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Quad AleHouse

  (4.33 overall)
Reviewed on 6/4/2015


I've got to tell ya, I've been pretty damn impressed with Quad Alehouse since it opened a few weeks back. After a long period of renovation, Gaslamp Tavern finally re-opened, and during the process, they converted the 3rd floor of their building into Quad.

The cuisine of Quad is mostly slow-cooked BBQ. They offer 5 different proteins (brisket, pork, turkey, lamb, and chicken) with a choice of preparations (sandwich, salad, plate. And of course, there are sides. In the times I've been there, I've had 4 of the meats...all as plates. And so far, I haven't been disappointed.

The best of the group thus far has been the pork. It's tender, moist, and flavorful. Quad has an assortment of house-made sauces available on the side, and the steak sauce is a great compliment.

There is also a modest array of side dishes. My advice here...get the mac and cheese. M&C is one of those dishes that is easy enough to make, but difficult to master. Quad's offering is a no-frills plate that focuses on quality. The noodles are large elbows and you really get the quality of the cheese - elegant in its simplicity but bold in flavor.

Quad also has a great craft beer selection, offering many San Diego classics and a few more that are harder to find.

The staff is really friendly and really passionate about this new little spot.

I rarely get excited about new restaurants that open up in the Gaslamp Quarter, but Quad is a place where I could see myself becoming a regular. Check it out if you get the chance.


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Half Door Brewing Co

  (4 overall)
Reviewed on 5/11/2015


This was my second time checking out Half Door. It's pretty new to the scene (just over 3 months) and has a very different look compared to the rest of downtown. They brew their own beer and always a plus (and getting more popular downtown).

This time out, I went with a couple of appetizers. The Scotch Eggs and Sausage Mac & Cheese to be exact. The Scotch eggs were pretty good. I'd never tried the dish before, but basically, it consists of a hard-boiled egg, wrapped in a layer of sausage, breaded and deep fried. Anyway, it was pretty good, and I'd get it again.

The Mac & Cheese was also a solid offering. It's pretty tough to mess up pasta and cheese, but I've seen it happen. Not here, though. The cheese sauce was very tasty and the larger pasta tubes held onto the sauce very well.

Both times I was here, the service at the bar has been friendly and on point. I'll definitely be back.

Oh, did I mention the beer? That is pretty good, too!


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Cocotte

  (4 overall)
Reviewed on 2/27/2015


I got a chance to catch up with an old friend today, and we ended up hitting Cocotte for lunch. So, this place used to be a restaurant of a similar concept called Wired, but apparently they're under new management.

They've got some interesting items on the lunch menu, but since Cocotte fancies itself a French restaurant, I figured I stay with that theme. To start out, I got a cup of the French Onion Soup and followed that up with a Croque Monsieur. The soup was a nice starter for a cloudy San Diego afternoon. It was topped with a gooey layer of cheese and wasn't lacking one bit in terms of onions. The flavor was great...this was a nice dish.

Next up was the sandwich. For those that don't know what a Croque Monsieur is, it's basically a ham sandwich with a bechamel sauce and Gruyère cheese. This one was as good as you'll find. The ham was very high quality and it's pretty tough to mess it up after that. It came with a side salad, which was a nice compliment to such an otherwise rich dish.

Cocotte is fairly new, but they're off to a good start. That little strip mall has a few good food options, and this latest edition only helps in that department.


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AJ’s Fish Merchant

  (3.67 overall)
Reviewed on 1/24/2015


This is a great little spot right near Cowles Mountain. I went in for a quick lunch because I had heard they accepted Bitcoin (it turns out they don't yet, but they're seriously considering it).

Their menu has a lot of great options. I started out with the crab cake appetizer. It was very well prepared and had great flavor; you could tell that the crab was fresh. Next up was the shrimp and grits. I got the small portion, but there was a ton of food (I can't imagine what the large looks like). The dish featured 4 shrimp over grits, topped with peppers, onions and chorizo. The shrimp was perfectly cooked but I could have used a bit more seasoning for the dish in general.

They had some interesting beer selections available (all in bottles and cans). I would definitely go back if I was in the area.


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Queenstown Public House

  (4.33 overall)
Reviewed on 1/12/2015


I've been to Queenstown Public a couple of times now and it's a nice change-of-pace from the usual Little Italy offerings. They're a New Zealand themed pub that specialized in quaintness, sporting a Victorian style look and putting their dog-friendliness front-and-center with a water bowl and treats right at the entrance.

Each time I've gone there, I've gotten a burger of some sort. This time, it was the Kiwilango burger. The bartender warned that I was going to be pretty hot, but I found it to be on the mild side (mind you, I eat a lot of spicy food). For a side dish, I went with the sweet potato fries. They actually serve them with blue cheese crumbles mixed in which I found puzzling. It wasn't particularly bad or good...just a strange flavor combination (perhaps it's a New Zealand thing).

All in all, I like Queenstown. The staff is friendly, the food is good, they've got some good beer options and it sports that super charming atmosphere. It's definitely a refreshing change of pace for the neighborhood.


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Dragon's Den

  (3.67 overall)
Reviewed on 1/12/2015


I've walked by Dragon's Den several times, but never thought to try it out. It has a very loungie vibe and didn't strike me as a place that would have great sushi. Recently, someone had recommended it as a worthy spot, so I finally broke down and checked it out with a buddy.

They had a pretty extensive menu of sushi options. Being a fan of variety, I went with the sushi bento box. It had all of the usual bento options (salad, tempura vegetables, California roll, etc.) plus 5 pieces of sushi (salmon, tuna, shrimp, and a couple of white fish). The quality was good and I cleared off the box in record time.

They've also got some interesting beer options and craft cocktails (if that's your thing). I wouldn't mark this place as a destination restaurant, but if you're checking out a game or a convention, this is a down-to-earth spot that does a pretty good job.


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Extraordinary Desserts

  (4 overall)
Reviewed on 1/12/2015


I had been to the Bankers Hill location of ED and had the best dessert I've ever tried...the chocolate chip croissant bread pudding. This was a few years back and I figured I'd grab another one before going into health mode for the new year. Since the Little Italy spot is closer, though, I made that the destination.

This was my first time here and I was surprised to see that it's more of a full restaurant. They even have a bar with beer and wine and a pretty extensive lunch menu. I wanted to make sure they had the bread pudding dish that I craved before sitting down, and hostess was nice enough to check it out and confirm for me that it was there.

This version of the dish was different than I had remembered. It was served in a ramekin and the top portion of the dish crispy. The plate was wildly adorned with rose petals (or something similar). The portion is huge and I was only able to eat about half. It was definitely very tasty, but didn't have the magic that I had remembered from the other location a few years ago.

It's still a good option, but now I want to check out Bankers Hill again to do a more comprehensive comparison. I'll keep you posted.


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Table No 10

  (4.67 overall)
Reviewed on 10/2/2014


There's a lot of restaurant mediocrity in downtown San Diego, so when a new restaurant opens, it can be tough to get too excited. Based on that context, I was floored by the amazing experience we had at Table 10. The menu had some really interesting options and we got a chance to try quite a few. For appetizers, we ordered up the octopus, scallops, and a deviled eggs special.

Everything that I tried that night was prepared with expert precision. The octopus (which is easily overcooked) was delicate and tender and the mild flavor paired nicely with the sausage. The scallops were also perfectly cooked, and also brilliantly paired with small triangles of pork belly. As we learned, they do a deviled egg of the day, and on this day, they tried to capture the flavors of a sweet breakfast, infusing highlights of maple syrup and berries.

For and entree, I went with the beef brisket dish. It was a nice-sized slab of Kobe beef, topped with onions and a tangy BBQ sauce. On the side was a nice pair of buttered Texas toast slices. All in all, this plate was authentic and true to its inspiration.

Our server knew the menu up-and-down and was extremely attentive (almost too much so). He was full of recommendations and was extremely passionate about the food. They also had an extensive craft cocktail menu, but I mostly stuck to wine and scotch.

I'm definitely happy to welcome Table 10 to the neighborhood. I hope they can maintain the ultra-high standards they set on our first visit. This place is a must-try!


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Comun Kitchen & Tavern

  (3 overall)
Reviewed on 10/2/2014


One of the new kids on the block in downtown San Diego is Comun. It's been open for a couple of months now and I got a chance to try it out the other day, heading in for a late lunch.

The menu was interesting and featured tostadas and acai bowls while also sporting some salads bowls and small plates. Because it was late in the afternoon, not all of the items were available, so I went with a couple of tostadas. Based on some recommendations from the bartender, I went with an octopus and a carnitas.

They were OK but nothing to write home about. The both the carnitas and octopus were a bit overdone, causing the octopus to be a bit chewy (I recently had and amazing octopus dish so perhaps I was expecting a bit too much) and the carnitas to be on the dry side. Other than that, the flavors were pretty good. The tostada shell was really good and reminded me of Fritos corn chips. To wash it down, I had a really nice Cab-Franc by the glass.

All in all, I wasn't super impressed, but I'd be willing to give it another chance. Certainly not a bad experience...just nothing to write home about.


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Lucha Libre Gourmet Taco Shop

  (3.67 overall)
Reviewed on 8/14/2014


The weren't messing around when they named this place Lucha Libre Taco Shop. The interior is adorned with the lavish and gaudy gear associated with the high-flying Mexican wrestling style.

I got there during the peak of the Thursday lunch rush and the line was out the door. Fortunately, it moved pretty quickly and I had ordered in no time at all. On top of the my food came out super fast.

Speaking of my food, you're probably wondering exactly what that was. For some reason, the Surf & Turf burrito called out to me. It was a pretty good sized tortilla (but not too big) filled with carne asada, shrimp, avocado, rice, and one of their signature salsas. The burrito definitely hit the spot. The salsa ensured plenty of spicy flavor and the shrimp was cooked well (I was half expecting them to be over-done, but they were just right). The steak was fine, too but was overpowered by the other ingredients. Add a bottle of H2O, and the whole thing ran me just 10 bucks. Pretty good value.

Apparently this place had been featured on one of the food network shows (Man vs Food) but don't let that dissuade you (my experience with Food Network featured restaurants has been less than stellar). The high-valued grub and unique atmosphere certainly warrants a visit for Mexican food fans.


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FOX Sports Grill

  (3 overall)
Reviewed on 8/4/2014


I recall sitting at the bar at the Ruth's Chris in Del Mar Heights and talking to a very nice couple. We started discussing restaurants and they ended up offering that the Fox Sports Grill was one of their favorite spots in SD. They seemed very knowledgable about food and dining out, so I was glad to hear about this hidden gem. Mind you, this was a few years back, and I've tried it out a few times since getting the recommendation. I don't expect to ever see the couple again, but if I did, I would have to ask what the hell they are thinking.

Fox Sports Bar offers up mediocre, over-priced, pub fare. It's not bad, mind you...just completely cliche and nondescript. They've got a decent beer selection and decent bar area and the wide array of televisions probably makes for a decent sports watching experience. I think the last time I was there I had a burger of some sort and I think it probably tasted fine.

Maybe I'm just disappointed that Fox Sports Grill didn't live up to the high expectations I had. Again, there's nothing glaringly wrong with the place, and if you're staying in the hotel or attending Comic Con, there's a definite convenience factor. Just don't expect much more than you'd find at a Fridays/Chilis/Bennigans/etc.



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Rigoberto's Taco Shop

  (3 overall)
Reviewed on 6/29/2014


What can one say about Rigoberto's? The food is pretty good for the money, but this is certainly no 5-star restaurant. We had actually gone to the nearby Saint Archer tasting room and wound up at this little taco shop on a short walk searching for food. I got a carnitas burrito and a beef taco. Both were good, but the burrito was excellent. The place was a bit on the dirty side and the table next to ours was missing the seat to its chair, but if your expectations are property calibrated and you just want a quick and inexpensive bite of Mexican fare...this is not a terrible option.


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Rare Form

  (4.33 overall)
Reviewed on 6/21/2014


The gang from Consortium Holdings is at it again, this time taking on East Village...and more specifically, PETCO park. It was their third day open when I went down to check out the scene. Upon entering, I was warmly greeted and given the rundown by a member of the wait staff.

The service model is a bit strange. The restaurant layout, complete with bar and dining room, looks like your standard "please wait to be seated" affair. However, they seem to be trying out a deli hybrid. I was handed a menu and then needed to head to their register to order. I was then given a number and told to sit anyplace I liked (as usual, I opted for the bar). After my first drink was complete, I was able to order subsequent drinks from the bartender. Anyway, enough of that.

The menu features many deli-style sandwiches and there were a lot of thins I wanted to try. After a few minutes of deliberation, I opted for an Italian style pork sandwich. It was slow-roasted pork on a french roll served with melted provolone and braised kale. As far as the sandwich goes, they got everything right. The pork was tender and there was lots of it. The kale added a great depth of flavor and every bite just melted in my mouth. I can't remember having a better sandwich in recent memory (maybe Whisknladle). My only gripe was the fries, but they would have been great if they had been a bit fresher.

The beer selection was pretty good, but there is a Stone Tasting room right next door, so there are surely plenty of options. Also, they had the standard 10-or-so craft cocktail options.

Rare Form is definitely a welcome addition to the Gaslamp. Let's hope they can keep it going.



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Juniper And Ivy

  (4.33 overall)
Reviewed on 6/6/2014


Lookout, Brian Malarkey...there's a new top chef in town. Juniper and Ivy is a culinary project recently opened by celebrity chef, Richard Blais, and I got to check it out for the second time the other day. We got there just after 5 on a Tuesday and were lucky to get a table without a reservation (it may have been the only one available). Since there was a seven o'clock show on the horizon, time was of the essence.

To start out, we received some complimentary bite-sized biscuits which were warm and flaky. After a quick perusal of the menu, I ended up going with the raw oysters to start and the halibut entree. The oysters were on the small side compared to what I'm generally used to (Oceanaire and Ironside) but the presentation was just awesome. They were served on a plate that resembled the ocean floor itself and the horseradish "pearls" were a nice compliment. Also during the appetizer course, as food was being shared, I got to try a crab fritter which was also tasty.

Next up was the Halibut. The menu boasted pork belly, but the taste of swine was barely detectable. Otherwise the sauce and vegetables were a perfect compliment to the delicate taste of the fish. The halibut itself was a touch over-cooked, which is unfortunate because it was close to being a perfect dish.

Our server was really friendly and hyper-attentive. He recommended a great bottle of wine for the table (Provocateur Pinot Noir) that worked well with all of our dishes. We didn't have time for dessert, but each received a complimentary brownie bite which tasted great and was awesomely moist. This was a nice and unexpected treat as we were heading out.

The first time I tried J&I (the first week it opened) was good too, although I remember leaving thinking everything carried a slight taste of smoke, but I didn't get that this time.

Congratulations to Chef Blais on a great start with Juniper & Ivy. I expect to be back soon.


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Acme Southern Kitchen

  (4 overall)
Reviewed on 5/12/2014


The area of downtown San Diego around the post office and the old public library is colloquially known (and only by me) as "Hobo Town Hall". Recently, a new eatery has popped up in this landmark neighborhood and they're peddling soul food. I don't now how many hobos will become patrons, but after giving it a shot this past week, I know I'll be back.

Acme sports a small menu sporting many staples of southern cuisine. It was pretty slow when we went; it was about eight on a Tuesday night, though so I don't hold that against them. We started out with a couple of appetizers...the deviled eggs and fried green tomatoes. Both were really good. The FGT sported the perfect amount of batter and were nicely firm inside. The eggs had a great flavor and each came with a small wedge of radish which added a nice bite of crispy texture...a nice touch, indeed.

For an entree, I went with the meatloaf, which came with a choice of two sides. The meatloaf itself was good although just a bit dry. It came smothered in sauce so the dryness wasn't too big a deal. For sides, I opted for the mac & cheese and collard greens. The mac & cheese was tasty but nothing to write home about as it a bit bland. The collard greens, on the other hand, were just awesome. They were masterfully seasoned and definitely had that down-home feel (whatever that is).

The portions were huge and we were stuffed, so dessert was off the table.

The beer list was small but well curated. I went with a Modern Times Hoppy Amber (first time for me) which was right up my alley.

All in all, the meal was well done and hugely satisfying. I can't wait to get back and try in again.


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JRDN

  (4.33 overall)
Reviewed on 3/31/2014


I don't make it down to PB very much these days. I think it's a cross between hating the inevitable shitstorm of traffic, the miserable parking, and just being a bit too old for that scene. I did get in there for lunch recently, though and discovered this little gem.

JRDN is a hotel restaurant that sits directly on the beach making their outside seating worth the trip all by itself. There were a few interesting items on the menu, but wound up going with the lobster BLT. Admittedly, I was a bit leery that the delicate flavor of lobster would be overpowered by the bacon, but I was pleasantly surprised to be wrong on that count. The lobster meat was perfectly cooked and tender. Nothing kills lobster more than cooking it to a bubble-gum like consistency, but that wasn't the case here.

Service was fine and the horrible PB parking debacle was overcome with the restaurant's valet service. I wish they were a bit closer to home but that lobster roll just might lure me back to the area again sometime soon.


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Panera Bread

  (3.67 overall)
Reviewed on 1/29/2014


I'll make this one short and sweet. I've heard great things about Panera over the years, but never quite made it in for a bite. Having seen a commercial for their the Protein Breakfast Sandwich, I felt compelled to go in and check it out. The sandwich itself is tasty and and seems very healthy. It's two slices of whole grain bread with egg, smoked ham, and cheese. It's a smallish portion, but a great size for a quick breakfast. I was really impressed with the price, costing less than 5 bucks.

This is a great value bite that made me feel just a little bit health in the morning. I'll be curious to explore more of their menu.


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Pizzeria Luigi

  (4 overall)
Reviewed on 1/9/2014


I finally got a chance to check out Pizzeria Luigi today. I had gotten an chance to check out their Little Italy location (R.I.P.) a few years back and just didn't see what the fuss was about (they were featured on the Food Network show Diners Drive Ins & Dives back in the day). The Golden Hill location is quite a bit better, and almost worthy of the praise.

The atmosphere is replete with the vaunted hipster vibe that is so common in SD. They've got a large counter of pies that are available by the slice, but we decided to get one of their specialty pizzas cooked to order - The Capone to be precise. It comes with pepperoni, meatball, and sausage.

The crust was perfectly crisp, the distribution of toppings was nigh-ideal. It came out of the oven piping hot and needed a few minutes before it could be eaten without causing 3rd degree burns to the tender roof of my mouth. It was pretty good size and I could only take down 3 of the slices.

There were a couple of small hiccups I encountered. First, they don't accept credit cards, so make sure you hit the ATM before you pay. Also, my chair was missing the "food" of one of the legs, making it quite wobbly. This was easily rectified by swapping out my seat with one from a nearby table.

They've got a pretty good selection of bottled beer and a few good local options on tap, too. All in all, I have to say I was pretty impressed with PL. It's pretty close by, so I'm sure I'll be back soon.


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Stacked

  (3.67 overall)
Reviewed on 1/3/2014


It's not very often that you get to see service model innovation in restaurants, so I guess you can call today a rare treat. STACKED looms in one of the outside corners of Fashion Valley mall and offers up a decent selection of pub food, vibrant decor, and iPad menus for browsing and ordering.

I went in for lunch and sat at the bar. The bartender quickly came over and offered me a me a choice of a paper menu or iPad. Of course, this is really no choice at all..."gimme the iPad, pleez" my inner nerd thought - and throw in an Arrogant Bastard, too.

The software is pretty full featured but not always intuitive. Regardless, the ordering process is fun. You can browse sections of the menu and build or modify dishes by dragging and dropping ingredients to and from the plate. When you're ready, you can place the order (in full or part) and even pay when you're finished with the attached credit card reader and have your receipt emailed to you. Thanks Jobs!

I guess you'll want to hear about the food, too. I ordered up their "Meat-a-tarian" pizza which came with pepperoni, meatball, pork sausage, and a mix of peppers with tomato sauce and cheese. The flavor was good and the toppings were nicely cut and distributed. I found the crust a to be a weak spot for the otherwise great pie.

Service was prompt and the bartender was friendly and nice throughout the meal, taking the time to gab a bit even though my ordering needs had been sufficiently automated. I'm sure I'd go much more often if I didn't hate the mall. Hopefully there's a new location in the works soon.


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Time Out Sports Tavern

  (3 overall)
Reviewed on 12/19/2013


Time Out is a divey little bar that sits on the outskirts of downtown San Diego. Recently, I stopped in to watch a late football game and grab a bite. I've been in there a few times but they had never had a food menu before.

I ended up going with a burger (I believe it was the Timeout Burger). I've been eating a lot of burgers lately and this one falls approximately in the middle of the pack in terms of quality and value. It had two giant meat patties and was encased in melted cheddar cheese. The flavor was OK although the meat was a bit on the dry side for my taste.

The bartender was nice and service was prompt. I was one of three patrons at the bar, so it was a pretty chill time.

As sports-dive bars go, Time Out does a pretty good job. They have a non-pretentiousness that I like, which is rare for downtown. Now that they serve food, I'll definitely be in to check things out more frequently.


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