Out & About in San Diego

Had family in town over the last few days which resulted in a number of meals out. For the most part they were pretty good

Fireside at Liberty Station
We stopped in for lunch on Friday. Since it was still a little overcast we decided to sit inside rather than on the patio. Inside, which is actually the bar, was quite nice and the music was, thankfully, low enough that we could carry on a conversation without yelling. I had the kale salad and my sister and BIL both had the broccoli and shaved cauliflower salad. I added shrimp to my salad, my sister added their “fish” to hers and my BIL went with the chicken add on, all of which were cooked over their wood fire grill. The shrimp, tho’ a tad over cooked were a great addition to the kale salad and added a nice smokey element. The fish was barramundi, and while the restaurant recommends their smoked trout with the broccoli salad, the barramundi paired well too.

Service was fine for lunch, a little on the casual side but not inattentive.

Grape Smuggler
We buzzed through Liberty Public Market and ended up in the Grape Smuggler where we each had a glass of wine. They are really nice in there and provided tastes of their by the glass wines before we made a final selection. I tried a wine that was new to me, Croatina, and like it well enough to purchase a bottle.

Service was friendly and efficient, they really wanted us to like our selections before they poured a whole glass and were engaged and patient in explaining each wine about which we were inquiring.

Given the amount of really great word-of-mouth I’d been hearing about this place, I was anxious to give it a go. Ended up with a seriously good, good meal. Trust is on the ground floor of the Mr. Robinson building at Park & Robinson. This is a modern glass, steel and concrete building and so is the restaurant, you probably don’t have to use your imagine to know what the noise level is like. Yep, L-O-U-D. We didn’t have to yell across the table, but we did have to raise our voices to carry on a conversation. The restaurant was 2/3 to 3/4 full the entire time we were there with the number of guests dropping towards the end of our meal, and along with fewer guests came less noise. Yes, the noise was mildly annoying, but it was more than offset by the food.

The bulk of the menu are dishes that are meant to be shared, so we went with the shishito peppers and the shrimp and andouille sausage with garbanzos. The portion is generous and the peppers addictive. I think all of us were surprised at how remarkably good the shrimp and sausage dish was. The flavors melded together to great a dish that was savory and very satisfying.

The entrees were spectacular. I had the branzino. The grilled (with some charring) whole fish arrived perfectly cooked and on the bone. Probably one of the best fish dishes I’ve had in SD in a long time. The mild white fish was perfectly tender, moist and utterly succulent and the skin crisp enough to eat as well. It was a bigger fish than I had bargained for but I did manage to get around the whole thing. If there was something else on the plate - other than the grilled lemon half - I don’t recall what it was. My sister had the halibut which also was cooked to the correct degree of doneness without going over the edge in the dry halibutlandia. The plate presentation was a gorgeous play of pale yellows and greens from spring vegetables. Trust is just transitioning from their Spring to their Summer menu and my BIL chose one of the new Summer entrees, a bacon chop. It’s essentially a tomahawk cut pork chop (bone unfrenched) with the pork belly portion still attached. Stunning piece of meat, not to mention substantial.

For dessert my sister and I shared the milk chocolate custard with espresso ice cream. It was creamy and crunchy but the fried basil didn’t work with the chocolate all that well.

Service was fine, could have been a little more attentive but I counted only 2 waitstaff for inside and outside and they were busy but not slammed.

Trust is a hit and I look forward to going back and trying more of the menu.

Kensington Cafe
For me the KC always seems better than it really is. Service is casual to spotty and food is average to okay. But…when you’re looking for an easy early morning breakfast it’ll fit the bill nicely.

AR Valentein
Yesterday was my aunt’s 99th birthday so we took her to AR Valentein for lunch. If you’ve never been it’s a beautiful venue with great views of the torrey pines, the golf course and, of course, the ocean. Lots of rich, dark wood done in Craftsmans style.

The food was artfully done. My sister and I split a light and flavorful citrus salad composed of spotted romaine, orange and grapefruit supremes, shallots and toasted pine nuts. The minestra soup was full of spring vegetables and a huge mound of Tuscan kale. Chicken under a Brick was 2 crisp skinned chicken thighs and more of that Tuscan kale. The roasted swordfish with minted quinoa was a hit as was the seared albacore and spinach salad. The most interesting dish was their take on a crab Louie. The crab came encased in two perfectly round spheres of thinly sliced avocado that were set atop the rest of the Louie ingredients.

They brought my aunt a ginormous slice of strawberry rhubarb cake for her birthday and I ordered the frozen pistachio parfait. The cake was a miss but the parfait wasn’t and it was worth every single calorie.

I am always a little surprised at the food at The Lodge at Torrey Pines. The dishes always look so simple and often times plain, yet they (mostly) deliver on flavor and taste.

Service at AR Valentein was a miss. It was uneven and not particularly attentive.

I’ve eaten extremely well over the last 3 days and now it’s back to my regular routine :slight_smile: My BIL deals with RA but has been able to control a lot of it through diet. He has gotten good at making menu choices and is not particularly demanding of substitutions. At Fireside, no substitutions were need. At Trust his pork chop was supposed to come with blue cheese potatoes. Since nightshades are trigger for him, his request for double veg rather than the potatoes was accommodated. The Kensington Cafe was happy to sub in cut fruit for the breakfast potatoes and AR Valentein had no problem subbing vinaigrette for 1,000 Island on the Louie salad.

As a group we here tend to be overly critical of some of our local restaurants. Some of it may be deserved, but by and large, our local restaurants are doing a lot of things right, a good job and they are oriented towards making the guest feel at home. Now if they’d just do something about the noise levels…

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Nice report DD.

I totally concur about TRUST. My first time there was for happy hour which I wrote about earlier but we’ve been back for brunch and dinner and have enjoyed each of our visits.

And if I recall correctly, the branzino comes garnished with roasted tomatoes, onions and cucumbers.

I really appreciate their selection of Japanese whiskeys.

A bacon chop! where has that been all my life?!!!

Very nice report DD, sounds like everyone had a good time. How was the remodel at ARV looking?

Isn’t it just the grill that they are remodeling? That’s the space down on the golf course level. We went there a couple of years back and I found the space wanting. The rest of the hotel is so beautiful, the grill just seemed kind of unloved.

Yes Steve it’s the primarily the grill that is being remodeled, but I understand that they have also modified the seating in their other dining areas to make up for the lack of seating at the grill. I assume that all the dining areas look at least a little different. Am I wrong?

ARV didn’t look like much had been done in there…

It is already kind of tight in ARV main dining room, I really don’t know if they could get more seating in there. They could possibly reconfigure that annex room and maybe do something out on the patio to get a few more seats. The one space that never seems that utilized is the space just south of the croquet green and they could do something temporary over there.

Trust sounds great. Thanks!

Let me guess. The ceilings at Trust are 1985-style exposed ventilation pipes and plumbing, with concrete floors. Lots of metal, and no acoustic treatment.


If so, when are our local restaurant designers going to get over that outdated, outmoded, noisy-ambience style? It’s so very “last century modern”. Boring and physically (noise-wise) painful.

Yes…exposed duct work, concrete walls and floor, floor to ceiling glass walls on 2 sides and lots of hard surface tables and chairs. They do have patio seating which is probably quieter, but it wasn’t exactly a heatwave Friday night. The food at Trust, however, truly is worth putting up with some of the noise.

I like the look of this style, I don’t like the noisiness. When I dine out withe friends - or family in this case - it’s about spending time with them, catching up on what’s happened in their lives, sharing some good food and wine and in general having a nice, pleasant evening out. It’s not about having my eardrums assaulted. I should probably add that the music in The Grape Smuggler was far too loud, and I’m not sure Led Zeppelin at full volume is every wine guest’s copa de vino.

The Kensington Cafe is a small venue and they’ve crammed quite a few tables in there. They do have baffles on the ceiling to absorb sound, but what I discovered this past weekend is that they’ve also upholstered the bottoms of their tables with carpeting to absorb the noise that’s bouncing off their concrete floors. It mostly worked. The KC was not full when we arrived, but it was when we left. The noise levels were manageable and not particularly excessive.

Like a lot of people here, I’m pretty much over loud, noisy restaurants.

If given the choice I’d rather dine at a loud restaurant (or a room with a raucous din) than one that makes a library feel like a Mettalica concert.

Well, there’s no noisy-restaurant shortage here in SD, so I guess you’re in good shape for now.

And me? Doesn’t need to be a library, but “lively” and “noisy” are two very different things.

Wasn’t sure where to post this. Spent the weekend visiting friends who recently moved to Carlsbad from SF.
Taco Stand (sorry no pics) had an excellent al pastor taco and couple of baja fish tacos. They make their tortillas to order and have nice chunks of fresh pineapple in each pastor taco. Love the set up and outdoor dining.
Stumblefoot Brewery - tiny brewery in a warehouse. Your view out the open warehouse door is a cement wall, but the beer were surprisingly good - had an excellent strawberry
gose and amber rye with strong rye flavor. Nice to find some good non-IPA brews in SD.
Fish District - great shrimp ceviche (nicely balanced, not too acidic but rustic and simple) and fish tacos (Pic). The batter for the really fresh fish tacos was super crispy and didn’t get soggy with the salsa and lime squeeze - excellent. Shrimp tacos were a little bready but crispy.
The Goods donuts in Carlsbad. We had blueberry compote, strawberry creamcheese, glazed, apple fritter. All had a nice strong yeasty taste and restrained use of sugar. Not light but I really enjoyed them (and I often find donuts too sweet).
Crack Shack - had the Coup Deville sandwich and the 5 piece. They must use rice flour or something because the crust is very crispy. Sandwich would have been better with half the close slaw and 4 times the pickled chilis, but was still good. 5 piece fried chicken was better than I anticipated, nicely crisped, peppery crust, juicy and not greasy. Excellent beer list.
My buddy insisted we visit Stone Brewery’s mothership in Encinitas since it is such an SD institution. The food was pretty bad and the menu really odd for a brewery. I decided to try the impossible burger (they don’t have a real beef burger in the menu) which was interesting, tasted like meat but not necessarily beef. They have at least 20 IPAs on tap, all of which are only subtly distinguishable from each other. Oh but the grounds are worth the visit, like a Disneyland set up with a huge garden, lights, pond, plants, paths, etc. Pretty nice outdoor space at night. Packed on a Sunday night. I’m kind of surprised at how strong the IPA market remains in SD as IPAs seem to have peaked in SF a few years ago.
Will likely be visiting the area a couple times a year so any recommendations appreciated.

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Thanks for your informative post. I’m not a north county restaurant patron very often, but your comments and excellent photos are most welcome!

When you have an opportunity, I’ll suggest that the buzzing restaurant district in SD proper right now is Little Italy.

Another not sure where to put it post. Finally, after a long time in SD and some buzz on the LA board, tried URBN. Pizza was good and restaurant vibe was nice. Honestly, I liked it but I like Tribute better (different types of pizza though).

After, we headed to Blackmarket Bakery where I had my favorite chocolate chip cookie in SD.

Later that night we went to Wokou in Carmel valley. The vegan ramen wasnt notable but the yakitori was surprisingly (at least to me) good.

Lastly, there is an empty storefront adjacent to Sprouts at Bernardo heights pkwy and Pomerado that has a sign for Harmony potsticker—same one that recently opened in Kearny Mesa. Don’t know if it will actually happen as this neighborhood choice seems kind of strange but who knows. Harmony in KM was enjoyable on my one visit.

Headed back to Baja/Ensenada soon if anyone has any recommendations.

Try El Trailero just north of Ensenada in El Sauzal just off the Mex 1. Try the shrimp taco or the torta combinada. El Flamazo across the street from El Trailero is supposed to have the best adobada taco in northern Mexico. I haven’t tried it, so I can’t confirm, but you can and get back to us :upside_down_face::yum::taco:

A friend was in the Valle last weekend with her best friend from childhood who is studying to become a sommlier. My friend (not the childhood friend…confused yet :wink:) said the best wine they had all weekend was at Vinicola Retorno in San Antonio de las Minas. She said it’s small, informal and they were able to do a syrah barrel tasting.

That’s all I got for you RD. I was in TJ on Sunday but I’m due for a Valle run, I haven’t been in a while.

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Thanks @DiningDiva

@DiningDiva, didn’t get the torta but the adobada tacos were very good. I’ll do a longer post in Ensenada soon. Thanks for the recommendation and sadly didn’t make it to El Flamenzo because I was too full. Happy to have an excuse to return!


Those look like some mighty fine tacos! Glad it was a good stop. Did you try the quesabirria taco by any chance?