I’d tried to keep my frequent, summer trysts with Brooklyn Girl (BG) hush-hush because the truth was I wanted her all to myself. This San Diego sweetie’s East Coast style was still somewhat under wraps, excluding Mission Hills residents, who were filling every seat, every night – possibly because BG’s owners, Michael and Victoria McGeath, had the foresight to bring people of the community in as shareholders.
And they couldn’t have been holding a better hand because this was the type of place that felt like it should have always been there. The industrial aura set a clean slate of high ceilings and neatly, exposed duct work, forcing my neck to perform back-bends while admiring it all (talk about having your ducts in a row). The acoustics made it a bit noisy, but communal tables near the bar and a neighborhood presence encouraged this buzz of conversation as BG's own brand of dinner music.
Oversized, black metal birdcages housed chandeliers in artistic whimsy backed by a canvas of Anna Wintour’s head, her neck bound by a Shakespearian-accordian collar, lording over the far wall like the Great Oz, as if to make sure BG kept it fashionable, including female servers whose classic pearls provided a Manhattan-esque mismatch with their strictly-business, brown canvas aprons. It was all in the details and BG didn’t miss a beat…like being greeted by a cone of spicy popcorn to nosh on while we overlooked the menu (a little burnt, but still a nice touch).
This was undeniably one of San Diego's most playful and inventive cocktail menus (especially now that BG added a slew of Fall options with ingredients like homemade cider and pumpkin puree).
Tequilla, Grapefruit, Lime, Prosecco, Habanero Salt
Bubbling citrus, mouth tingling heat, squintingly sour (my favorite).
BLT: Comb Vodka, Basil, Lime, Thyme, and House Made Lavender Basil Syrup
Crisp, refreshing, clean.
BG was also holding an ace when it came to cuisine, hiring Executive Chef, Tyler Thrasher (formerly of Oceanaire) to head their kitchen.
Salad and Apps
DUCK AND DATE - Frisee, Spinach, Marcona Almonds, Banyals Vinaigrette ($11)
I assumed this would be a sliced, duck breast over greens, but I was soon overwhelmed with the same unreserved gushing of a kid on Christmas who's expecting socks, but gets a bike instead. I unwrapped the most crispy-skinned, juicy leg of duck I might have ever encountered (insert Homer Simpson drooling noises here). The super, salty duck skin and super, sweet dates made for a salty-sweet superhero, whose flying colors were only heightened with a (fairy) dusting of Marcona almonds.
SHRIMP AND CHORIZO - Tomatoes, Queso Fresco, Creamy Grits ($12)
First of all, the homemade chorizo came in patties! No casing, just little circles of meaty love that made my heart go pitter patter (that might have been its fat content clogging my arteries, but still). The grits held themselves with a relaxed and creamy stiffness, acting as the sinking, Venetian foundation, where queso fresco dissolved beneath the surface and tomatoes bobbed like buoys between shellfish and sausage.
Wood fire wonders
BG’s wood fire oven was turning out roasts like whole ducks with honey and ginger, lamb saddle and porchetta = pork loin wrapped in pork belly (all served 2-4 people). But they were also firing up some pizza and for this Jersey girl, BG had a lot to prove.
NEW YORK LITTLENECKS - Littleneck Clams, Apple Wood Bacon, Taleggio, Fingerling Potatoes, Brussels Sprouts ($14)
This seemed so simple, but it was like eating Sunday dinner all in one bite. I felt like Violet Beauregard as she chewed Wonka's gum and experienced an entire meal all at once (before she got to dessert and turned into a blueberry, of course). The crust could have used a little more time in the oven, but for this selection it worked like a having a soft roll with supper used to sop the plate clean.
MICHAEL’S CHOICE - Spicy Italian Sausage, Pepperoni, Chili flake, Pepperoncini, Sweet Onions, Mozzarella ($14)
Bubba couldn't have found a pizza more fitting to his personal specifications than if he'd designed it himself, but again the dough was a little floppy and I wished they'd given it a few more minutes (next time we'd ask for it well-done). This wasn't the mind melting epiphany I had with the NY Littlenecks pizza, but still smart enough to be food for thought.
Entrees and Specials
GNOCCHI & SHORT RIB - Yukon Potato, Oven Dried Tomatoes, Forest Mushrooms, Chianti Au Jus, Pecorino Romano ($17)
The short rib went on for days and I couldn't have been more appreciative for this hunk of fork-tender meat before me, but I longed for more gnocchi. It was like a famous duo fighting over whose name appeared first on the billing and it was clear that the short rib was trying to carry the act as the front man. Most would be pleased with more protein than pasta, but my carb-a-rater was running low and it was hard to see this knockout gnocchi (featherweight class: light, yet solid) get the short end of the rib.
SEA SCALLOPS OVER LAMB BELLY – Saffron Risotto
Now that's what I call surf and turf with some game! This special was just another one of BG's bewitching tweaks on a perceived norm, but make sure to ask about their nightly features because sometimes the servers don't offer up the information voluntarily.
KEY LIME PIE - Served In A Mason Jar
This reminded me more of lime meringue pie with its gelatinous filling and toasted top, but it was so good you could have called it anything. Graham cracker crust separated layers of tart filling and finished with the cool whip of cream. Again, the details made the difference and the mini-mason jar created the illusion of a pie sundae with a lime wedge on top...who needed a cherry?!