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San Diego/La Jolla Report: Crest Cafe, Barbarella's, The Cottage

I was visiting friends in San Diego this weekend, enjoyed the nice weather...we went out for brunch twice and dinner once (had quick tacos in Old Town that are not really worth mentioning).

Crest Cafe: We headed to Hillcrest for a midday brunch on Saturday. We tried to go to Hash House A Go Go, but the line was very long, so we decided to try Crest Cafe instead. At noon, there was no line (though the place was full). Overall, I thought it was just okay. I had the blueberry waffle, which was fine, but not very big or very special. One friend had the creme brulee french toast, which I thought was the big hit. I would recommend this, the flavor was very nice. Another friend had pumpkin pancakes which I thought were nothing special. Fourth friend had Mexican omelet that I found too spicy - it tasted like eggs w/ a lot of hot sauce. A friend and I shared an order of spicy chicken sausage, which was a bit dry (one serving was just 1 sausage, cut in half). We also shared homefries which I thought were underseasoned. Total price for 4 people, w/ coffee and OJ and such, was 52 dollars. Not bad, but not all that cheap either, since I didn't think portions were very big. Service was also just okay.

Barbarella's: 5 of us ate dinner at Barbarella's in La Jolla. The place is currently VERY decked out w/ Halloween gear....a bit over the top in my opinion. This place was crowded, but the wait for a table was pretty short. We started w/ an heirloom tomato/mozzarella salad which was good. I ordered the spaghetti with clams...overall, not bad, but nothing too special. The clams seemed fresh and were tasty, but I thought the sauce could have been better with more tomato. Still, not bad. One friend had a steak which he said was good, but I didn't try it. Two friends had pizza, and I can't even remember what the fifth friend had. My biggest complaint about Barbarella's was the pizza that one friend was served. It was very very plain, and I really think Barbarella's should be ashamed that they served such a boring pizza. It was vegetarian: spinach, cheese and garlic I think (I can't remember the exact menu description), but it barely had any toppings, which meant that most bites tasted like plain bread. The crust itself wasn't that good (hence the comparison to plain bread) - not very crispy or flavorful. For a personal pizza that costs over 10 dollars, this was maybe the saddest rendition I've ever tasted. Luckily, my friend was able to dip the pizza in the sauce from my pasta dish, which helped flavor it up. The other pizza (mushroom) seemed to have more toppings, but I didn't taste it. Service was fine but not memorable. Overall, I would not return to Barbarella's.

The Cottage: On Sunday, we had another late brunch at The Cottage in La Jolla. The wait wasn't too bad (about 20 minutes) for a table inside (the patio would have been nice, but we were hungry and inside was pretty nice as well). Overall, I think this brunch blew Crest Cafe out of the water. Everything was better here. I had an omelet w/ avocado/cheese/sour cream and bacon. Really good, served with well seasoned homefries. I substituted a raspberry millet muffin for the english muffin, and it was warm, moist and delicious. One friend had the french toast - 6 huge and fluffy pieces, served w/ strawberries and powdered sugar. Awesome. Some of the best restaurant french toast I've ever had. Another friend had pancakes w/ banana - also very light and fluffy. He also had a side of sausage, which I didn't taste to compare to Crest Cafe's. Fourth friend had the eggs benedict special w/out ham - this was also really great - very good hollandaise sauce, beautiful presentation, reasonably priced. This meal, also including coffees/oj/smoothies was 56 dollars. Only a tiny bit more than Crest Cafe, but significantly more food and in my mind, significantly better food. Service was also stellar here, our waitress was very friendly and attentive. I will be back in San Diego in December and will definitely consider returning here.

Overall, a nice weekend in San Diego, even if not all the food was stellar. My friends and the beach, at least, were awesome.

Dave MP

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  1. Thanks for the detailed report - I'm sorry about Crest and Barbarella. I've been to
    Crest for breakfast many times when other places were overcrowded. Their ricotta pancakes are very good, but the rest of it is pretty ordinary. I ate at Barbarella once and saw no reason to go back. If I'm having breakfast in La Jolla I'm usually at Harry's (b/c my parents like it - imo the food isn't very good) Brockton Villa (my favorite) or Mission Coffee Cup - which is currently closed. The Cottage used to be a pet store, and I've never gotten over that, but I hear good things! :-)

    2 Replies
    1. re: Alice Q

      I'll be there in December again, so I'll hopefully try Brockton Villa. The outside patio of The Cottage was really nice, next time it would be nice to sit out there. I agree that Crest was fine but just kind of ordinary. You should definitely give The Cottage a try. How long have they been around for?

      1. re: Dave MP

        I've been to the Cottage and the food was ok. Even without the pet store thing I'd still prefer the Brockton Villa for the setting - that cool old house with the abalone shell fireplace, and wraparound deck overlooking the Cove. The Coast Toast is great - I never order anything else and wouldn't recommend doing so - last time I went a friend had to send her eggs back twice and they still came out wrong. (To be fair, she wanted them hard and the kitchen kept cooking them soft, which most people would prefer!) If you do want to go to Brockton Villa in December, make a reservation at least a day in advance to avoid waiting. They don't take them on the same day.

    2. Great report Dave!
      I am not a fan of Barbarella..the owner Barbara seems to be full of herself and when she was a manager at Piatti's, I heard she was a terror to be reckoned with..Halloween decorations??
      Crest Cafe..ok not over the top..
      I love the Cottage..I live a couple blocks away and always enjoy their food, breakfast, lunch or dinner...(I didn't know it was a pet shop..must of been over 15 years ago)
      Sounds like you had a good time with your friends!

      2 Replies
      1. re: Beach Chick

        That's a second-hand cheap shot at a nice person and a good restaurateur. She is neither a terror nor self-absorbed.

        1. re: Beach Chick

          It was a loooong time ago - I used to buy food there for my pet duck, which I owned in the 5th grade, and I'm now 37!

        2. Thanks for the report. We've been wondering about Barbarella for a while and perhaps it will be lower on our "need to check out" list.

          The Cottage is good, better than Brockton Villa, I think. If you come back, go to Isabel's Cantina for breakfast or lunch in Pacific Beach. It's the sister restaraunt to Mission Cup Cafe.

          If you are in the Santaluz area (near the 15 and 56 freeways), Cavaillon has a terrific Sunday brunch/lunch menu. Place is quiet, no wait to get in. They have excellent beignets. Eggs are done perfectly, thanks to the French trained chef. Potatoes are perfectly done w/ caramelized shallots, a tasty balance of sweet and savory.

          2 Replies
          1. re: daantaat

            Thanks for the suggestions. I read about Cavaillon and it sounds great for Sunday brunch...I am definitely interested in checking it out when I'm next in San Diego (although I don't know if my plans will involve being there any Sundays....am I correct that that's the only day they do breakfast/brunch?)

            Dave MP

            1. re: Dave MP

              Yes, Sundays are the only day Cavaillon does breakfast/brunch. They do dinners the rest of the week and they're excellent for the price! I could eat their fritto misto and chickpea fritters every day!

          2. Dont miss Baci....very classic and very fine Italian. Old school flair and service.

            1. ugh, barbarella is a waste. the one time i ate there all 4 of us were underwhelmed. food was mediocre at best, service was worse. you would have been much better off at 'piatti' across the street. live & learn, right?

              but the best italian, hands-down, is 'trattoria acqua' on prospect. fantastic food, great ambience. definitely try it next time you're in town.

              i'm glad you at least enjoyed the cottage, it used to be one of my faves. if you want something different on your next visit, the 'mission coffee cup cafe' does excellent breakfast...and a little farther north, 'americana' in del mar has kick-a** omelettes - the goat cheese/portobello combo is to die for [but fair warning that the service there is horrendous].

              -----
              Trattoria Acqua
              1298 Prospect St., La Jolla, CA 92037

              Americana Restaurant
              1454 Camino Del Mar, Del Mar, CA 92014

              Mission Coffee Cup Cafe
              1111 Wall Street, La Jolla, CA

              5 Replies
              1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                We almost ate at Piatti instead. Oh well. Like you said, live and learn.

                Thanks for the other suggestions, I'll make sure to refer back in December.

                1. re: Dave MP

                  The Mission Cup has been closed for awhile since a fire.. I dont think theyve re-opened.. I loved it too though.. Those blueberry pancakes!!! Codys I think outdoes The Cottage.. AND theres a view!!! Barbarellas.. were never going back.. for the reasons all stated here.. plus reservations not held to.. and she couldnt have cared less.. We went down to Tratorria ...good maragritas though and loved the patio.. but hostess and ok to lousy food..not worth it..

                  1. re: butterbutt

                    oh no!!! i'm so sad to hear that about the coffee cup. i moved away last spring so i'm sorta out of the loop.

                    i hope they can reopen. what a great little neighborhood place.

                    wait, you had a bad meal at trattoria acqua??? i'm shocked. i've never known anyone to have a negative experience there, and all my meals there [and i've enjoyed many] have been excellent. unless they've gotten a new chef or made some major changes, i have to assume you just hit them on a really off night. how odd. i'd encourage you to try again...but i don't want you to hate me if you have another disappointing experience :)

                    1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                      no no!!!! I meant we left Barbarellas and went to the Trattoria restaurant in la Jolla Shores that we do like very much.... Barbarellas has the lousy hostess/

                      LOVE Tratorria Aqua.. I met my husband there.. its our anniversary tomorrow.. and their food is great... sorry!! my husband complains that I jump around.. seeing my post I can see the wrong inference.. yes to Trattoria Acqua!!!!

                      1. re: butterbutt

                        whew...glad you cleared that one up. you had me worried! :)

                        happy anniversary!