogging. All of them were equally moist, fresh, light and still filling without having to depend on cheap sugar rush or artificial flavors to satisfy my sweet tooth.

On a nerdy design note, their interior designer and product designers are to be commended for their bang-up jobs making the interior feel modern and cozy, with matching packaging that really captures the spirit of whimsy that their branding just screams. Be sure to check out their blog as well for more eye-catching stuff!

Jess Pollard didn't have to think twice about her selection. The Orange/Cream Cheese cupcake she held in her hands disappeared in less time than is appropriate. I can't judge, I was the first to finish, even with my sneaked bites!

All in all, I completely get the cupcake fad. I can only hope it's here to stay!

Frosted Cupcakery
4817 E. 2nd Street
Long Beach, CA 90803