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Has anyone been to Ritual Tavern yet? (SD)

We drove by it the other day, and then I found this on their website:

About the ritual
we like to think that once you cross the threshold of the ritual, you enter a different
time and space - a simpler time, when people knew all the ingredients in the food they
ate and probably knew the names of the people who farmed their dinner. we've done some
research to find the perfect combination of sustainable and ethical farming practices
and consistent quality. that's why we proudly serve niman ranch meats. when you see us
buying produce at the farmer's market, don't be afraid to say hello.
when possible we avoid serving overly processed foods, high-fructose corn sweetener,
hydrogenated oils, and transfats. we make our own condiments, pickles, coleslaw, veggie
burgers, and french fries right here. it's our ritual.

Sounds interesting... http://www.ritualtavern.com/

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  1. I wish I had the detailed food memory that lots of you posters do! We were there about 5 weeks ago and some of our meal as good, none of it particularly memorable (especially for my brain!) except the gumbo was delicious! The lamb sirloin was good, and thankfully cooked med rare to perfection. The shortbread dessert was good, the porter shake was the favorite of my 21 year old son.
    We thought for the neighborhood bar atmosphere and the portions, the prices were a bit high, and when we went there (a month after opening) was no coffee, although apparently the owner was out buying French Press pots that evening. When I asked what the coffee was going to be the server mentioned some roaster unfamiliar to me, and I asked why not Cafe Calabria since they are a neighbor and the best in SD. The server mentioned price (huh?) and the owner, when I emailed her, said she didnt know Calabria did wholesale coffee (huh?)
    When we left, there were 6 employees (we counted them) standing around the kitchen pass through chatting about something, and not a one took it upon him or herself to walk over to the door and say bye, hope you come back, hope you enjoyed the meal, or anything like that. We were very surprised and a bit put off by that.
    We have not been back because of those reasons and the fact that there are so many new places to try in SD, it has not been a priority.
    I will say that we were excited to find a neighborhood joint that we might be a regular at, and were disappointed because it didn't have that calling for us, but then found Buds which has! We live in Mission Hills, and both are what we call neighborhood. Buds is delicious, very affordable, and so pleasant to be at! And their coffee (with just a touch of chickory) is great! But that's another whole conversation.

    1 Reply
    1. re: abacal

      I ate there the second week they were open and was pleased. It's very simple food - burgers, shepherds pie, chicken, gumbo, etc. I had the Gumbo and my friend had the shepherds pie. Both were above average, but nothing I would seek out. Clearly, when we went, they were still trying to find their niche and they made a point to let us know that their menu will be changing in the weeks to come. What I do love about the Ritual is it feels like a neighborhood cafe, rather than a restaurant, and the beer options are very good. They currently have 7 taps, all of which are from local microbreweries. They also have a large selection of bottled Belgian style ales.

    2. Thanks abacal and naven. We were feeling a little stir crazy from last week and wanted some comfort food, so we headed to Ritual on Saturday night. The atmosphere was the best part of the place. It felt like a real neighborhood place and the owner's wife, Stacy, was walking around chatting with the guests and making sure everyone was happy. Abacal, it seems like they have gotten their act together a bit since you were there, because everyone was very attentive.

      We didn't have any coffee so I am not sure if they took your advice on using Calabria, but I was impressed with their selection of local beer and wine. The special was local mussels- they were soo good they had to bring us a second helping of bread to soak it all the sauce. I really enjoyed the shephard's pie- nice chunks of lamb and beef. I appreciated that the flavors all stayed distinct. And we had housemade pumpkin pie for dessert which capped off the meal perfectly. We will be back for sure.

      1. Went there last night for the first time. Thought it was pretty good. Had shepherd's pie, which was very nice. The potato topping was really good, and the meat and gravy flavorful.

        The beer selection is really what makes this place stand out. Incredible selection of bottles and drafts. I will definitely be back.

        4 Replies
        1. re: Josh

          I enjoyed my burger there, and the homemade condiments and pickles really stood out to me. The Stone Porter Milkshake was great as well, it was like having a creamier version of the porter, and a beer-ier version of ice cream. It was one of the few things recently that lived up to very high expectations.

          1. re: JRSD

            Oddly enough, will actually be eating there tonight. Wanted to try something new in the neighborhood (sorry Urban Solace) and it was a toss up between Jayne's Gastropub and Ritual. The prices at Jayne's really turned me off... I'll post my take later, after I've had a few pints of Hop 15 ;-)

            ETA: Seems they now know of Calabria. From their online menu:
            welcome to the ritual tavern
            we like to think that once you cross the threshold of the ritual, you enter a different
            time and space - a simpler time, when people knew all the ingredients in the food they
            ate and the names of the people who farmed them. we would like to introduce some of
            our farming, roasting and baking neighbors.

            carlsbad aquafarms
            our black mediterranean mussels come fresh from a family farm of third generation
            Californians. their rancho aqua lagoon aquafarm in carlsbad produces shellfish that
            exceed the requirements of the the national shellfish sanitation program, and is
            environmentally sustainable at the same time

            crows pass farms, temecula
            our organic greens for our salad come from crows pass farms in Temecula. They also
            provide a range of other organics we use as sides and garnishes on our other plates.

            niman ranch
            “niman ranch started in the early 1970s, when bill niman began raising pigs, chickens,
            goats, and cattle on eleven acres in a small coastal town, just north of san francisco.
            He raised his animals using traditional, humane husbandry methods and wholesome
            natural feeds. before long, bill began selling his beef to local grocery stores while
            restaurants were asking to put the flavorful beef on their menus.” (Source –
            nimanranch.com) niman ranch now distributes meats from over 500 u.s. family owned
            farms and ranches using all vegetable feeds and who humanely raise their livestock,
            with no antibiotics or hormones.

            caffÉ calabria coffee roasting co.
            located on 30th street just south of here, calabria roasts coffee from around the world.
            all of their organic coffee is certified by ccof, california certified organic farmers, an
            independent third party deemed for the assessment of organic quality foods.

            sadie rose baking company
            known for their “handmade, hearth baked, artisan breads” sadie rose baking company
            uses old world techniques and recipes to create some of the best breads in san diego. we
            love their foccacia rolls and ciabatta.

            bottega italiana
            like the ritual, bottega italiana makes a point to avoid corn syrups, artificial colors and
            flavors, and milk that has been treated with growth hormones. The only color in their
            gelati comes from the natural ingredients. they also have a commitment to the
            environment, recycling all appropriate plastics, metals, and paper products. They also
            compost hundreds of pounds of fruit a month. lastly, their packaging, gelato cups and
            wholesale containers are made from biodegradable corn plastic. please visit them in

            ritual tavern
            we make our own condiments, ketchup, mustard, pickles, coleslaw and french fries right
            here. it's our ritual.

          2. re: Josh

            If you are a fan of the beer selection, you may be interested in this event- I plan on attending!

            Trappist Ale Night at the Ritual Tavern
            Tuesday, January 22th, from 5:30 to close

            Please join us to experience the monastic brewing traditions of Belgium and Holland. The monks of the Cistercian Order of Strict Observance have been brewing beer for centuries to support their communities and their charitable works, and in the process they've become some of the world's most esteemed brew masters. We'll be offering tasting flights of three beers from Trappist breweries paired with artisan cheese from Belgian, French and German monestaries. Gina Freize from Venissimo will be here to discuss the cheeses while you taste

            1. re: bethsd

              Hm, sounds good, though I've already had all the various Trappist beers at one time or another. I did a similar event at O'Brien's last year, which even included the incredibly hard-to-get Westvleteren. It's nice to see the expanding interest in Belgian beers, though.

          3. We have eaten here many times. The shepard's pie, burger and homeade pickles will not dissapoint. Some of their other entrees have been both good and mediocre at times, but we will definitely be back. The owner Stacie is nice and very receptive to feedback. A few times she has changed recipes after we made suggestions. We also love the fact that we can get gluten free onion rings at this place. Just make sure to call ahead so they can make the batter properly.

            1. Finally had a chance to stop by and it was a great experience. The Stone Porter shake was yummy and I had the same mussels special as Bethsd, black mussels from Carlsbad Aquafarms in a white wine, garlic, onion (maybe shallot) sauce. On this visit, the sauce was a lackluster white wine sauce, but the mussels were really fresh and more than made up for the sauce. It was served with crusty bread, which was a nice side.

              Two of my friends had the gumbo and really liked it. Great taste and an appropriate amount of heat.

              My BF wasn't a fan of his Niman Ranch burger. He said the meat was too bland and the "artisan buns" too hard for a burger. I tried their in-house ketchup and it was really acidic with onion almost dominating the tomato flavor. Ironically, what would have made a difference would have been sugar or corn syrup, like a commercial ketchup, because sweetness would have balanced out the other flavors.

              We split the bread pudding for dessert and I wasn't overly impressed. It was a dense clump with overpowering cinnamon flavor.

              The beers were great, the service fabulous, and the dining room comfortable and lovely. The food was decent and certainly worth a return visit to try other dishes. I'd have the mussels again or try the shepherd's pie. If anything, we'd be back for beers, the shake, and the ambiance.

              1. I just visited Ritual for the first time and thought I would add my review. We went all out on Saturday and I still didn't get to try everything I wanted to try, but the bottom line was we were really pleased and can't wait to go back.

                First, we shared onion rings. Delish! I'd been craving them for quite a while, and this hit the spot. The remoulade they are served with was nice, but the ketchup was the best. You can really taste the tomatoes in there, but it's still a little sweet like you expect it to be.

                We shared the green salad and this was the one miss on service that night. Service overall was extremely friendly and helpful, but this is...a place to dine leisurely (thank goodness we had no other plans that night)! Well, the salad was forgotten altogether, but our server asked us if we still wanted it and it did come out before our mains (and the mains weren't lukewarm or overcooked like they held them for us, so thank goodness). The salad was ok - just greens, strawberries and oranges. Could have used a few nuts and/or cheese crumbles, I think, but the fruit was incredibly flavorful and spoke to the quality of ingredients they use.

                For mains, I had the frenched pork (loin? chop? can't remember) that replaced the lamb sirloin on their menu. It was perfection. Medium rare and seasoned perfectly. Probably the best pork [loin/chop/whatever] I've ever had. It was served with a veg medley that was also wonderful. So simple, but so well-done. Just mushrooms, squash and pearl onions, but they were also perfectly seasoned and cooked. Slightly crisp still - I hate limp veggies. Finally, it came with bacon & sweet potato croquettes, which looked like crab cakes. They were an interesting taste and a fine addition to the plate, but the other two components far overshadowed it.

                My husband had the burger. The bun was nice and soft, and everything tasted really fresh and high quality. It was really simple and nothing stunning, but the quality was there. Wish they would allow you to pay a little more to get the onion rings with this instead of the fries. We definitely didn't need both! The fries tasted nice (slim & crispy like I like them), but were very tiny...like 1/4 inch long. Kind of not ergonomic...so that was weird.

                For dessert, we of course had to try the Smoked Porter Shake. It was very smoky, coffee-ey, chocolatey...I was glad to have tried it and it was interesting, but it wouldn't be my go-to dessert. More of a novelty, like a fried snickers bar or something...you just have to try it.

                We got another dessert just to be safe (in case we didn't like the shake!). The dessert of the day was a Strawberry Shortbread. I could have eaten at least 10. Not that it was too small, it was a good size. Just that it was heaven. One of my favorite things is English Shortbread Cookies, and the cake of this "Strawberry Shortcake" was cake like that. It was a little odd, since we are used to spongecake and this was the opposite: dry and flaky instead of moist and spongy. But, it worked just fine and the strawberries were again lovely.

                Overall, it really felt like attention was paid to detail and they do a good job at diverse efforts (english pub food, ethical food, beers local and world-renown), so one might worry that their efforts would be diluted. But I felt they really pulled it off! I can't wait to go back, it just has to be on a night when I am not in any kind of hurry.

                1. I've been to Ritual Tavern for drinks and appetizers. I have to say their cheese plate was great as was their beer menu.

                  1. We enjoy just going there for some good beers and the cheese plate, but now they have the local made salumi plate so you can mix it up.

                    The recent bacon wrapped meatloaf was surprisingly tasty (hey, it's meatloaf! haha) but be forewarned the "wrap" is simply a thick cut piece of bacon laying on the top.

                    1. We finally tried out Ritual Tavern on Friday night. I give them an A effort but only about a B- for execution. I don't really get all this talk about its "old world charm" - it seemed kind of cheaply done and kitschy to me, though it's not entirely clear that the kitsch is intentional. The room is cute but REALLY loud ... I'm kind of an old guy with some hearing problems and so this is a bigger issue for me than for the younger crowd that I think this restaurant is trying to appeal to. The beer selection was just fantastic, I loved that there is finally a spot in San Diego that has such a breadth of beers to choose from - and learn about! But the service at the bar was very inattentive ... It wasn't THAT crowded so it wasn't clear to me why the bartenders were so distracted. I really admire the attention to local ingredients, and our burgers were perfectly cooked and absolutely delicious. If you need to sell someone on the taste benefit of eating virtuous beef, bring them here! But the fries were unimpressive, the homemade ketchup was basically tomato paste, and the homemade mustard too sweet for my taste. The onion rings were great. The service was a little distracted - I would have had another beer if anyone had ever gotten around to checking in with us. So all in all, I really admire what they're trying to do, but I didn't feel like they had their act quite together, and with sooo many places popping up all over San Diego, it'll be a while before I head back.

                      10 Replies
                      1. re: Bobierto

                        "I loved that there is finally a spot in San Diego that has such a breadth of beers to choose from"

                        Huh? There's a ton of great places to get an excellent selection of beer here; we have some of the best beer bars in the country.

                        1. re: DougOLis

                          I guess I don't get out enough - and/or am not excited about driving up to Escondido or Solana Beach. Pleez let me know what your beer joint picks are for downtown/Hillcrest/North Park/Mission Hills!

                          1. re: Bobierto

                            The entire length of 30th St. is full of places to get great beer and/or food. At the north end is Jayne's Gastropub, then moving southwards you have Tioli's Crazee Burger, Ritual Tavern, Toronado, Linkery, and Hamilton's Tavern in South Park.

                            In Hillcrest you can find The Wit's End, and downtown is home to The Neighborhood, The Local, and Downtown Johnny Brown's.

                            1. re: Josh

                              2nd to all of those. Hamilton's, Toronado, and Downtown Johnny Brown's stand out as the best bars though.

                              There's the Ruby Room in Hillcrest too and Lee Chase is opening up a new brewpub/pizza place in Normal Heights soon.

                              1. re: DougOLis

                                Yeah, Lee Chase's place is called The Blind Lady. I hope it opens soon. I tried some of the pizza and it was fantastic.

                                  1. re: Josh

                                    The scheduled opening is Jan 30 and 31st (from the blog).

                                    Thanks for talking about this. I've been a big fan of his, and have had the chance to talk with him on several occasions. I can't wait to try his new beers, and go to this new place.

                                1. re: Josh

                                  Thanks, obviously I need to be spending more time in North Park! I am a fan of The Local and Downtown Johnny Brown's (I work around there) so I guess I should think before I bitch!

                                2. re: Bobierto

                                  Don't forget O'Brien's. It's Clairemont Mesaarea, so a little drive maybe, but not so far as Solana or Escondido!

                                  Also, these places don't serve food, but AleSmith, Lightning and Ballast Point all have tasting rooms and/or their main facilities around Miramar/Poway areas.

                              2. Ate there once and have been meaning to go back because my first run wasn't stellar. They have homemade ketchup and hot sauce which is pretty good though.

                                I had the Shepherd's Pie which was just OK. I think because we were early eating for dinner (around 5pm) I may have gotten a leftover from lunch because the potatoes on top seemed like they had been sitting for awhile.

                                The cheeseburger (another dish) and beer were really good though and I liked the atmosphere. Their burger was much better than Urban Solace's, which we had the week before.

                                1. Well, The Ritual Tavern has been on my list for about a year, last week I scored a BOGO coupon in a local advertising mag. and decided to give them a try. The Ritual is a small casual pub style place, the bar seats about 8 or so, they’ve been around for about a year and a half. We sat at the bar, my fav spot. Stacey, the bartender and one of the owners, helped us with the beer & ale selection, with some sampling and tasting. Ritual has a nice selection of crafted micro brews on tap, discounted from 5:30-7:30pm, and a ton of bottled choices.

                                  We ordered the Burger and Shepard’s pie, I asked for the burger to be cooked medium, and guess what, it came out medium and was a generous portioned patty. The burger was trimmed with vine ripe tomatoes, I mean red ripe and tasteful, not like those cardboard tasting things you get in the mega-mart. The burger was also topped with red and green leaf oak lettuce, no iceberg here. Available on the bar was whole grain mustard with a hint of honey giving the burger a nice texture. On the side were house made pickle chips, that were awesome and string fries. Although the fries were fresh and crisp, they got lost on the plate; there were many small pieces and sort of common. I say this because there have been discussions on this board about getting a great burger and fries on the same plate. I’d suggest that they look into trying an English Chip or Belgium Frite style that is thicker and doubled fried, first blanched then crisped and browned, IMO, that would be a killer burger plate.

                                  The Shepard’s Pie, we choose the meat version (vegan is also available), was a nice mix of lamb and other ground meats, with an array of fresh vegetables that were in pieces that you could identify. The gravy had a good consistency, not too thick, with a generous topping of rustic mashed potatoes, very tasty and filling.

                                  No room for dessert this time, there was a Chocolate Moose available, tempting!
                                  There are also some daily specials on the board.

                                  The prices are fair, burger @ 11 Shepard’s Pie @ 13 for the quality of ingredients that they use. This is not fancy stuff just simple homemade tasty comfort food in a similar atmosphere, patio seating was also available. Stacey was very attentive and friendly, she made you feel like you were in her house and I guess we were!

                                  I’m putting them on my regular rotation; I want to try the other items on the menu as well as some of their special food events which include some special prix fixe menus that pare beers & ales with food.

                                  Bottom line, give them a try, they open for dinner at 5:30 pm and closed on Monday, I’m going back.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: cstr

                                    That was a thorough, thoughtful review, thanks! I should aspire to such comprehensive-ness!

                                  2. We had a great meal at Ritual last night. The Beef Cheeks in some kind of beer/ale inspired sauce were the best beef dish I've had out in a long time. But what I loved best were the comfortable atmosphere and old-fashioned good service. Such a relief to be someplace that isn't trying so hard to be cool that it isn't. The (new?) chef is from the Lodge and was the person responsible for their beer dinners there.

                                    I really wish this place were in my neighborhood or that PB had something like it.