Thursday, June 22, 2017

Finding foods origins...where else but Circa!

2121 Adams Ave, University Heights, San Diego, CA
630pm, Sunday, June 18th


Changing seasonal menu*

  • Local Yellowfin Poke (kumquat vinaigrette is what makes this dish rock)
  • Tomato Soup (robust flavor and full bodied!)
  • House cut russet potato french fries w/ molasses ketchup and stone ground ale mustard
  • Niman Ranch Flat Iron Steak and Mashed Potatoes
  • Early Grey Creme' Brulee (idea spurned from a dessert wine)


  • Open since 2014 by Mike Almos and his wife Terri
  • Monday all night happy hour
  • Reservations high recommended
  • Open 5pm daily
  • $10 off all wine bottles on Wednesdays
  • Monthly special events posted on website and social media pages
  • Everything they serve is made from 100% scratch in house
  • Almost every dish on the menu has a story for how it came to be what it is. Just ask!
  • Mike's ingenuity as a chef is clear in his belief and concept of first finding a food ingredient he can craft into a unique dish vice a fixed dish that then ingredients to be found to make it work.
  • Mike is able to make any menu item custom for any customer. Gluten free, dairy free, wheat free, paleo, you name it, he can make it work for you.
  • This is an IDEAL place for a date night!


Mother nature is truly the best chef, better than any human can be. She always has been. A good chef should not try and steer the car with foods but rather act as a navigator to what mother natures course of action is with the foods she provides in their purest possible form." -Mike Almos

"What we really do here is to allow people to serve other people. In between this process, there is food and drink being exchanged yes, be we never ever forget the first part of our purpose." -Mike Almos

"There is no magic sauce, preparation method, secret recipe, or technique to making a good food taste good. Real food, fresh, wholesome, organic food already taste good. A chef's job is only to amplify, bolster and pair these great tasting real food ingredients to make them work together to taste even better or to bring about flavors and textures that allow the foods authenticity to be experienced by the consumer." -Mike Almos

These 3 lines (of many) Mike dropped on me during my near 2-hour amazing stay and debut visit to Circa. Heavy stuff yes! I was schooled in local sourcing, organic foods, natural cooking methods, the importance of using only the best ingredients in every dish, using what's in season......on top of getting to try some amazing food! A welcome education and insight to how great food is being made by a local restaurant and culinary mastermind. It's for this reason I ever started a blog (Circa March 2016) lol see what I did there.....


This place has the feel of a true family unit to it. Unlike I have seen almost anywhere else in town to be honest. Its a small joint, like 40 people max inside and maybe 6-8 outside. But because of this, it has a feel of a big family living room (with a bar). Intimate, casual, calm, welcoming. Its smaller size fits its intent and purpose to relate and integrate with the customers. Mike has no problems with this relating thing! Besides allowing me to feel like an old friend within minutes of sitting down, he must have spoken to every single person at the bar, gave hugs and handshakes to all the table seated guest and seemed to know everyone's first name. Not only that but Jason, my server and the primary floor server also knew everyone just the same! Talk about a family feel! If the term hidden gem ever had to be appropriately used to describe a venue I have been to then this is it. Truely tucked back on a corner block off he beaten path of Texas St and El Cajon Blvd in the very corner of University Heights, its easy to miss this place. Even I as a food blogger and 4 year resident of this city had only casually ever heard of Circa let alone know where it was. That's changed now! Amazing food that allows one to see what real food was meant to taste like, portions that are just right to hit the spot, prices worth every penny, and a staff that functions like a family. Yep.....A Better Bite is what you can expect here in the truest sense of the term.


Saturday, June 17, 2017

My taste goes Tiki: The Grass Skirt Debut

The Grass Skirt (SDCM Restaurant Group)
910 Grand Ave, San Diego, CA
6pm, Thursday, June 15th

  • Professor Feather (cocktail) (tropical fruit fans gonna love this!)
  • Prime Hanger Steak lettuce Wraps (grill your own steak on mini hibachi grill!)
  • Kimchi Fried Rice (nothing like you had before)
  • Fuji Albacore Tataki
  • Skuna Bay Salmon Cone
  • Tuna Cone
  • Korean Short Rib Bao Bun


  • Open Monday-Sunday 5pm-2am
  • First opened their doors in November 2016
  • Huge selection of unique and exotic cocktails and shareable punchbowls
  • Entrees are larger portions great for sharing
  • Most all other menu items are small plate and pupu samplers
  • Functions as its sister venue "Good Time Poke" during the day.
  • 3 drinks on the menu, when ordered, trigger a number of special effects like sounds of thunder and lightning and flames shown swirling on a screen behind the bar.


Having never been here before, this was a truly novel experience for both the taste buds and the eyes and ears. A true tiki style venue all decked out in traditional decor to really make one feel like they are in a fun, lighthearted, escapist tiki culture. The staff are kind, helpful and informative about all the drinks and menu items. Ben, the GM of Grass Skirt is a cool dude and seems to know every single person in the place I swear! Shaking hands and speaking with everyone. Chef Erin prepared all the amazing foods I tried and he is one smart dude! The little things he is doing to make dishes familiar yet different are very clear. He was able to walk me right through each dish as it came out as to what it was, why it was that way and what made it unique. I must agree, the bites I had were just that. This is the kind of place you come to with friends to for unique eats and great drinks/cocktails while rocking out your wildest tiki/Islander shirt. You forget your worries at the door and enjoy the momment......and this saying they have listed inside says why....


Thursday, June 15, 2017

Better Bites gone Baja Style: Pueblo

Pueblo, Modern-Baja-Costal
877 Hornbled St. Pacific Beach, San Diego, 6pm, Tuesday June 13th.


  • Tuna Tartar
  • Yellowtail Sashimi 
  • Grilled Octopus Crudo w/ blue corn chip base and black bean puree (crudo has never looked or tasted this good!)
  • Mussels w/ Mesquite smoked chorizo (the broth these are cooked in is amazing!)
  • Shrimp, Lobster and Carnitas Tacos
  • Pueblo Dessert Special


  • Opened in Sept 2016
  • Menu is reflective of true Baja style modern seafood and Mexican cuisine
  • Chef Eduardo is now at the helm of the kitchen and his take on making distinct food is obvious
  • Daily happy hour and daily specials
  • Full bar area
  • Some of the most unknown but amazing tacos in town! Tuesday only lobster tacos not to be missed
  • Sunday Roast, Roasted Mesquite rotisserie pig AYCE tacos starting at 10am

If any one thing stands out for me at Pueblo it's the hospitality you get as a guest here. The food is amazing yes, no doubts. But this was my 2nd visit since they opened. My last having been in late November last year for drinks and some apps with friends. This visit was solo and I was all about checking out the unique tacos and seafood they have on their menu. The owner Mark, new head Chef Eduardo and my server Marina were all amazing. Super kind, very tentative, eager to please. Marina knew the menu quite well and helped me navigate the ingredients used in the dishes I tried. Mark introduced himself as well and made sure I was taken care of which I was. Chef Eduardo and I spoke at length about what he is doing, how the menu has adapted, what he plans on coming out with and what makes the venue different. This guy is a blazing a unique trail all his own and even looks to network with other local chefs of both Baja and Mexican cuisines to help offer and obtain concepts that are soon to please the pallets of San Diegans everywhere. The venue alone is situated in a neat corner spot of PB just between Garnet and Grand. Super chill but modern, casual but classy, just the right feel for family dinner, business drinks or even a date night.


Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Homestyle classics that always deliver: Crest Cafe

Crest Cafe, 425 Robinson Ave, Hillcrest, San Diego, CA. 3pm, Monday June 12th.


  • Turkey Club (w/ side of cottage cheese)
  • Crest Chicken Cobb Salad
  • Chicken Tortilla Soup (add Tapatio for a nice kick)
  • Carrot Cake (the BEST carrot cake I have ordered from a restaurant in SD in my 5 years)


  • Open 365 days a year 7am-midnight
  • Been open for 34 years now
  • Everything on the menu is made from scratch in house
  • Daily specials Monday-Thursday

This has been one of my go to places for about 2 years now when I have a fix for soups, Cobb salads, and club sandwiches. I had not ever thought to try their desserts before and when it dawned on my they had my all time favorite.....carrot cake! I had to know how it stacked up! Too bad I had not known of this before in this blog post! The meals I get here no matter the day or time, have always been consistently delicious! I can be 100% sure my meal is correct, fresh, scratch made, home cooked, and rib- sticking good each and every time. Chef Ruben even tells me that's the one thing he urges his cooks every day...."be consistent with every plate all the time! People expect that from us and we deliver on it!" Cecelia Moreno is the owner of Crest. Ruben the head chef, his daughter Sophia was my server and she was spectacular! Kind, helpful and very positive attitude. In the end, Crest Cafe is the place you go when you want hearty, home cooked comfort foods but none of the work to go with it. So head on in, pull up a seat, A Better Bite awaits you!


Friday, June 9, 2017

I made it in at last! Debut (and follow up) to GOBYA

Grand Ole BBQ Y Asado, 3302 32 St. North Park, San Diego, CA

  • 1/2# Tri-Tip (tender as can be with perfect smoke ring)
  • 1/2# Hot Links
  • 1/2# Smoked Turkey (most flavorful and moist turkey I have ever had)
  • Spicy Slaw
  • Peruvian White Beans (get these!)
  • Beef Rib (not pictured as these not offered at lunch time, dinner only)

  • These guys specialize in central Texas style BBQ so keep this in mind when selecting the type of BBQ you're looking for.
  • Been open for 2 years as of October this year and already have taken multiple San Diego and SoCal BBQ awards and voted by the people as one of the top 3 BBQ spots in the county.
  • Andy Harris can and will answer ANY question you may have about BBQ and TX for that matter.
  • The staff working here are BBQ experts and they can help you pick/choose what you want pending your preference.
  • If you're a rookie at this place, please arrive early for dinner as they sell out quick almost every single day.
  • Sunday is the famed Argentine Grill day where they feature additional smoked meats
  • Open Wednesday-Sat 12-sell out and 6pm sell out for lunch and dinner
  • Open Sunday 12 till sell out.

Anything I say here has been said many times before. Almost any SD resident with any kind of BBQ gene in them knows about GOBYA by now (took me their full existence to do so) but even I read, heard and saw the hype. I had actually come in on the Saturday night prior to this Wednesday afternoon pit stop to make my debut visit. Sadly I did not plan well the first night and had a movie RSVP to get to at 730pm so after waiting in line I got my food and dashed to my car and had to eat on the go and never got a single picture! Thus the return visit on a Wednesday afternoon to try and replicate the meal I had and get pictures The only image missing is a shot of the killer smoked beef rib I had the first time which rocked my world! Beef ribs are my favorite BBQ meat hands down so this was my barometer food to test GOBYA on and it passed flying colors. Without having a side by side of each BBQ place I have been to in SD comparing meat cut to meat cut, I cannot say which is best at this time. What I can say for sure is that as far as central TX style BBQ goes, this is at the top of my list for BBQ meats anywhere. I now know first hand that the hype is everything it sounds like. This place is not just a great meal. Its an experience the way Texas BBQ was meant to be experienced. 

The man himself, BBQ legend and wiz king....Andy Harris. 

Check out "All Forked Up" Podcast episode #4 to listen to Andy and Brad Cooper talk BBQ like you never knew!


Thursday, June 8, 2017

Harvest By The Patio: Eating well is so in!

Harvest by the Patio, Corner of J and 10th, Gaslamp District, San Diego, CA

  • The 7 Summits Bowl w/chicken (roasted red pepper dressing is unlike any I have ever had!)
  • Rainbow Garden Cobb Salad w/chicken (green goddess dressing is wack!)
  • Grilled Eggplant 
  • The Harvest Veggie Sandwich (even a meat-man like myself approves of this sando!)
  • Muesli Berry Cup

  • Been Open since Nov 2016, 
  • Been voted "best of" in multiple San Diego dining publications lists in 5 different categories.
  • Currently tied for "Best Healthy" in Sang Diego Best Resto edition (June 2017)
  • A true farm-to-table themed venue where the chef and managers know where their food comes from.
  • One tap kombucha offered from the one and only Bootstrap Distillery in San Diego (a personal favorite)
  • The same exact items offered on the menu are made fresh daily and available for take-out from the downstairs lobby area. 
  • Happy hour M-F 4-7pm and Sat-Sun 2-6pm. 
  • The GM, Travis is the lead man behind the drinks and cocktails. Please say hello to him on your visit! 
  • Chef Amiko Gubbins (I have not met her) has a culinary resume that's well.....impressive!
  • ALL items they offer are sourced from local providers only. 

This is a fantastic place to not only eat truly nutritious and healthy meals that are refreshing and filling but also a place to relax, chill, refuel and recharge the mind, body and sprit. Many may only think the lower level grab n' go space is what they have which all alone is pretty amazing! But there is so much more up top!

The chill vibe, laid-back feel, open space, natural lighting, all add to an ambiance of calmness and restoration. The menu alone is full of items that nourish the body but so does the venue and the people. Natalie my server was amazing and super informative about the menu items. Travis is a passionate man and ambassador to his cause. His attention and care to what he is doing with Harvest by the Patio is cleary seen and easily felt. His pride in the menu and venue as well as the means by which they are serving local San Diegans, simple, delicious, nutritous meals as a dine in or grab n' go option is very apparent. 

I am happy to see a place like this giving the concept of fast, grab n' go, take-out meals a new face. Downtowners have a real gem in their backyard that all of San Diego must make a stop at at least once (you'll be back) to please the palette, the mind and the body. Bring a group as this is the kind of place you can hang out at, have a work lunch....whatever you want to stay once your here, and you should!


Monday, June 5, 2017

The Iron Pig Debut: Going down south and getting my Texas BBQ fix!

Iron Pig Ale House, 1520 Garnet Ave, Ocean Beach San Diego, Sunday, June 4th, 615pm


Meat Sampler Plate: smoked wings, brisket, pork ribs

Soul Food Sunday Special: BBQ Shrimp, spicy cajun sausage, BBQ pork belly over cheese grits and light southern corn gravy.

Fried Chicken brined and fried in some of the best, crunchy batter I have ever had. Also some of the moistest fried chicken I have ever sunk my teeth into.

Sour Beer Flight

  • Been open since 2014
  • Tuesday is the fried chicken special and Thursday pastrami sandwich special
  • Rick Daniels is not only a born and raised TX BBQ wizard, but he is also a formally trained culinary chef. 
  • West Texas style BBQ is what they specialize in (my favorite)
  • Every Sunday is a new soul food special theme combining the cuisines of Creole, traditional southern and TX BBQ.

As my 4th major BBQ spot in SD to make my debut at now, this one ranks as one of my favorites. Mostly because it offers my favorite kind of Q.......West TX style! Spicy/sweet/smoky dry rub BBQ meat slow cooked for hours. This is where the real magic happens IMO. You let the meat's natural flavor, texture and aroma do the work and then "nudge" it just a bit further with either white oak, hickory or mesquite wood. Dry rub seasoning is left to the pitmaster and I have rarely ever found a dry rub I do not like to be quite honest. Others may have their opinions on how they like their Q but this is mine and that's that. 

Rick does a fantastic job with his BBQ meat items as well as showcasing his obvious culinary talents with the Soul Food special I had. Taking such a combination of items and making them into something familiar and traditional yet 100% new on the taste buds. I have just 2 more big players in town to hit to have completed the best of the best for TX style BBQ. At that time I can try if I rank who is the top dog. The venue seems to attract from across every demographic one can think of. I think truly good BBQ has that unique ability, to pull in every walk of life possible. Something about the aroma and concept of man's evolution of consuming deliciously smoked and tender meats!


Saturday, June 3, 2017

All American Grub at the Hard Rock Cafe

Hard Rock Cafe San Diego, 4th Ave, Gaslamp Quarter of San Diego. June 2nd


  • Arugula Chicken Salad with spiced pecans, mandarin orange sections and dried cranberries (I held on the crumbled feta) $10
  • Classic Club Sandwich Chicken with BLT, added avocado all on toasted dry sourdough w/ side garden salad $12
  • Shrimp Fajitas with grilled onions and peppers plus added grilled mushrooms $19

  • Been open since July 28th, 1998 
  • Amazing house made hot sauce no one should pass on if you like good heat!
  • Misty is the coolest server ever! Ask for her!
  • Jill is the coolest marketing manager ever!
  • Thye currently have a kick ass "World Burger Tour" special going with 6 featured burgers this month. Burger fans rejoice! 
  • The also have an outstanding menu of drinks, cocktails, and decadent desserts many may not know of but should!
  • No visit is complete without a visit to the memorabilia store! 
  • My 6th store visit in 5 states/cities (NYC, Chicago, KC, Seattle, St. Louis)

As my 6th Hard Rock Cafe visit in the US, it only took me 4 years as a local resident to finally get my rear into the SD location and see for myself how this place matched up. After an amazing Yelp Elite event just weeks prior to this visit, I was sold that I had to come in solo and dine it to see how the place stacked up to the others I had been to. The venue alone is breathtaking and as with all other locations, decked out to the max in all kinds of swag from musical celebs, famous folks, and stars. Every wall is covered with unique pieces of past and present performers. The food is always on point and consistent. The club sandwich has been a go-to item for me at all 6 stores I have been to and its never disappointed me. The shrimp fajitas (my favorite fajita type) was a new shot here and I approve! The salad happens to be something I was just jonesing for and so I got it, liked it, would get it again! Had I been here with a group you can be sure a round (or two) of drinks would have been part of this visit as they have no shortage of options in that domain! Come on down and make your stop! Don't wait 4 years to do so like're only missing out!

Friday, May 26, 2017

The Republic is expanding! Ocean Beach is where it's at!

Breakfast Republic, Newport Ave, Ocean Beach. Thursday, May 25th.


Kombucha Flight (apple, peach, blueberry, mango) $8
Turkey Meatloaf Hash $13, with upgraded +$2, house red potatoes and sourdough toast
Side of grilled veggies (asparagus, spinach, onions, mushrooms) $4


  • Opened in 2015 with North Park store
  • 5 total stores are now open with 4 stores in the San Diego Metro area, Liberty Station, OB, Downtown and Northpark. The Encinitas and Downtown store are the two I have yet to visit.
  • All stores open 7-3pm daily.
  • Two new rotating monthly drink and food specials put out from customer voting.
  • Every single meal is made from scratch at the time of order. 


Much like the other 2 spots I have been to on a number of occasions now, you can expect 4 things from BR each and every time you come in. Consistently top quality breakfast/brunch food staples, great coffee and kombucha, outstanding service and a truly unique dining experience. Come alone or per my recommendation, as a group. A place like this is meant to be shared with others where breakfast/brunch can be the highlight of the day. I waited about 15 minutes for my meal to come out even with the venue being pretty well dead close to closing time, but this is a good sign as I see it in that even then, time and care went into getting my meal just right. Ask for Heather at this location on weekdays. She is super kind, friendly and makes this place what its come to be known for; a "breakfast republic." 

Monday, May 15, 2017

An Old Town Staple brings the flavor: Cosmopolitan Restaurant

Cosmopolitan Hotel and Restaurant, Old Town, San Diego, 

THE BETTER BITES SAMPLED: (click for full album)

  • Ahi Lettuce Cups
  • Chef's Daily Soup
  • Seasonal Salad
  • Smoked Adobo Chicken Fajitas

  • Built between 1827-1829 by Juan Bandini
  • Every dish is prepared when ordered, with house-made sauces, fresh vegetables and the finest meat and seafood 
  • Executive Chef Jose Pulido has been at the kitchen helm for 9 years and counting.
  • Brothers Ryan and Brandon run the ship as operations director and GM respectively. 
  • They have a seasonal menu that changes throughout the year with new dishes and specials featuring local ingredients at their peak ripeness.
  • The Orchard Garden Terrace (heated) is where I have dined several times now during the day and it makes for some of the best outdoor dinings you will find for a weekend brunch, lunch or early dinner. 
  • Hitting its high point as a true San Diego hot spot in the 1870's, the hotel soon fell into despair by 1888 and went nearly abandon.
  • In 2010 the building was put through a multi-million dollar renovation to restore the building to its current state of amazement. The upper floor is used as a hotel and the lower level, indoor, formal 1870's themed restaurant is called the Grand Sala.


What is it about your menu that makes it so Good? What's the key or secret to making these items so much different than anywhere else?
"We stay with tradition and keep very consistent with our menu items and preparation methods. We make sure to watch the details of every meal we plate. We use the best possible ingredients and source as much as we can from local sources. Our seafood is always fresh and all of our sauces, seasonings and salsa's are made in house daily. We enjoy taking a blend of Mexican staples, American grill fare and seafood and adding slight twists on them. This way our customers see many of their popular favorite dishes but get a different experience than they have had before."


Midwest Homestyle Comfort Food Found at Pop Pie Co.

Pop Pie Co. 4404 Park Blvd. San Diego, CA, 92116

THE BETTER BITES SAMPLED: (click for full album)

  • Chicken Pop Pie
  • Steak and Ale Pop Pie
  • Rhubarb Strawberry Pie
  • Coconut Cream Pop Pie
  • Mashed red taters and gravy (cauliflower blend and chicken gravy)
  • Cream cheese corn (cream cheese reduction, salt, pepper)

  • Been in business for since Oct 2016
  • They offer 6, 5" savory pies and 8, 3" sweet pies as well as 2, 5" breakfast pop pies.
  • They have several amazing sides, great local coffee and crazy good matcha lemonade and matchata tea
  • All pies are baked on a tight daily schedule to assure freshness of every pie put out.
  • Prior to this debut visit I had not had a homemade pop pie in ~5 years since getting my mom's homemade pies I was raised on as a child through early college years. This was much overdue!
  • Every savory pie has 9oz of filling chalk full of delicious tender meats and fillings!
  • Chicken pop pie is the best selling savory pie while the sweet pie favorite ranges pending the day......their all so good a true #1 has not yet been determined I guess!
  • They sell nearly 200 total pies on weekdays and almost twice that on weekends. 


What is it about your menu that makes it so Good? What's the key or secret to making these items so much different than anywhere else?
"The crust! Our crust is what makes these so good. Its perfectly made with just the right amount of butter, flour and other ingredients to make for the unique flavor profile it has. The flakey light texture comes from the specific methods we use to bake the pies. Crust texture and flavor is the real key. We also use only the best local ingredients, nothing is ever frozen or processed."


Sunday, May 14, 2017

Expanding the Pallet: Aqui Es Texcoco shows me how

This was a truly unique and fun experience as I have never been here before nor have I eaten many of the items I sampled here. Normally I go to places I have been once or twice before doing a blog review on them. Paco Perez the owner and head chef convinced me (after I met him at the Chilatruck review with his business partner Brad Henderson) to come in and try him out if it was unique foods I truly sought out for blogging. He said he had that in spades.....and ho how right he was!

Aqui Es Texcoco, Friday, May 12, Chula Vista, CA.

Tortilla Soup
*Lamb Barbacoa Plate (mixed meats from lamb, cheek, head, tripe, flank)
Street tacos: lamb brain*, blood sausage*, cricket*, zucchini flour, huitlachoca*
Quail* and fire roasted salsa
Chicken Mixiote
Pulque (beverage)*
*Denotes first time trying this item...ever!

Fully cooked lamb head with skull. Can order as is for $20 if requested. 

  • Been in business for 10 years now at this location, 30 for TJ and 3 for LA
  • The venue has been featured on 5 different TV food shows and awarded "best of" 11x by local and even national food publications//reviews/authors.
  • All items sourced from the same vendor for all 3 stores to keep consistency.
  • Paco is an industrial engineer by training and education.
  • As a child through his adult life, Paco helped his mother in the first TJ store with all cooking.
  • They do full-scale caterings package for all kinds of events as well.
  • Sunday's are the busiest days for the Chula Vista store.
  • Prior to his LA store opening, they routinely had 100's of customers drive from LA on weekends and be at the door at 7am to pick up lamb barbacoa meat by the pound to take home for the week. Now thats demand!


Paco and I getting a shot in front of the celebrity photo wall.

What is it about your menu that makes it so Good? What's the key or secret to making these items so much different than anywhere else?
Love! My mother made sure that the METHODS we used were always consistent and kept 100% traditional. Her care and love for making real Mexico City themed food was unmatched. That rubbed off on me. Not only is what we offer unique and carefully sourced for all 3 stores but the way we do it is central to keeping with tradition, origins and sustaining strong consistency. You can come to any store today, next week or next year and get the same exact amazing experience of authenticity. Our customers have seen this and that'ss what keeps them coming back and spreading the word.