Walking past El Vitral along the open stadium of Petco Park, shelves of premium tequila glisten in the restaurant window. Walking into the establishment, it becomes evident that tequila is definitely a theme. And why not? It is a quality product from Mexico, which falls in line with Chef/Owner Pablo Becker’s whole vision. His vision is to introduce all things good from fine Mexican cuisine and changing the way San Diego views Mexican food. If that isn’t the best first impression, wait until you walk into the main attraction, the open kitchen. Floor to ceiling stainless steel wrapped in glass pane, the kitchen is the ultimate centerpiece. Chef Becker compares the development of a restaurant is like fitting together pieces of the puzzle. He knows because he speaks from experience. When he first started in the restaurant business his mentor asked him to start like any other employee with no prior experience; by washing dishes. From there, he went through every step of the business from the bottom up. Today, as a restaurateur, he knows a restaurant inside and out and top to bottom. In fact from the hostess to the bartender, all are trained to answer any questions a patron might have about the décor, the various brands of tequila and most importantly, the food. Also on his team is Chef de Cuisine Norma Martinez. She heads the concept menu and blends items in like grandma’s mole recipe. With Chef Becker’s depth of culinary skills, extensive restaurant experience, and love for the restaurant industry, El Vitral is a definite home run.
Some restaurants don't only speak for themselves, but yell. And you should be caught by Mama Testa, every dish is made from scratch. In an age when fusion is all the rage, Mama Testa is happy to show that going back to the authentic is by no means archaic. Each dish represents a focus on the traditions and techniques responsible for producing complicated flavors and textures. This is all especially true when fish tacos are the topic of conversation. Mama Testa was the first restaurant in San Diego to take on Bobby Flay, as part of Throwdown with Bobby Flay. And although these tacos may not have been the original cause of Mama Testa's good reputation, besting Flay was a great way to prove that it was one fish taco you don't want to miss.What made all this possible is Cesar Gonzalez, owner of Mama Testa, and his passion for Mexican cuisine and culture. He didn't want free range chicken just for the health reasons or because it was the current trend, but because only free range can bring out the flavors realized by the dishes as they are made in Mexico. In fact, all the fresh ingredients are for making Mexican food the way Mexicans do. And Cesar knows that just the food is not enough to give a sense of the culture, so he has made sure that while you dine, you can't help but notice the decor; pieces taken from themes of the golden era of Mexican movies and chairs baring actor's names. The entire idea of Mama Testa Taqueria is to fill your senses with the flavors, smells and sights of Mexico. A goal it has surely achieved.
Order the Squash Blossoms...Order the Squash Blossoms...did you hear me? Order the Squash Blossoms!My friend and I ate here before going to the theater and the biggest problem was I ate way too much and was uncomfortable during the entire musical. Nothing like watching Wicked while turning green yourself! Seriously, the squash blossoms are so delectable and light, full of flavor, and simply one of the best appetizers I've ever had. We also shared the polenta board, which is polenta severed table side with the ragu of the day. The polenta was creamy and delightful, and the ragu is always different ours was filled with summer veggies and full bodied flavors.For our main courses I ordered the spring lamb bolognese rigatoni and my friend ordered the short rib pappardelle. I really wish I had stopped eating half way through my pasta, however it was so delicious I couldn't control myself. Cucina Urbana is totally worth putting on your list of places to mangia!
This is THE thing I miss about living in San Diego... We used to live down the street from this amazing little eatery and have been there probably 50 times in the past 4 years. We have NEVER been disappointed. From the incredible wine and beer selection to the AMAZING mac and cheese, I don't think I've ever had a meal there that I haven't loved! I love their commitment to sustainable food, as well as fresh, local produce. With a seasonally changing menu, I always look for something new to try, but I have to say if you are into it, GET THE MEATLOAF. It is the one thing (besides the mac and cheese) that I look for EVERY time we go. It's moist, and delicious and the lamb pairs incredibly well with the sweetness of the figs... it's not your Momma's Meatloaf, but it sure is DAMN good. Top off that meatloaf with the salted caramel pot de creme and you will need to be rolled out the door, pleasantly stuffed!
I love the Garlic Shack! I had read many reviews before visiting and so was expecting some giant size meals, but OH MY GOSH. My burger was the biggest that I have ever laid my eyes on. And those fries, I cannot even describe how amazing they were. $6 for a large is always good enough for me, but you could make a meal of the fries themselves, there were just so many! Garlicky, salty, perfect; I am in love with those fries. The food was definitely amazing. My friend's Korean Beefholic was huge enough for me to steal a few unnoticed bites and was nearly as good as my awesome burger. Besides the food though, the service was just top-notch incredible! Every single person on the staff is so nice, it's hard to describe.