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Aug 25, 2009 09:38 AM

SD: Your Hidden Gem

Is there a San Diego restaurant/cafe/bar that you've discovered or have regularly patronized that seems to fall off the radar? You willing to let us in on any hidden gems?

A few months ago my wife and I stumbled upon "Crepes and Corks Cafe" in Del Mar. It's an unassuming, small cafe-ish restaurant near Bully's. They serve dinner and dessert crepes, soups, sandwiches, and offer a full wine menu. Our favorite dessert crepe consists of pears, Nutella, and chocolate. We've tried several of their other crepes and found them to be absolutely delicious.

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  1. Sweet Home Chicago for pizza...waaaaaaaayyyyyy down Poway Road, past all the car dealerships, and just a smidge before you start heading up the hill towards Ramona. They really do have the best pizza of any place I've tried in San Diego. The current owner bought the yummy New York style recipes from the previous owner, but his specialty is deep dish, and it's pretty amazing. Not being very familiar with "authentic" deep dish pizza, I can't really give a good comparison, but all of the ingredients are fresh, the sauce is a perfect blend of sweet and savory, and the crust is crispy and actually worth eating.

    They also carry a respectable number of microbrews and make a mean cannoli. This place is definitely a gem.

    And I have to throw in a mention for Luc's Bistro, also in Poway, which has quickly established itself as one of our go-to places.

    15 Replies
    1. re: camilles

      Thanks camilles! Poway is in my neck of the woods and we've needed real pizza here forever. ZPizza is the closest I've been able to find but now we'll check out Sweet Home. BTW, where is Luc's and what type of food does it do?

      1. re: SDgirl

        Luc's Bistro is in the same shopping center as LA Fitness and is on the same side of the strip mall as K Five. They serve homestyle food that is a blend of French and Southern influences for a real deal (It was opened by Phillipe Verpiand of Cavaillon and his wife and wife's brothers...)! I don't think any entree costs more than $18 or so.

        Their rotating list of specials is worth checking out if you can tear yourself from any of the other delightful items on the menu. My husband had a crab stuffed ravioli dish last week that he said was the BEST crab stuffed anything that he had ever eaten. They have a good wine list and have recently added local beers on tap.

        1. re: camilles

          Camilles! This is great news! We love Cavaillon but can't go as often as we'd like because of budget considerations. I'm on it. Thanks!

          1. re: SDgirl

            Keep in mind that Cavaillon accepts the San Diego Gift Cards from Costco that cost $80 for two $50-value cards -- basically an instant 20% off. Cavaillon also runs coupons in some of the local coupon flyers. I swear I saw a BOGO free entree coupon recently.

          2. re: camilles

            I know a lot of people like Luc's Bistro but we went there a few weeks ago and had very mixed feelings about it.
            Yes, some of the dishes are cheap (if you just look on the price tag) but some of them are also pretty expensive for the quality you get. The sweet potato fries were average at best but the chipotle mayo was nice. As entress we had braised chicken in red wine sauce and the beef short ribs in red wine reduction. Both dishes had the same mashed potatoes, same vegetables and same red wine sauce. The only difference were the protein part with the chicken being very bland and the short ribs not really tender enough. (Both are not really difficult dishes and can easily made better at home). It was rather disappointing that they used the same bland sauce for both dishes and to be honest ~$17 for the short ribs at that quality is very overpriced. Interestingly we had the same dish (braised short ribs) at Cafe Chloe at the next day and yes it was $5 more expensive (the rent at Cafe Chloe is higher then in Poway) but even without any fancy expensive ingredients the version at Cafe Chloe was so much more flavorful and simply better executed and really showed how disappointing the dish was at Luc's. Desserts were average (bread pudding and ice cream which is not made in-house).
            One of the biggest dispointments was the service. Just one example: When we got our entrees there was only one other table which was asked if they wanted dessert but decide to get the check. The moment they decided not to have dessert the waitress talked to the owner pointed to our table and come over to ask us if we want to have dessert. (At that point we hadn't even started our entrees and it wasn't even close to 9pm when the restaurant in closing (it was before 8pm)). We then had a longer discussion with our waitress that we prefer to first eat our entress before deciding if we have a dessert which she didn't really wanted to accept and it was obvious she just wanted to finish her day. Never seen a restaurant which was rushing so much to get the customer out of the door which is not very clever when at the same time it was pretty obvious at that day that they have problems get enough customers and even asked us to refer them to our friends because business according to them wasn't great.
            Overall we really would like to see good restaurants in Poway and hope Luc's will improve in the future but so far there are many places in SD which serve much, much better food (and have decent service) for not so much more money (Urban Solace, Alchemy etc.)

            1. re: honkman

              Honkman, I'm hoping your experience was a fluke. We really need the food scene in this area to improve and I had/have high hopes that the owner of Cavaillon could/will pull it off. We had an Afghani place a while ago (I think we might have gone on your recommendation), but they closed up shop and went back to reopen in Temecula. Sigh. We'll try to get to Luc's soon and see how it goes.

              1. re: SDgirl

                I also hope that Luc will improve in the future and we will go back there. As far as I know Philippe Verpiand is not really the driving force between the restaruant (even though he helped them and gave advice on their menu and he sometimes helps in the kitchen on Mondays). So don't expect anything Cavaillon related. (I know the prices are lower at Lucs than at Cavaillon but I was overall surprised that the quality of the food was lacking so much)

                1. re: honkman

                  Yesterday we went again to Luc's Bistro and had overall a better experience then the first time even though one entree was a bit disappointing. We had the truffle fries which were a nice start. My wife had the Penne Carbonara with chicken which were nice. I had the daily special which was Seafood Gumbo. Seasoning could have been stronger but the main disappointment were the completely overcooked shrimps (very mushy). Overall not bad for the price but it was not a good sign that we were the last customers at 7.30pm.

              2. re: honkman

                Sorry you didn't enjoy your meal at Luc's, but your experience doesn't sound like anything we've ever had happen. If anything, every now and then I'll get a dish that seems to have a bit too much salt, but never anything that's bland. Every time we've ordered the short ribs (and we've pretty much gone through the whole menu), they've been tender and tasty.

                I don't know if the mashed potatoes are loaded with butter, but they are one of my favorite sides there. I also prefer the parmesan truffle fries over the sweet potato fries.

                We've also tried their dessert list and we pretty much stick to sharing a red velvet cupcake.

                SDgirl - ever since the UT did an article on Luc's, there's been a line out the door during peak dinner hours. They do take reservations, but I've found that if we get there by 6 we can usually snag a table. I wouldn't go expecting a cheaper version of Cavaillon. Some of the dishes have a French influence, but I'd characterize it mostly as good comfort food, with some modern additions. They're also not open on Sundays, something I've learned to remember after driving by too many times!

                It's definitely become our default dinner spot in Poway (unless it's a pizza night, of course). We always leave full and satisfied and the dinner check stays reasonable (which my boyfriend appreciates). I think the only dishes I wouldn't necessarily recommend would by the bolognese or carbonara. The mac 'n cheese, however, is nicely decadent. I'm a big fan of the dinner specials, too. We just had their chicken fried steak, which was like a steak that happened to be battered and fried to medium rare. Yum.

                1. re: leanneabe

                  Thanks for the tips, leanneabe. I'm glad to hear that the restaurant is doing well -- if honkman's experience does turn out to be a fluke then keeping Luc's around will be a good thing.

          3. re: camilles

            Interesting, I may have to git them a try.

            I go to Regents Pizza near UCSD. Yeah they serve deep dish pizza and I've never had it in Chicago, but it tastes pretty good to me. Yes I've eaten there with a guy from Chicago who says it' as good as home, but unless he's a Chowhounder how do you know for real? :P You can find someone from a city of origin to say that about any place almost.

            1. re: deeznuts

              I found Regents Pizza pretty uneven.

              Lefty's is far superior in my opinion.

              1. re: stevewag23

                Will definitely give them a try. Regents is closer to work and home hence my visits there. But ON weekends I go down to that other area all the time

                1. re: deeznuts

                  Yeah, I think you will be pleasantly surprised.

                  1. re: stevewag23

                    Well I must now, that you guys have made me develop a craving for deep dish.

          4. Not sure how "hidden" these are, but I don't hear them mentioned often -

            Pop's Jersey Style Cheese Steaks in PB - Taylor ham isn't on the menu, but they have it.
            Ranas Mexico City Cuisine in Spring Valley - Have a pulque and go from there.

            5 Replies
            1. re: y6y6y6

              Pulque? Really? Tell me more . . .

              1. re: maestra

                I assume you already know about pulque.

                I like here -
                - Al pastor tacos that have pineapple.
                - The delicious stews, cochinita pibil being my fav.
                - Good tortillas.
                - The depth of the menu.
                - Some cool ingredients including huitlacoche, squash blossom.
                - Super friendly service.
                - Samples.

                1. re: y6y6y6

                  Pulque is highly perishable and has a pretty short shelf life, something like less than 48 hours. Pulque is being canned but the quality of that product is only so-so. Do you know if Ranas is bringing fresh pulque in across the border (because it sure as heck isn't being made in SD) or using the canned product?

                  Ranas is pretty good. Their pibil is pretty non-traditional tho'

                  1. re: DiningDiva

                    I was wondering too if and how the pulque could be "fresh." Can you even find pulque (not canned) in Tijuana? I've never thought to look or ask.

                    1. re: DiningDiva

                      Well, I'm far from a pulque expert, this being the only place I've had it, so I don't know. We just ate there last weekend, so we likely won't be back for a few weeks. But I'll be sure to ask next time we go and report back.

              2. In a dfferent galaxy from the Crepes and Cork Cafe in all ways imaginable.....but hidden and a gem it is: the Wrangler Barbecue Pit in El Cajon on el Cajon Blvd. The gently smoked beef is always tender, moist and tasty. House made sauce you add at your discretion. Sides like beans, slaw and macaroni salad tasty and consistent. Homemade soup (either Navy Bean or Split Pea) that's to die for. And the place is an unintentional museum, featuring artifacts and life forms unknown these days west of I-5 or north of Genessee.

                1. Just discovered KnB Wine Cellars in Del Cerro. Surprised to find that San Diego Union Trib wrote about it. Good food and wine. Friendly service.

                  5 Replies
                    1. re: Leancuisine

                      Posted a year ago...before it changed names

                      Love this liquor store and the food I've had so far isn't too bad. They're still feeling their way through the food part of the store but this place was a winner last year and it's only getting better

                      1. re: DiningDiva

                        I like Cantina Mayahuel on Adams Ave. Those tacos are amazing, as well as the mole (only once or twice a week, tho) and some other dishes as well!!

                        1. re: nessy

                          mmm......I like Cantina Mayahuel too :-)

                          1. re: DiningDiva

                            I wake up at night thinking about those shimp tacos with the yummy sauce!

                    2. Johnny B's in La Mesa. Nice burger, decent fries, friendly service, great neighborhood place with lots and lots of TVs. A sports bar with out being a dive. If it was any place but the East County it would be busier than it already is