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Avenue 5 in Bankers' Hill - San Diego

What are people's thoughts on this place? After reading Naomi Wise's relatively favorable review in the Reader, I dropped by for lunch the other day, and I was not impressed. They have trimmed and sort of dumbed down the dinner menu, getting rid of some of the more interesting entrees like duck breast and pork belly - now they have salmon, chicken, lamb, steak, etc. The interior is bland and boring, and the service was really mediocre. Even the iced tea was so bad that I swapped it out for a diet coke.

I ordered a burger from the lunch menu, and it was just like something you would get at a coffee shop - stale bun, pre-formed patty, yellow mustard and some under-pickled onions. The side salad had slimy lettuce in it. The fries were excellent, but they were drizzled with truffle oil which I wasn't crazy about. They also cost $3.00 extra, bringing the whole thing up to $15.00 for burger, fries and diet coke.

The website talks about "market driven cuisine" and the review mentioned artisanal ingredients, etc. but I certainly wasn't served any. Anybody else have a different experience?

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  1. I went in for lunch twice very shortly after it opened and enjoyed the food, service and wine on both visits. The interior may not reflect an expenditure of a lot of capital but it ain't a dump either. Your notes though suggest that they were not received well and perhaps are having some cash flow issues. If they weren't moving the duck and pork belly it would be hard for them to keep those on the menu.

    4 Replies
    1. re: ibstatguy

      Very good insight. Slimy lettuce might be an indicator that they aren't moving much produce or aren't rotating what they've got.

      1. re: DiningDiva

        Or the exterior of the lettuce froze and attention to detail by kitchen staff is lacking...

        1. re: Cathy

          Yeah, there's at least 5 or 6 other reasons for slimy lettuce; it should never make it onto the diner's plate. A restaurant that wants to be taken seriously (and charge serious prices) has to have control in the ktichen. Slimy lettuce on the plate somehow misses the mark.

      2. We were there for lunch twice, a week ago and two weeks ago. The grilled chicken sandwiches were very good, as was the pasta of the day, while the salmon was unexciting but competent. Service and attention were super the first time and definitely okay the second time. And, we liked the minimalist interior.

        1. Been there a few times now. Good bar, good place for a glass of wine and an appetizer or three. Love those truffle oil fries, they really do it for me.

          I didn't get any of the 'market driven cuisine' either. It's just buzzwords. 'Marketing driven cuisine' is more like it. :) Shoot, pretty soon McDonalds will be advertising their market-driven Big Mac toppings.

          I'd say if you're looking for a fine dining experience with bottles of wine and $25-$35 mains, you'll wish you went to Laurel. Or Tapenade. Or better yet, Market.

          2 Replies
          1. re: jonoropeza

            One of my pet peaves, 'market price'. Ever heard of dollar cost averaging?? maybe you'll get the difference on the wine, dessert or coffee. It's bad enough we have to deal with gas prices that way. Thanks for the advice, your comments are pretty clear, don't eat dinner there.

            1. re: treb

              It's not about "Market Price" though I find that annoying too - it's about the fact that they advertise that their menu is "market driven" - indicating that they use market fresh ingredients - but I didn't actually see that in evidence in the restaurant. Re: fine dining choices - 910, Market or Tapenade are better bets it would seem. 1500 Ocean and Molly's are also up there, and sometimes overlooked I think.

          2. We had dinner there recently and were quite impressed by the quality and preparation of the food. The service was ok and perhaps even too friendly. It is defintiely worth a second visit. I tend to not judge a restaurant by it's lunch menu because I found most restaurants lacking good lunch, e.g. 9-10, Tapenade etc. (Only really positive exception was Arterra).

            1. 3 of us had a very good lunch today even though the place was packed.

              1. the two of us had dinner tonight. liked the interior, although we had dinner at 5:30, so the place seemed spacious because it was mostly empty. i'm not so sure we'd be comfortable if it was full. i agree that the entree choices are quite limited and somewhat pedestrian in concept (except the devil fish). however, execution was terrific. wild greens salad with chevre and fig jam crostini was excellent. loved the grapes in the mushroom tortellini, and sopped up all the sauce with the bread. devil fish (monkfish) was very tasty, although the green beans were bland. lamb was absolutely delicious. split the tarte tatin, which was tasty, but not the greatest example of said dessert, although the accompanying rosemary creme was nice. martinis were superb, and service couldn't have been better. we found out that there's no corkage fee on sundays, so we'll return on a sunday.

                6 Replies
                1. re: beantowntitletown

                  We also went recently for dinner and were very impressed by the quality and execution of food. Definitely some place we want to go back. I am also surprised how much Currant (which we visited also recently and were overall disappointed) gets hyped whereas we feel that Avenue 5 is much better in terms of food and service.

                  1. re: honkman

                    honkman, what happened at Currant? I also had a "eh" lunch there too.

                    1. re: daantaat

                      I will write a short summary in a separate thread this weekend. But overall average, not very creative food and in addition some of the worst service I ever had anywhere.

                      1. re: honkman

                        while I don't agree with honkman on everything about Currant, I will say that the last couple of visits were VERY disappointing in terms of the service.

                        1. re: honkman

                          I'd have to agree on the "not very creative food" part. I posted a review a week or two ago. My service was decent, nothing that rocked my world but not horrible either.

                    2. re: beantowntitletown

                      My partner and I were there last week for dinner and LOVED it. We shared five apps and two desserts and enjoyed every bite...Thought the pricing was appropriate for the quality of food, though it's obviously not an everynight kind of place. Our waiter was fantastic (Ryan) - he was there when we needed him, and was friendly but not obtrusive. The staff as a whole seemed to work well in a team (though the very casual bartendar seemed a bit of his element compared to the rest of the staff). The room is a cross between minimalist and Pottery Barn, but somehow it worked for me anyway. Based on a recent (first) visit to 910 I'd say it's an even draw with each place having aspects that I liked more than at the other . . . and when comparing Avenue 5 to most of what's out there in San Diego, it's definately a winner.

                    3. lunch here both Tues. (4 people) and Wed. (2 people). Solid service though quite busy on Tues. Everyone enjoyed their food (crab cake, burgers, grilled salmon, chicken sandwich, fries). No complaints about interior design.

                      1. After a long day of shopping, my daughter and I stopped in Avenue 5 tonight after trying to find parking down by Cafe Chloe (to no avail). Though the dining room was half empty, they were holding reservations, so we could only sit at the bar. The waitstaff was very accommodating, and our bartender, Curtis, was very nice and very helpful. He made a fruit juice concoction for my under-21 daughter, and a couple of wonderful martinis for me (Saturday night is half-price martini night). We shared an appetizer of calamari, which is served atop a lemon arrabiata and topped with a drizzle of aioli. The calamari was very tender, and we both liked the combination of the arrabiata and aioli. Kelsey opted for the organic chicken breast which as served with forest mushrooms on top and broccolini and mashed potatoes on the side. She absolutely loved it, especially since the mushrooms weren't overly "mushroomy", as she put it, and the lavender honey sauce on the chicken breast was pure heaven. I had the burger with brie and served with truffle fries. The burger was done perfectly, and the fries were, well, all gone by the end of meal, if that tells you anything. Dee-lish! The bartender had a very good repertoire with the customers, as did the rest of the waitstaff. Overall, we liked the food and the ambiance. We'll definitely go back.

                        1. Well I'm glad to hear it sounds like my experience was isolated - but I have to admit, it's a little difficult for me to get motivated to go back with so many other choices out there. I still haven't made it to the Better Half, Ritual Tavern or Chilangos, and that new Farmhouse Cafe sounds interesting. I'd also like to go back to Modus - Jen (jturtle) told me yesterday they've gone all organic.

                          Next dining plans are for a return trip to Bite in a couple of weeks with some friends who haven't been, and a trip up to Cavaillon for their Monday prix fixe. That will keep me busy for a little while! :-)

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: Alice Q

                            I'd give Chilango's a few weeks before revisiting. I think they need to get back in the Mexican groove, they were a little rusty last week.

                          2. After slacking for about two years, I finally decided to give Avenue 5 a shot. After all, I did go to elementary school and high school with the chef. So, I decided to take my parents there for their anniversary dinner, and I have to say, I was impressed.

                            The first thing I noticed was the service was attentive and brisk. But really, the food was king. My mom had the panzarella - the classic Tuscan salad of bread and tomatoes. As the tomatoes are in season, this was excellent. I had the wild mushroom tortellini, mixed with corn and champagne grapes in madeira broth. In both dishes, there was an interplay between savory and sweet that worked well on a hot night. My dad had the wild green salad, and I don't know how that tasted, as he ate the whole thing.

                            For the mains, my dad had the achiote pork loin, my mom had the herb gnocchi and I had the sesame crusted tuna. I have no idea what the pork loin tasted like, but my dad said "the best pork loin, I've ever eaten." I did get to try my Mom's gnocchi - which were phenomenal. The gnocchi were light in texture, but had been sauted to add savoriness to the dish. Its totally something that I'm going to do the next time I attempt to make gnocchi. My dish, the tuna, was cooked perfectly, and the accompanying Asian slaw, with tobiko and picked ginger was an excellent counter-point to the tuna. All in all, a well prepared dish, and a good meal on a hot summer's night.