Friday, June 17, 2011

The Supper Standby - Urban Solace (San Diego)

Urban Solace is one of my San Diego staples when speaking/pleasing out-of-towner tongue. Even finicky Aunt Mabel can find something that registers on the familiar scale with dishes rooted in the traditional, but flashing a haute new look.

Like taking the standard Mule, known for its ginger-beer base with fresh limes and upping the ante with saffron vodka for a bit of the exotic. This Golden Mule was good in theory , but I’d probably rate it more of a bronze (saffron flavor wasn’t very present)- though I'd be happier with copper...they missed a key component when bypassing the traditional, copper mug with one more suitable for a campsite.

Fried green tomatoes topped with blended goat cheese and crème fraiche - I couldn’t have been more impressed with the delicate cornmeal coating that held its own and held on (actually gripping the tomato – sometimes they can be like bad onion rings where the outer batter just peels off.) But what really blew me away was the tenderness of the fried fruit. So many times I find these either completely unripe or tasteless - this was not the case here…and Jersey girls know their tomatoes.

Not your Momma’s meatloaf = ground lamb wrapped in bacon with figs, feta, pine nuts and fig jus. Who the hell’s Momma anyway? I forgot as soon as this newfangled, formed meat hit my mouth. Bacon acted as the loaf’s crispy corset (not like the floppy, fatty slices when old "what’s her name" used to make it). Though, I did find it a bit heavy on the fig this time, but usually the ingredients are more evenly distributed. It could have also been because the sweet mash beneath had already brought enough candy-like quality to the plate. Still, Mama didn’t raise no fool and this was always worth a re-order.

Duckaroni = mac 'n cheese with duck confit, blue cheese, roasted garlic, arugula, scallion - True Confessions: Sometimes, (gulp) I think about my precious Duck-a-roni…during the day in traffic, awake in my bed at night…and wonder what it’s doing. Is it thinking about me? Should I stop over after work? I feel like a stalker in a relationship where I just can’t seem to get enough. But my favorite part is that even if I stray from my ever faithful ‘Roni when choosing an entree, I can order it as a side and pretend that I’ll share with the rest of the table (hands off - it's mine!).

Don’t worry Mabel, we didn’t forget about you. A standard found on any menu is done to perfection here with the Niman Ranch burger. Ground chuck makes all the difference when achieving the coveted, "juices-running-down-the-arm" effect, but the sturdy egg bun stood up to chuck with a sweetness similar to potato bread and offset by the sharpness of aged white cheddar. Add bacon? Don’t mind if I do. Fries are always plentiful and on point.

Besides being a hit for visitors, it makes an easy, in-the-neighborhood evening out (but get their early or make reservations because everyone else has figured this out too) - though it was a bit pricier than I remembered. What used to be in the $12-$14 range is now in the $18 -$20 - enough of an increase to make it feel more like a splurge than the weekly norm. Still, it’s a solid save whenever the craving for couture comfort food arises with an itching for dishes that can’t be found anywhere else in the city.

Also check out their Bluegrass Brunch featuring live music and treats like pork belly benedict every Sunday (or try the "blunch" on Saturdays 10:30am-4pm).


Jay said...

The duc-a-roni bit was my favorite, you made me want to run down and give it a go. thanks for sharing.

Lauren Ciallella said...

thanks jay! Yes, I advise you to run, not walk, and get some now! I actually ordered it to go one night and it fed me for about 4 meals.