I mined Chowhound for all I could before heading to San Diego for a few days for a conference. I knew that I’d be eating breakfast and lunch at the convention center, so was solely focused on evening meals. Here’s how it went.
Got in late Saturday night to my hotel, on the outer cusp of Gaslamp. Checked in, got to my room, a quick change into something more comfortable, some reapplication of deodorant and brush of the teeth, and I was straight back out.
My destination, Café Chloe. I read nothing but positive, mostly glowing, things about this restaurant, and, for the most part, it did not disappoint. When I arrived -- around 9:15 -- it was only about half full. I sat at the bar.
Started things off with a Stone IPA and a mushroom tart. Neither disappointed. The mushroom & bleu d'avergne tart was the perfect size, not too heavy, and truly delicious.
For my entrée,I ordered the duck special, accompanied by a red from Malbec. The duck was good, but not great. It was barely pink in the middle, so was a bit overcooked and not as tender as it might have otherwise been. It was accompanied with some baby artichokes, roasted mission figs, and sat on a bed of lentils. On a truly nitpicky level, the entire combination just didn’t work for me. The lentils were a bit underseasoned, and only the figs really seemed to add an extra bit of flavor punch. So it was good, but by no means great. The pistachio bread budding, warm and topped with a scoop of house-made ice cream, was fantastic. And, Sasha, who watched after me at the bar, was very nice and went out of her way to keep me company. Overall, Café Chloe was a great experience and is deserving of the accolades it gets on this board.
I was probably most excited for dinner on Sunday evening. My destination, The Linkery. I am a huge proponent of local food and in my home town of Pittsburgh, go out of my way to support as many local farmers as I can.
A friend/colleague of mine happens to live in North Park, so we walked from her house to the restaurant. Started with a Stone Levitation Ale, which is rarely, if ever, seen in the eastern U.S., so I was happy to get some. We split some slices and dip, which was a cauliflower puree that served as a dip for sliced cucumber. Light and flavorful.
I followed that with the “complete burger.” In one sense, it seems strange to fly across the country and order a burger. But, I believe I can say without hesitation that this was the best burger I’ve ever had. I ordered it medium rare (emphasis on the rare). The beef was the most tender and luscious ground beef I’ve ever had. Topped with gouda, bacon, caramelized onions, and a sunny side-up egg, on a crispy house-made bun. Seriously, it was the culinary highlight of my trip. We finished the meal with the grilled pound cake with fresh whipped cream. It was good, but, after the burger, I would have needed something truly spectacular to make any sort of lasting impression.
On my last evening, I really wasn’t in the mood to cab it anywhere, so stayed in Gaslamp. I was considering Oceanaire or Blue Point, or possibly Sally’s (which I realize is not in Gaslamp), because I was on the hunt for seafood. I walked by Oceanaire and almost ventured in, but I remembered that I had read some positive things about Candelas, so I wanted to check it out quickly before making a decision.
The lounge just had a few people, and the bartender – Laurel – said I could eat at the bar. It was cozy, hip – seemed like the polar opposite of Oceanaire – so I stayed.
Instead of an entrée, I got two appetizers, the octopus ceviche, stacked among two corn tortillas and, later, the scallops with portabellos, cilantro, jalapeno, etc.
Both were very good, as were the margaritas: Herradura reposado, lime juice, Grand Marnier. Had two of those.
Candelas was truly an experience, thanks to one of the bartenders who was sitting at the bar, tossing back some drinks on his off night. He was one of those people I had a hard time believing was for real. But he definitely was. If you ever go in and he’s working – his name is Dean – ask him if he ever got his truck back, and if he’s sent me any of that reposado yet.