Friday, May 26, 2017

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




THE WHO, WHAT, WHERE & WHEN:
Breakfast Republic, Newport Ave, Ocean Beach. Thursday, May 25th.

THE BETTER BITES SAMPLED: (full album)


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




NOTEWORTHY & INTERESTING FACTS
Opened in 2015 with North Park store
5 total stores are now open with 4 stores in the San Diego Metro area, Libersity Station, OB, Downtown and Northpark. The Encinitas and Downtown store are the two I have yet to visit.
All 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. 


MY FINAL THOUGHTS:

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, come a group, a place like this is meant to be shared with others where breakfast/brunch can be the highlight of ones 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, 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 as, a "breakfast republic." 


Monday, May 15, 2017

An Old Town Staple brings the flavor: Cosmopolitan Restaurant




THE WHO, WHAT, WHERE & WHEN:
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





NOTEWORTHY & INTERESTING FACTS
  • 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.


THE CHEF'S INSIGHTS: (Jose Pulido)

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."


HOW TO REACH THEM:





Midwest Homestyle Comfort Food Found at Pop Pie Co.


THE WHO, WHAT, WHERE & WHEN:
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)




NOTEWORTHY & INTERESTING FACTS
  • 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. 


THE CO-OWNERS INSIGHTS: (Steven Torres)


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."

HOW TO REACH THEM:



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!


 THE WHO, WHAT, WHERE & WHEN:
Aqui Es Texcoco, Friday, May 12, Chula Vista, CA.

THE BETTER BITES SAMPLED:
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
Flan
Pulque (beverage)*
*Denotes first time trying this item...ever!



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





NOTEWORTHY & INTERESTING FACTS
  • 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!


THE OWNERS INSIGHTS: (Paco Perez)


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.




HOW TO REACH THEM:

Monday, May 8, 2017

Stealth Health: Nutrition from a Food Truck!



THE WHO, WHAT, WHERE & WHEN:
Eat Your Heart Out Food Truck, Tuesday, May 2nd, Societe Brewing Co. Clairemont Mesa.





THE BETTER BITES SAMPLED:
  • BLT Sandwich (best seller) (love the bacon!!)
  • Grilled Portobello Sandwhich
  • Macaroon Cookie
  • Vegan Rice CrispyTreat
  • Hearts of Palm Vegan Ceviche



THE $$ SHOTS:




NOTEWORTHY & INTERESTING FACTS
  • Been in business for 6 months now. Alex, his girlfriend Flora and business partner Zach, own and run the food truck.
  • All items are handmade, use no preservatives or additives of any kind.
  • All items made from scratch, nothing is ever frozen or fried. All ingredients are 100% locally sourced.
  • Zach has been a practicing chef for 6 years.
  • The menu is a blend of local SD favorites coupled with flavors of Baja and Asian cuisines.
  • Providing one of the only true 100% vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free menus from a food truck in all SD.
  • They do full-scale caterings package for all kinds of events as well.


THE OWNERS INSIGHTS: (Alex George)

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?
Paraphrased: "We wanted to offer something that not only we ourselves would want to eat and enjoy but also something that many people in San Diego would enjoy as well. Originally it was items that did not need any utensils and it took off from there. We took the concept of vegan and vegetarian cuisine and adapted it for a food truck. You can't find this anywhere else. We are proof you can get good, healthy food from a food truck at a super value. We have diversified our menu enough to please the local pallet of San Diegans vegetarians and non-vegetarians alike."


HOW TO REACH THEM:

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Lobster and Luxury from CML Food Truck!

THE WHO, WHAT, WHERE & WHEN:
Cousins Maine Lobster Food Truck, La Jolla Open Air Market, Sunday, April 30th,



THE BETTER BITES SAMPLED:


Ceviche Tostada ($2 of each sale goes to One More Wave 501(c)(3) for wounded warriors*


Lobster Tots with Maine Lobster, cilantro lime sauce, pico de gallo

Shrimp Tacos, with North Atlantic shrimp, cabbage, pico de gallo, cilantro lime sauce and corn tortillas
Maine Lobster Roll (my very first ever!) served chilled with mayo and New England style roll








NOTEWORTHY & INTERESTING FACTS

  • Nearly 1lb worth of raw/gross weight Lobster is used in EACH lobster roll 
  • meat from the knuckle, claw and tail in every roll order
  • the get their Lobster from the BEST possible sources directly from the coast of Maine. 
  • All seafood product is obtained through fully sustainable means and entities
  • They now have 26 trucks in operation over 14 US markets
  • They have 1 restaurant location in LA
  • Barbara Corcoran from Shark Tank is the investor who got these guys rocking it big back in 2012 after she tried one of their rolls from their first truck.
  • They use only one particular style bread roll from Maine "New England style" to assure the right crunch and softness to match the Lobster meat.
  • The food truck business is still and always will be family run and managed to assure the principles and quality outcomes remain the same from day one on.
  • Aaron Lomac (left) owns & operates the SD based truck, Sabin (right) is an original founder (with Cousin Jim) *Alex (mid) a local US Navy SEAL is the partner for the non-profit founder of One More Wave that helps put wounded warriors back on adapted surfboards, wetsuits and gives lessons.


THE OWNERS INSIGHTS: Sabin (sporting his 1 more wave t-shirt and hat)



What is it about your food that makes it so good? What's the key or secret to making these items so much different than anywhere else?

Paraphrased: "What we provide is an affordable luxury for anyone who wants to experience top notch fine dining quality lobster without the price tag (or dress code) of those such of places. We provide a one of a kind culinary nostalgia for all those transplants and tourist from New England who have had authentic lobster rolls. Nothing can compare to what we offer here. Nothing magic, no secrets, we simply get the best product anywhere and let the quality and consistency do the rest for us. We will NEVER cut corners for any reason if it reduces the quality of our product. Quality is everything for each and every CML truck."


HOW TO REACH THEM:


Monday, May 1, 2017

Legacy and History behind Lakeside Donut Shop


THE WHO, WHAT, WHERE & WHEN:
Mary's Donuts Saturday, April 29th, 10101 Maine Ave. Lakeside, CA


THE BETTER BITES SAMPLED:
Bear Claw (PBJ style!)
Apple Fritter (their famous best seller and I see why)
Super Twist (it is truly super!)
Giant Cinnamon Roll (melt in your mouth amazing)
Raspberry Custard Cream Puff (this rivals the famous WI state fair cream puff!)
Maple Bacon Donut


THE $$ SHOTS:






NOTEWORTHY & INTERESTING FACTS
  • Been in business for 33 years from the original store location. This location in Lakeside been up and running since October 2016.
  • Pablo and Emily are the head bakers. Pablo works at both store locations and has done so for over a decade. He is a true master of his craft!
  • They deliver 1500-2000 donuts PER DAY to Barona Casino! 
  • The original owner, Mary is now 86 years old and still comes into the shops 5-6 days a week to check on the donut quality and perfection! 
  • Mary bought the former Zona's donut shop in 1984 which then became her first shop in Santee. The rest is history.
  • They also serve sandwiches and salads using fresh cut meats, house made croissants and local produce.
  • They serve Farmer Bros. coffee to wash down the donut goodness!
  • They are a 24/7 donut shop so everything is always fresh/warm if you ask for it. 
  • They have a small seating area for the kiddos to watch the bakers work their magic and roll out the dough, cut donuts, shape donuts, glaze/ice donuts and bake the donuts! 


THE OWNERS INSIGHTS: (Joel)

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?
Paraphrased: "We are a long standing, deep rooted part of this community where we have served multiple generations of local patrons who as children came in with their parents to get our donuts. Now they (as adults) bring in their children to do the same. Our consistency, recipe, quality and loyalty to our community is what keeps people coming back year after year. Our product diversity also assures that we have something of unmatched quality for all tastes to enjoy."


HOW TO REACH THEM:


Sunday, April 30, 2017

Biersal goes well with Beer!


THE WHO, WHAT, WHERE & WHEN:
Biersal Food Truck, Friday, April 28th, White Labs Tasting Room, Kearny Mesa.


THE BETTER BITES SAMPLED:
Broziet Plate (the pate` is shockingly good!)
Chicken Schnitzel Sandwich (1 of 2 best sellers)
Potato Salad
Giant Baked Pretzel (1 of 2 best sellers)
IPA Spiced Carrot Cake (super moist and uses a real cream cheese frosting)


THE $$ SHOTS:




NOTEWORTHY & INTERESTING FACTS
  • Been in business for 2 months now. Matt and his wife own and run the food truck.
  • The Biersal name stems from a popular mythical German gnome who lives in people's beer cellars and keeps them organized, clean well kept, in exchange for getting free beer. 
  • Matt and his wife traveled all through Germany, Belgium, England, France and Ireland in summer 2016 to learn/experience the local cuisine and norms. This is seen clearly in the menu items they offer.
  • Matt has 22 years in the restaurant business. His last position was as an event chef in La Jolla for a private school.
  • They use local foods whenever possible
  • They find unique ways to match and pair their menu with beer types of the brewery they partner with at their truck locations.
  • Biersal food truck is always looking for larger brewery events in San Diego to partner wish to offer the best possible food to go with local craft beers. Based on my experience they have exactly what pairs well with a solid pint of suds.

THE OWNERS INSIGHTS: (Matt Schooner)

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?
Paraphrased: "We are keen on knowing what pairs very well with particular craft beer. I brew my own beer as well so I am well aware of what foods lend themselves well to complementing the beer someone may drink and vice versa." 


HOW TO REACH THEM:

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Chill'n with the Chilatruck


THE WHO, WHAT, WHERE & WHEN:
Chilatruck, Wednesday, April 26th, Las Americas Premium Outlets Lot


THE BETTER BITES SAMPLED:
Chilaquiles Torta w/ green salsa and chicken
Torta Cubana w/grilled beef



THE $$ SHOTS:





NOTEWORTHY & INTERESTING FACTS
  • Both owners, Brian and Paco are both industrial engineers by trade/training
  • "Paco" Francisco Perez is the life long, well-known celebrity chef of Aqui Es Texcoco who's been featured on numerous major food and chef themed TV shows.
  • They have been running the food truck since late Dec 2016
  • All ingredients from the bread, meat, salsa, chips etc. are made fresh daily or delivered daily.
  • The grilled beef is a mix of NY strip and sirloin marinated with spices and olive oil to lock in the full flavor.
  • The tortas served here are kept identical to the traditional way they are found in Mexico City.
  • They have one of the best green salsa's you will ever find. 
  • Their corn chips used in their chilaquiles plates and tortas are specially made to have an optimal crunch/softness.

THE OWNERS INSIGHTS: (Brian Henderson)



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 intend to stay with original means of serving our menu just as they always have and continue to do in Mexico City where such items have always been hugely popular. Our traditional methods are what make them so unique and so good. We strive to make a food revolution with the foods we serve to San Diego and eventually everyone."


HOW TO REACH THEM:

Monday, April 24, 2017

Kicking it with some Kabobs!


THE WHO, WHAT, WHERE & WHEN:
Kabob Village, 3145 Rosecrans St. Point Loma, CA, 330PM, Friday, April 21st


THE BETTER BITES SAMPLED:
Lamb Kabob Plate
Chicken Kabob Plate
Greek Salad
Sabzi
Tabuli Salad
Avgolomeno Soup

THE $$ SHOTS:




NOTEWORTHY & INTERESTING FACTS
  • Kabobs are the obvious best seller here. Lamb, salmon, chicken, beef, and sirloin options.
  • They have been a family owned business for 10 years.
  • The owner, Rafee Zakir has owned and run 12 prior restaurants in NY and San Diego.
  • Nastrin and Nazir are the two mastermind chefs in the kitchen who whip up all this Medeteranian/Persian cuisine goodness. 
  • They have IMO, some of the best baklava you will find anywhere!

THE OWNERS INSIGHTS: (Rafee Zakir)


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?
Paraphrased: "The use of only traditional recipes with traditional cooking methods, spices, and ingredients. We strive to be very consistent with our menu while offering great prices and value to our customers."


HOW TO REACH THEM:
Website: Link
Social: Facebook

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Tandoori House: Using spice and tradition for real flavors




THE WHO, WHAT, WHERE & WHEN:
Tandoori House, 3146 Midway Dr. Point Loma, CA, 330PM, Thursday, April 20th


THE BETTER BITES SAMPLED:
Vegetable Samosa
Vegetable Korma
Alu Gobi
Chicken Tika Masala
Chicken Vindaloo
Tandoori Chicken
Cabbage and Cucumber Salads
Onion Naan
Alu Paratha


THE $$ SHOTS:




NOTEWORTHY & INTERESTING FACTS
  • Been in business for 4 years at this location. Had prior location in La Jolla under a different business name, India Palace.
  • Rishi and Bonnie (brother-sister) own and run the store with their father Amarjit
  • They have all the classic Indian dishes such as curry, biryani, korma, jalfrezi, masala, vindaloo and an impressive list of naan/paratha breads. 
  • All entrees can be made vegetarian. All entrees can be made with chicken, beef, shrimp, fish or lamb.
THE OWNERS INSIGHTS: (Bonnie)



What is it about your menu items that make your food so Good? What's the key or secret to making these it so uniquely delicious?
Paraphrased: "We stick to the most traditional Indian recipes and methods for making our dishes. We do not alter, change or try to get too fancy. What we have works and works well. We also only use the very best of ingredients and source our Indian spices very carefully for our dishes."


HOW TO REACH THEM:
Website: Link
Social: Facebook

Northside Shack: A better bite and better for you!

You will notice this blog post has a different format and flow to it than those before it. This is the new format I intend to use moving forward to make it easier for me to showcase the experiences I have at these venues and easier on you the food-centric blog reader to get the main points in a quick, clear and accurate way. Please comment on the format and give me feedback on the change. 






THE WHO, WHAT, WHERE & WHEN:
Northside Shack, 1255 Rosecrans St. Point Loma, CA, 330PM, Wednesday, April 19th


THE BETTER BITES SAMPLED:
Small sized 50/50 acai bowl


THE $$ SHOTS:




NOTEWORTHY & INTERESTING FACTS
  • The bowls are always super fresh, packed with flavor and of course......really good for you as well. It's a small sized shop but it's a true grab n' go type of place. Couple tables outside to dine and dash if need be but if you're like me this is usually a pit-stop meal type deal and I like it that way. In, out, quick!
  • They make ~600 bowls a week on the average. 
  • Acai is the #1 seller they have and I can see why.....it's just plain really good!
  • Pam the owner, a former paralegal, is at the helm of this Point Loma mainstay where she keeps the staff churning out some of the best and biggest bowls, blends and bites that one can get at a great value.

THE OWNERS INSIGHTS: (Pam Olvera)

What is it that drives you to do what you do at Northside shack?
"Passion. Passion and Passion. I love food, fruit, and veggies in particular.  I love being able to create that look on people's faces. The feeling of accomplishment.  My OCD lol."


How long have you been there and what is it that makes your place unique?

"Three years May 15th.  I do things completely different from anyone else.  I believe there are no rules in food. We shop, hand select and prepare our fruit and veggies daily.  I never buy what we won't use in a few days.  I am very precise about how the fruit is cut (texture) and what it looks like.  I am a fanatic about flavor.  It must taste good. I don't buy 'the customer is always right' hype.  I aim to please and take lots of pride in what I do.  I hire like-minded people. We like what we do.  We don't want to ever feel like we owe anyone anything, we want to do what we do.  In turn, people appreciate it and our product. 


What is it about your acai bowls that make them so Good? What's the key or secret to making these things so good?
Passion. Perfection.  Patience. 


HOW TO REACH THEM:
Website: Link
Social: Facebook

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Maki Maki Sushi: Its how I "roll"




Most of you know by now I am a HUGE sushi fan! More so a San Diego/SoCal sushi fan. With joints placed on every corner in town (hello PB) it can be a challenge to pick the best place that really offers something different, above average, unique and consistent each and every time you come in. Now I like anyone have my go-to places which most the time are a small pool of three AYCE style joints which live up to the above requirements.....fresh, unique, above average quality, great service, good value, and consistency. I've been known to hammer down some serious sushi at those places......I dont mess around when it comes to my sushi! But when the need for 6+ sushi rolls is not what I crave but rather a more "normal" sushi style lunch/dinner, I have my few go-to places as well. And once again I am lucky enough to have a few of those right here in Point Loma. On this particular lunch visit, I bring you into Maki Maki Sushi . You can also find them on Instagram @MakiSushiSD and on Facebook.



This is a smaller joint in the corner strip mall of Midway and Rosecrans easy to miss if your not looking for it. Smack next to Rubios on the corner of Midway going towards the 5.



Maki Maki Sushi is a family owned and ran business. Vi is the head sushi chef, born in Vietnam but moved to Japan where her 3 daughters were born and raised. These 3 daughters now also help run the business. Maki is one of her daughters names fittingly so. This family has now been managing the business for 4 solid months and it seems to be doing well. Its got a good lunch crowd and a busy weekend crowd as well. (prior to Jan 1, this location was a sushi joint before as well but different name and owners). But even when busy I have never seen the speed of service suffer which I like about Maki Maki Sushi. Consistency!



With lunch combo deals, rolls of the day, combo specials and a daily happy hour, you can score a solid bargain here almost any time of day and day of the week. With 19 specialty rolls, 2 baked rolls, 3 deep fried rolls and 16 basic/traditional rolls to pick from.....there is something for everyone's sushi preferences. My picks from this visit are the rainbow roll (my fav), the protein roll and the ceviche roll. I also get 1-2 bowls of miso every time I have sushi and these guys do it better than most I have found. The reason being is that they use bonito broth adding a true Japanese flavor to it. The ceviche roll was new for me on this visit and I really liked it! I suggest trying this one for something really unique. See the slideshow of pictures to feast your eyes and see for yourself.


SO the next time you in the Point Loma area and need to find a solid lunch or dinner deal solo or with a small group, roll on into Maki Maki Sushi to find yourself A Better Bite!