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Feb 27, 2009 01:42 PM

San Diego - Farm House Cafe or Urban Solace?

The wife and I have a precious date night out this evening . . . we're new to San Diego and devoted foodies. After much research on these boards and looking over the website menus we've got it narrowed down to Farm House Cafe or Urban Solace for dinner tonight. If you had to choose between your last meal on this planet between Farm House Cafe or Urban Solace (and no cheating by mentioning other places - we're on a budget and these two places look to offer a nice blend of ambience, quality, creative food and value) - which would you choose? Need to know before 6pm tonight if possible . . . THANKS!!

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  1. Quiet(ish) date with wife/significant other - Farmhouse Cafe

    Night out with abovementioned loved one + friends - Urban Solace

    Although the $20 3-course stressed economy dinner at The Better half would trump them both in my book. I know, I know, that's cheating.

    10 Replies
    1. re: Ewilensky

      Not surprisingly I agree that Better Half would be a much better choice and even ordering from the regular menu is not more expensive than Farmhouse. If you would have to decide between Farmhouse and Urban S Farmhouse will give you the more refined food but after now 6-7 visits we had only one visit where nearlu everything was good. Farmhouse can produce good food ( but also quite a lot of disasters (e.g. Snail risotto (like eating rubber balls), steak & frites). Urban will give you more consistent, less refined food). Both place have also average at best service and tend to be quite loud.

      1. re: honkman

        I am really shocked honkman. I give you all the respect in the world, and I would greatly prefer that whatever discussion may occur is focused on the food and experience. If I recall correctly (or IIRC for those under 25) you loved Region as much as I did (do). That being said, I could not disagree more with you about Farm House and Better Half. I respect your opinion, but I just can't find the common ground. I have been to Better Half 3 times and Farm House 4. The only things at the better half I had that I want to order again are the pork belly and the bread pudding (one of two tries it was superb). At Farm House I would order the chicken liver mousse, the charcuterie plate, the truffle gnocchi, the pork cheeks, the lamb shank, the house made bolognese (this perplexes me, I've had this twice and both times it was astonishingly good, yet I know you had it and did not like it, and I am a total housemade pasta junkie), the salmon, hmm, probably more. Oh, the escargot risotto was exceptional the two times I had it. So, somehow we (I believe) met at Region but diverged here.
        As a side note, I was at Farm House last week and neither the Chef nor the usual head of the house (sorry I forget her name at the moment) were there, but service was very good and the food as good as if He was there.

        So to address the OP. Farm House, 100%. The prix fixe + wine is a good deal, and very good. But, I would go for the pork cheeks. Pork cheeks, ummm.

        1. re: rotochicken

          Life would be boring if everybody would like the same restaurants. For us Farmhouse is not even close to Better Half. We hadway too many negative experiences at Farmhouse in terms of food and service to put it in the same category as Better Half or Region. Most of the food you described at Farmhouse as excellent is in my oppinion good to average and sometimes even disappointing because you can get same much better at other place (e.g. chicken liver pate, flatbread, fettuchini). I also strongly disagree that the service is somehow better than average often even less. I guess we have to agree to disagree on Farmhouse and Better Half.

          1. re: honkman

            One point I want to add that sets BH also apart from restaurants like Farmhouse is how much they care about the ingredients. The snail risotto is a good example -it was obvious the FH wasn't using fresh one but canned ones as most restaurant. At BH they also have great appetizers with snail but serve it only when they gey fresh ones which are not comparable to thecanned ones. And you can see these kinds of differences in many dishes at BH compared to restaurants like Farmhouse.

            1. re: honkman

              It is so strange to hear you say this about Farmhouse - it's not always perfect, but they are putting at least as much if not more care into their ingredients - using local produce, making things from scratch - including the chicken liver mousse, the chocolates, the bolognese, etc. and I would be VERY surprised if Olivier was using snails of any lesser quality than the Better Half. We found BH's food to be intolerably salty, and the charcuterie plate and pork belly were the only dishes (of a table of six) I would consider eating again. We also found the service overbearing and unpleasant.

              If you've only been a time or two, you really should go back to Farmhouse before bashing it ad nauseum. Not everything is perfect, but in terms of overall quality and service, it is at least as good as Better Half.

              1. re: Alice Q

                As i wrote above we visited Farmhouse so far 6-7 times so that I know what I am talking about and for us Farmhouse doesn't put as much effort in the dishes and service as Better Half.
                BTW how often did you visit Better Half so far. Perhabs you should visit more often before you bash it.

                1. re: honkman

                  Honkman - you almost never put any specific information in your posts that would allow someone to understand why you feel the way you do - you use a lot of hyperbole, but don't say exactly what the problem was. I said the food was oversalted and the service overbearing. There were only two items we would order again. I've heard similar reports from several other people, and frankly have no interest in going back to a restaurant that has disappointed for more punishment. What was wrong with your food at FH? I know you said something about snails - but let's face it, that's something few people will probably order. Is there any other specific input you can provide?

                  1. re: Alice Q

                    I find it very odd that you are trying to set some standards about when to talk about a restaurant by accusing others that they might have been only one or two times and don’t know what they are talking about but at the same time you apparently bash other restaurants after you have been only once. In addition, that is not the first thread where Farmhouse is discussed and I have written in more detail about multiple dishes which were quite disappointing and a very inattentive and superficial service. I haven’t seen many construtcive critism from you about Better Half beside overbearing service (which you seem to be the only person feeling this way) and oversalted food (which is not terrible specific).
                    Perhaps you should start to use your own standards and “you really should go back to Better Half before bashing it ad nauseum. Not everything is perfect, but in terms of overall quality and service, it is at least as good as Farmhouse.”

                    1. re: honkman

                      I had dinner this past Friday night at Better Half and must say I agree with Alice's general tone. (Haven't eaten at Farmhouse so can't weigh in there.) First of all the service WAS overbearing, that's just the word. The guy was pretentious and mannered and didn't listen. I just wanted to tell him to back off. The tomato soup with basil was the high point of the meal, really very nice. The Cornish game hen was distressingly dry, though the wild rice was lovely. The meat loaf was overseasoned. The bread pudding was too bready! Not creamy enough. All in all a disappointing meal, and although I appreciate the $20 special, the price of our half bottle of wine inflated the bill quite a lot - it's what I often spend on full bottles.

                      1. re: Bobierto

                        I have had decent food experiences at BH, but agree with you about the price on the 1/2 bottles. That alone is really deal breaker for me.

      2. They're both good, but Farmhouse is probably a better "date night" choice - the food is French, whereas at Urban Solace it's American comfort food with a twist. Make a reservation, whichever one you choose!

        1. I would definitely pick Farmhouse over Urban Solace. I've had pretty good food at Urban Solace, but I'm usually not that impressed. On the other hand, the food I've had at Farmhouse has been excellent.

          1. Thanks everyone for the feedback . . . we're looking for romance, so Farm House it is . . . BTW, we did the stressed economy blue plate special at Better Half last month . . . it was very nice.

            1. Wow - we really kicked off quite a discussion . . . though my wife and I have only eaten at Better Half and Farm House one time each - I'll chime in with our experiences. We went to Better Half about a month ago to take advantage of the unbelievable $15 3-course prix fixe early bird special. The ambience was wonderful - we got there at 6pm on a Saturday and the place was about half full . . . it was packed by 7pm. We started with leek and potato soup - which was spot on. Velvet-smooth and layered flavors. My wife had mussels en frite and I had the cornish game hen. Both were nice - but neither spectacular. We finished with bread pudding- far too sweet. You can't argue the value they delivered, but it didn't blow us away. The lone truly memorable dish was the soup. We went to Farm House this past Friday around 7:45pm. It was packed and we LOVED the ambience . . . the seating was tight but not too tight, it was a perfectly quaint place to sneak away and enjoy a lovely meal with other foodies in the know. The food was consistently spectacular here . . . again, just one meal - but they nailed EVERYTHING. I had the $30 prix-fixe February special (gnocchi with truffle oil and bread crumbs . . . braised veal shank with mustard greens and polenta . . . and they let me substitute the chocolate dessert for an almond panna cotta). The service was really charming . . . laid back, warm, friendly, water was filled without us even knowing it etc. - pacing of the service was just right. My wife started with chevre salad and had the 1/2 dozen oysters for her dinner (she wanted to save room for dessrt - of which she ordered the butterscotch pot de creme). My gnocchi was as light as a cloud with a touch of (I believe) gorgonzola and the essence of truffle oil gave it perfect depth. My wife made me eat half her salad so she could eat 1/2 my gnocchi. My veal shank was again - spot on. Impossibly tender braised veal set against the slightly bitter greens and the polenta was sublime. My wife's oysterswere the only off note of the evening . . . not because of their quality, but rather because of their size . . . each about the size of a nickel. Shame on us for not inquiring exactly what type of oyster . . . and yes, oysters should be appreciated for their quality rather than their volume - but $12 for six teensy-eensy bites of food should come with a forewarning. The panna cotta was unbelieveable, smooth and subtle (not too sweet). The butterscotch pot de creme was good - but the panna cotta was ridiculous. Even the decaf coffee my wife ordered was great - bold and vibrant. We've eaten all over America, including many three star places in NYC (Jean Georges, Blue Hill, Babbo, Scarpetta etc) and the experience we had at Farm House rivaled any of them - seriously. We walked out of the place smitten . . .

              3 Replies
              1. re: skedhead2000

                My main issue with BH is one of Alice Q's: the food is too salty. I've eaten there 3 times and they are really heavy handed on the salt. If the chef eased up a bit, it would be much, much better.

                1. re: skedhead2000

                  It's great to here that you guys had a nice dinner. Nice write up.

                  1. re: skedhead2000

                    Thanks for the report - glad you liked it!