mail

Restaurant Reviews

Pass the kibbeh, please

Posted: November 10th, 2017 | Featured, Food & Drink, Restaurant Reviews | No Comments

By Frank Sabatini Jr. When asked if the surrounding competition of at least five other Middle Eastern/Mediterranean restaurants was a deterrent when opening Blue Fourno Grill in Hillcrest earlier this year, owner Abed Shadfan replied, “No. We’re different.” He explained that everything is made from scratch, including the chicken and lamb-beef shawarma, for which the meats are spiced in-house and stacked by hand onto a vertical rotisserie until forming a large self-basting cone.

Read More

‘Hands of love’

Posted: October 27th, 2017 | Food & Drink, Restaurant Reviews, Top Story | No Comments

By Frank Sabatini Jr. | Restaurant Review

Oscar Acosta recalls telling his wife, Dulce, before they got married, “One day we’re going to have a restaurant.”

The couple first met at a farmers market in their native Mexico City. They eventually moved to the U.S. and settled in Spring Valley, where they run one of the best and most underrated Mexican restaurants in San Diego County, called Ranas Mexico City Cuisine.

Read More

Gourmet bar brunch

Posted: October 13th, 2017 | Featured, Food & Drink, Restaurant Reviews | No Comments

By Frank Sabatini Jr.

The owners of The Rail could have settled for a novice cook who’s good at scrambling eggs and frying bacon within the confines of the establishment’s small kitchen. Lucky for us they went the extra mile in recruiting a veritable chef to head up their brunch and lunch menus.

Chad Brunette is a graduate of the Las Vegas Art Institute’s culinary program and former sous chef at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas. You know immediately when sinking your choppers into his wine-braised meatball sliders, for example, that a practiced, creative mind is at work.

Read More

Mouthfuls of food at Lazy Acres Market

Posted: September 29th, 2017 | Food & Drink, Restaurant Reviews, Top Story | No Comments

By Frank Sabatini Jr.

I never cared much for soda drinks, cookies and chicken cordon bleu. But that all changed when grazing through the prepared foods section of Lazy Acres Natural Market, the upscale organic-conscious grocery store that recently opened in Mission Hills.

Hang left after entering and you’ll see the area’s first food station, where smoothies are made to order and fresh orange juice, kombucha and “natural” house sodas are available from self-serve taps. If you’re struck by indecision, ask for a sample.

Read More

Burger mania on Friars Road 

Posted: September 15th, 2017 | Featured, Food & Drink, Restaurant Reviews | No Comments

By Frank Sabatini Jr.

Whether it’s fish tacos, fried chicken or some special sauce that becomes the signature item in certain restaurants, I always try cracking into their guarded recipe secrets through various means. Sometimes I luck out. But more often I hit a wall, especially in franchises protected by scripted personnel.

At Mr. Peabody’s Burgers & Ale, I more or less discovered the elusive ingredient that goes into their top-selling burgers.

Read More

Greek redux

Posted: August 18th, 2017 | Featured, Food & Drink, Restaurant Reviews | No Comments

By Frank Sabatini Jr. | Restaurant Review

I have a major problem dining at Olympic Café.

Nearly every menu item — Greek, American and the house-made desserts — sends me into a state of shameful gluttony quelled only by overeating and stealing forkfuls of food from my tablemates along the way.

Read More

Top-floor boss

By Frank Sabatini Jr. | Restaurant Review

Ingrid Funes has figuratively and literally made her way to the top since leaving her native El Salvador at age 15 to pursue a restaurant career in Los Angeles.

Now the executive chef of Cusp Dining & Drinks, where customers are afforded opulent views of La Jolla from an 11th-floor dining room and bar lounge, Lunes proves that you don’t have to be a man or an alumna of some highfalutin culinary school to achieve success.

Read More

Backseat dining

By Frank Sabatini Jr.        

It was a reservation for two.

“We have the car for you,” said the hostess to our bewilderment, while leading us toward the rear section of the warehouse-style dining room and past a busy, open kitchen.

Within moments a shiny red Fiat perched a couple feet off the ground came into view. Its front seats were missing and the side doors were ajar. Implanted inside was our table, an attention-getting perch that sent my tall spouse into a moment of panic.

Read More

A carnivore’s paradise

Posted: July 7th, 2017 | Featured, Food & Drink, Restaurant Reviews | No Comments

By Frank Sabatini Jr. | Restaurant Review Their goal was to take the mystery out of meat by showing consumers how regionally sourced free-range livestock is broken down for consumption, with few parts excluded. After generating revenues through crowdsourcing, Trey Nichols and James Holtslag opened their dream business, an educational butchery named The Heart & Trotter in North Park.

Read More

Grapes, suds and coffee

By Frank Sabatini Jr.

The most commonly asked question by first-time visitors to Negociant Urban Winery is, “Do you make the wines here?”

According to co-owner John Rinaldi, their jaws often drop when he answers “Yes,” despite stacks of wooden barrels forming the backdrop to a modest-size tasting room and wine-making facility that formerly housed a tanning salon.

Read More

Endangered species

By Frank Sabatini Jr. | Restaurant Review

We were seven strong, a modern family of two same-sex couples, two high-achieving college girls we collectively and proudly call our daughters, and their grandmother visiting from Missouri.

If this were 1971, when Bully’s East — which now has “Prime Bistro Sports Bar” tagging the name — we’d be paying only 15 cents for bottomless coffee and $4.50 for prime rib with side dishes. We would have also been brunching in an insufferably discriminating climate, no matter where. (I’ll take today’s prices any day with the bonuses of freedom and acceptance.)

Read More

Sticky fingers

Posted: June 9th, 2017 | Featured, Food & Drink, Restaurant Reviews | No Comments

By Frank Sabatini Jr. Despite small price hikes over the past couple of years, Rose Donuts ranks among the cheapest places in San Diego to consume a hefty well-made sandwich plus a sugary treat and beverage of choice for as little as $5.45 — and at any time of the day or night.

Read More

Vegan suppers inspired from the heartland

Posted: May 26th, 2017 | Featured, Food & Drink, Restaurant Reviews | No Comments

By Frank Sabatini Jr. The term “Midwest comfort food” conjures up images of gravy-smothered meats, cheesy casseroles and butter-loaded desserts. They’re precisely the kinds of dishes Roy Elam grew up eating outside of St. Louis until becoming a vegan 12 years ago. Since then, he’s headed the kitchens of two vegan restaurants in the Los Angeles area, helped open a vegan eatery in Bahrain, and sadly lost his mother to breast cancer, which led him […]

Read More