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Jun 9, 2009 10:49 AM

SD Magazine's Best Restaurants..Reader's Pick 2009

Well it's better than previous years....No Olive Garden for Best Italian..
I gotta get to Crescent Heights Kitchen..

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  1. Yeah, it's not a bad list overall. Not a ton of "insider picks", but still a decent list.

    I am, however, absolutely puzzled by the Marine Room being the "Most Romantic".

    That place is about as romantic as a country club full of retired people. It's like the setting of a Danielle Steel novel in there.

    5 Replies
    1. re: cookieshoes

      you obviously didn't sit in booth 62..
      ; )

      1. re: cookieshoes

        My fiance and I went there to celebrate our engagement, and we're not retired. There were actually a fair number of younger people there. The view is incredible, and the service is attentive and courteous. Never understood the Marine Room hate, though it's pretty common.

        1. re: Josh

          Marine Room's atmosphere is dank, almost anachronistic. No hate, just find it overrated.

          1. re: Josh

            Well, diff'rent strokes for diff'rent folks. Just before I proposed, I took my fiance to a hole in the wall Mexican loncheria in the yucatan. The kind with sticky vinyl tablecloths. So, obviously we all have different ideas when it comes to romance.

            But, if I was the director of any number of daytime soap operas, the Marine Room would be the location I'd choose for the "fancy restaurant" scenes. Same goes for Le Fountainbleau at the Westgate.

          2. P.F. Chang for best Chinese...

            I stopped reading.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Cathy

              For me, the ludicrous yet ubiquitous choice was "Cafe Sevilla" for best Spanish. Give me a break.

            2. /scratches ahead

              at least stevewag23 will be thrilled that Deborah Scott didn't win Best Chef. So he's got that goin' for him.

              11 Replies
              1. re: DougOLis

                "at least stevewag23 will be thrilled that Deborah Scott didn't win Best Chef. So he's got that goin' for him."

                I guess all my posting on chowhound worked!

                And it is hard to derail the Brian Malarkey Hype Machine.

                Sure Oceanaire is great (I think its the best restaurant in the Gaslamp) but Brian Malarkey as best chef in all of San Diego? Am I the only one that thinks that is missing the mark?

                Oceanaire is good as a result of the quality of seafood, not any of Malarkey's genius.

                The best things there are the oysters and the crabcake. That being the case, Juan behind the oyster bar should win best chef.

                As far as the rest of the list,

                BEST AMERICAN - Croce's


                BEST ASIAN FUSION

                Roy's Hawaiian Fusion Cuisine
                Red Pearl Kitchen

                Are ridiculous.

                1. re: stevewag23

                  It burns my fingers to agree with Steve, but I really must. It's important to remember it's not a contest of actual ability or a true test of quality of chef/destination, but what's most popular- what name do people remember the most?

                  "Juan behind the oyster bar"- so accurate and true. Maybe everybody should just be thanking nonspecifichigherpower for inventing or creating oysters via evolution. Thank the stars, or the Big Bang, but not Brian Malarkey.

                    1. re: Fake Name

                      "It burns my fingers to agree with Steve, but I really must."


                      Brian Malarkey could win "Most Well known chef" as a result of being on TV.

                      And I really did mean to give props to Juan. He knows his stuff. Last time I was there I didn't see him though.

                    2. re: stevewag23

                      I personally think that no one makes raw oysters and shrimp cocktails as good as BM. Anything else, ehh.

                      1. re: stevewag23

                        if the best thing there is the crabcake, who made the crabcake?

                        1. re: MrKrispy

                          Not sure, doubt it was Malarkey.

                          Either way, the crabcake is a result of quality seafood, not any type of culinary wizardry.

                        2. re: stevewag23

                          What do you mean, he was on Top Chef. What more do you need?

                          1. re: stevewag23

                            I love Oceannaire too. Malarkey had a whole brigade on Facebook getting people to vote him as Best Chef. When he won, the head of his fan club emailed everyone and thanked them. I never bother to vote on that stuff. It always has the ridiculous routine favorites every year.

                            1. re: DougOLis

                              San Diego Hype Machine continues:

                              It is almost staggering on how much local press Indi-dont-go Grille gets.

                              I think that is like the 3rd local article in the last month.

                              "A newer addition to the menu is the “Carne Asada Nachos” ($14.95)." That is news worthy?

                              Cresent Heights could have used that press.

                              A little spreading of the wealth if you will.

                            2. The original comment has been removed
                              1. what is everyones thoughts on Burger Lounge? I was there a few days ago tried the beef, turkey and veg.. The beef and turkey were equally as bad. Tasted like a frozen patty. I found them to be a bad imitation of In and Out. Veggie burger had no texture at all. Pile of mush. The fries were just as bad as everything else. Tasted like plastic. I spent 40 bucks and the only edible thing were the onion rings.

                                1. re: SDGourmand

                                  Love Burger Lounge. Never had an experience like you describe at all.

                                  1. re: SDGourmand

                                    I've tried the Burger Loung in LJ and thought it was terrific. Especially with a Virgil's Root Beer for a sublime A&W-retro-SoCal burger experience.

                                    FWIW, I find that when I venture off the beaten path of a restaurant's supposed expertise, you risk a greater chance to being disappointed. The Burger Lounge is all about its grass fed beef. The turkey and veggie burgers are at best an after thought, to appease the non-red meat eaters in the crowd who are forced to eat their with their boyfriends.

                                    It's not an excuse for the establishment, just an observation.

                                    1. re: wanker

                                      which is kind of ironic given that grass fed beef is probably just as healthy as turkey

                                      1. re: wanker

                                        The thing that bothers me about BL is, except for the burger patty, everything else on the plate is commodoty stuff. IMO, do it right, not half a..ed.

                                        1. re: cstr

                                          They have their rolls custom made for them. Their rolls are really good.

                                          1. re: Josh

                                            They may be good but, what does custom made mean? organic? probably not. Wienerschnitzel has 'custom made' franks but, I'm not eating them. I wish they were more like Ritual or I wish Ritual would offer grass fed beef.

                                            1. re: cstr

                                              Not sure if they're organic. That said, I don't know if there's any place in town that touts organic rolls. Do you know of one?

                                              1. re: Josh

                                                Josh- Not a restaurant, but most stuff sold at Nijiya Market is organic. The prepared bowls and boxes are made with organic rice. I don't remember if that sticker is also on the rolls.

                                                1. re: Cathy

                                                  Organic hamburger rolls, not sushi.

                                                  1. re: Josh

                                                    The only place I can think of, locally, is Stephanies on Voltaire St.

                                      2. re: SDGourmand

                                        i don't get the Burger Lounge love either. To our tastes, the burger has NO flavor. Only item worth ordering is the onion rings. To each his own.

                                        1. re: SDGourmand

                                          I've been to the La Jolla Burger Lounge only once, but I thought it was great! I'm glad to hear that some people don't like it though - it's a small space (more room for the rest of us)!

                                          1. re: SDGourmand

                                            I've only been to the one on Adams Ave., and it's been hit or miss for me. Twice, my burger cooked well, dry and with minimal flavor. Once, cooked medium rare and delicious. I believe their beef is a bit leaner to begin with, so cooking to the right temperature is especially important to an enjoyable burger. When cooked correctly, the beef is excellent. I don't especially care for the sauce, a bit too sweet for my taste, but overall it's a very good burger at it's best.

                                            1. re: SDGourmand

                                              I guess the new little italy location will settle it.

                                              1. re: SDGourmand

                                                I'm with SDGourmand and Foodiechick on this one... we went to the Kensington location, paid $30 for two people (yes, yes, I get that it was grass-fed beef, etc.) and dealt with some pretty bad service. In the middle of the meal, Mr. Geeky looks at me and remarked that it was exactly like In-N-Out, except for the food sources. We like to eat sustainable and humanely raised, but $30 for a meal that didn't top In-N-Out really wasn't worth it to us. We'd rather buy grass-fed beef and make our own burgers.

                                                With that said, the onion rings are fabulous. The red velvet cupcake was disgusting, though. It was seriously days-old by the time I purchased it and was completely dried-out.

                                                1. re: geekyfoodie

                                                  I hope the burgers are at least bigger than In-and-outs burgers, I couldn't imagine paying $7 for a burger that small.

                                                  1. re: mliew

                                                    Bigger, they are, but they tasted the same as In-N-Out. Being grass-fed beef, we thought we'd notice some difference in taste, but the patty was really, really thin, so that could have been it. It wasn't a bad burger, but it wasn't great. Again, I know, it's the meat used, but for those prices, I'd rather go to Neighborhood. The sourcing isn't the same, but the execution is much better.

                                                  2. re: geekyfoodie

                                                    I'm surprised by the "bad service" comment. We've only been to the Kensington Burger Lounge, had a very tasty meal, and the one tiny slip-up with the order was dealt with by offering us a free cupcake. Maybe I'm just a sucker for cupcakes?

                                                    1. re: dustchick

                                                      I am also a sucker for cupcakes (imagine my rage when I bit into BL's and found it to be cardboard), but yeah, we were just there on an off night or something. The guy behind the counter was almost hostile... I felt like I had offended him by ordering. Then, bringing us our food, it was more of the same. It just had us shaking our heads and then considering our general "meh" response to the food, it just hasn't been worth adding BL to the restaurant rotation.

                                                      It was likely one of those situations where the guy had an bad night or we just arrived on the heels of a demanding party or something, but it's not something we want to deal with when we're looking forward to a night out.

                                                      1. re: geekyfoodie

                                                        Maybe it was a time-of-day thing. We were there for lunch, and the pseudo-Hostess cupcake was really good. But I agree, nobody wants to deal with attitude when going out to have a good time.

                                                    2. re: geekyfoodie

                                                      Exactly like In-N-Out, except the food sources, is precisely what I think they're going for. As someone who liked In-N-Out, I think that's awesome. Sometimes you want a plain old American-style cheeseburger, but if you don't want to eat commodity beef then you're typically SOL. The pricing is higher, but the burger is substantially larger. If you get an In-N-Out sized burger there, it's cheaper - though still roughly 3x the price of In-N-Out.

                                                      Still, it depends on what sourcing is worth to you. If, like me, you've given up on eating feedlot meat then In-N-Out simply isn't an option. Sure, I can make burgers at home, but I think the price would wind up being pretty similar, and some stuff you wouldn't even be able to replicate. The buns, for example, are pretty distinctive.

                                                      I imagine that if you bought grass-fed ground beef, freshly baked rolls, organic produce, and composed a similar burger at home, it'd probably wind up being more than, or right around, $8.

                                                      1. re: Josh

                                                        Right, it completely depends on what it means to the customer. Mr. Geeky and I like In-N-Out as a "sometimes food" and we generally avoid red meat because it's difficult to find sustainably-raised beef (although we haven't given it up altogether). However, Burger Lounge's burgers were definitely not something we were willing to pay that much more for, even considering the food sources. If we were talking about steak frites or a boeuf bourgignon made with sustainably-raised red meat and it cost substantially more, I'd probably argue it's worth it, simply because I love those dishes. The In-N-Out burger? I could definitely live without it.

                                                        On the other hand, Mr. G and I have talked about attempting to do grass-fed burgers at home and figuring out overall cost. It'd be a fun Pollan-esque experiment.

                                                      2. re: geekyfoodie

                                                        I have always had great service at the Kensington location. When my GF and I eat there it isn't over $20, so saying that is $30 to eat there is a bit misleading. I certainly don't mind paying a little more for better beef, and to get the same amount of burger you would have to get at LEAST a Double Double at In-n-Out. How much are those?

                                                        Further, I tend to get my meal much fast at Burger Lounge than In-n-Out too :)

                                                        1. re: MrKrispy

                                                          double double at in n out is 3 bucks. Hardly the same as BL.

                                                          1. re: SDGourmand

                                                            Is a Double the same amount of patty as Burger Lounge? The In-n-Out patties are so small now I doubt it, probably the size of the mini burger at Burger Lounge. I thought a Double Double was more, haven't paid attention to the price the last few times I was there.

                                                            1. re: MrKrispy

                                                              I would say the size of two pattys from in n out would be about the same as one patty at burger lounge.

                                                          2. re: MrKrispy

                                                            I said it was $30 for MY meal. What, exactly, did I mislead you or anyone about? My post was entirely based on my own experience, so to basically accuse me of lying is a little harsh, don't you think? I did clarify that my experience wasn't one that urged me to go back and that it could have been an off-night... if you love it, great, and if you pay $20, great, but do not accuse me of misleading others when all I did was post about my meal there.

                                                            Everyone places different orders and if you want to know where I'm getting my number from, here's what we ordered:

                                                            2 Grilled Lounge Burgers
                                                            2 soft drinks
                                                            1/2 and 1/2 (onion rings plus fries)
                                                            red velvet cupcake

                                                            The base price for the food alone (not counting the soft drinks), was $24.80. The menu online doesn't list drink price, but two diet Cokes were about $3-4. That makes it roughly $28-29. Tax? Tip? Yeah, pushed us over $30.

                                                            If you read my reply to Milew above, I did acknowledge that the burgers are bigger than In-N-Out's.

                                                            In comparison, we order approximately the same meal at In-N-Out. #1 (double-double, fries, drink) for him and #2 (cheeseburger, fries, drink) for me and it tops out at $11 or so. The cupcake is the difference between the two meals, but I like cupcakes and wanted to try it.

                                                            Oh, and on that night? We waited a long time for our meal and only to have that rather surly server practically slam it down in front of us. It wasn't any shorter than a wait at In-N-Out. Like I said, probably an off-night... but am I going to rush back there? No. It's my right to say that and I certainly do not express this opinion with the intent of dissuading anyone from trying the place.

                                                    3. I wouldn't turn down a free meal at any of 'em! ; )