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The Nickel Diner in LA is a hot spot right outside of the Fashion District specializing in good prices on unique items. We stopped by on our way out of LA the morning after spending some quality time at Scarpetta in Beverly Hills. Sunday morning at the Nickel Diner appears to be the big brunch day and in such a small space we waited a while for a table. But, based on the much longer line that formed after us, I assumed it would be worth the wait. We were seated right next to the counter and the kitchen so we were able to watch them make our food. In my opinion, the best seats in the house. I ordered a blood orange mimosa, the BLTA & Egg, and their famous homemade pop tart.
The blood orange mimosa arrived quickly because it was the drink of the day. It was a unique tasting drink, I really liked the intensity that the blood orange juice added as compared to regular juice. Unfortunately I forgot to take a picture of the drink. Next, my BLTAE arrived. I really like BLTs and adding some avocado and an egg seems like a great idea.
I was a little nervous for this sandwich to arrive because the server didn’t ask me how I wanted my egg cooked. I nievly assumed that since he didn’t ask he knew that a touch under medium was the perfect cook for an egg on a sandwich. Cooking an egg just under medium means that the yolk wont be solid but it also won’t be very runny. It will be at the viscosity of molasses which allows the yolk to seep into the entire sandwich without spilling all over the plate. Unfortunately, my assumption was wrong. The egg yolk was almost fully cooked, about halfway between a soft and hard boiled egg. How unfortunate! So, while I was missing the egg yolk flavor in the sandwich, the rest of the ingredients worked really well. The bacon was nice and crispy balanced well against the creamy avocado. The tomato and lettuce were both super fresh and tasted like they were picked from a garden right outside. Lastly, the bread. You can’t fail with some toasty, buttery, sourdough! My favorite bread toasted to crunchy perfection and topped with fresh and delicious ingredients. Not a bad dish for breakfast or brunch.
For dessert I went after their homemade pop tart. This dessert was very good but also very easy to describe. Just imagine a regular strawberry pop tart from the foil and multiply the taste a few times over. Fresh strawberries turned into jam stuffed into flaky pastry topped was a sweet icing with strawberry sugar crystals. You really can’t go wrong here, it brings back the nostalgia of your childhood breakfast treat (or just the one you at today) but adds the depth of flavor you would look for as an adult. I think the best comparison is the pictures of the Nickel Diner pastry and the actual Pop Tart. You try to figure out which is which.
All in all the breakfast at the Nickel Diner didn’t disappoint and I would come back here to check out their dinner options, especially the smac and cheese and bacon donut. I was a little disappointed by the cook of my egg in my sandwich but I guess that i what you get for not giving instructions to the server. One of these days I will get an egg on a sandwich or a burger cooked to my liking, or I can just do it myself at home.
Overall Review: 7/10
Take a look at the Nickel Diner here
Our last stop on our two day tour of San Diego was the Studio Diner. This place was a Diners Drive-Ins and Dives must try especially since I am an east coast diner snob. On first blush this definitely looked like and old school diner with it’s metal plating and huge signage. It is located sort of in an industrial area but also has a back patio overlooking a cliff and beautiful view. Not a bad start to what would prove to be a successful meal.
We went on in after a short wait and sat at a table with a view of multiple flat screen TVs. This was a great thing because it was Saturday and college football was in the great match-up stage of November. We met our server and to our surprise she grew up only a few miles from Virginia’s home town. After talking for a little while about life in New Jersey and Philly Cheese Steaks we decided to order. Virginia ordered dessert and an ice cream milkshake. I ordered two full entrees because I just couldn’t decide so it is safe to say I was pretty overwhelmed by the huge plates that arrived.
First on the docket was the clam roll made up of whole belly Ipswich clams fried and served on a traditional New England roll, fries and coleslaw on the side. Oh yeah and they asked me if I wanted sweet potato or regular fries. Funny question and one I’ve addressed before. Never pass up sweet potato fries. Ever. This clam roll was no joke, supposedly in a roll but it was no where to be seen under what must have been a full pound of luscious fried clams.
With two dipping sauces and a fresh lemon wedge at the ready I dove in to the clams. They were delicious! Fried perfectly so they were crispy with only a hint of oil. Soft and chewy on the inside as a clam should be. The breading was really flavorful with a great blend of spices that I could not put my finger on. I think I got halfway through the fried goodness when I needed a break, you can only eat so much of rich clam meat without needing a different flavor profile on which to munch. I moved onto the thickish cut sweet potato fried. These were good, though not the best I’ve had in my travels. Somewhat crispy but a little wobbly when held straight up. I think when it comes to sweet potato fries I may lean to the thinner crispier variety. I ventured back into the clams and worked my was down to the soggy and pretty useless bread (Though I guess it did soak up a lot of unwanted grease). It was then that I realized it was time to move on to the next entree or I would be taking that one home for dinner.
Next I moved on to the main course, the Samson Steak Sandwich! This glorious sandwich was made up of sliced and marinated prime rib sauteed with spinach, mushrooms, bean sprouts, and onion, topped with mozzarella and served on a grilled roll. What made this modified cheese steak so unique was that the prime rib (Not whatever random cut is served on a traditional cheese steak) was marinated in Teriyaki sauce. This marinade gave it a nice tangy sweet flavor that elevated the dish to a fine dining experience.
The steak was juicy and full of flavor but it was the combination of flavors added to the dish that made it all come together. The sauteed spinach added the bitter notes needed to go along with the Teriyaki marinade. The mushrooms and onions provided earthiness and depth of flavor to go along with the melted and crispy mozzarella. The dish was obviously and brilliantly put under a salamander or a broiler because you can see the bits of browned cheese if you look closely. My absolute favorite part of any cheese pizza is the caramelized bits of cheese and I never get it on a sandwich. I was so happy to see it on this dish. Everything tied in perfectly together including the bread. Nice and crispy and just the right size for this sandwich. Cut in half I could fold it over and get every piece of the sandwich in every bite. There is something to be said about getting a sandwich with equal parts bread to filling. I get the trend to over stuff sandwiches but there is a reason why they are on bread. The bread is a key component and it is a note that needs to play just as loud as the rest of the hypothetical chord. Really a great sandwich and a great ending to a fun trip to San Diego.
I did get a chance to try the vanilla milkshake that Virginia ordered and it was awesome. I love it when they serve you a cup and then give you the rest in the freezing cold metal mixing container. And we all know the best part of the milkshake is in that metal cup. I wonder why that can’t just dispense with the pleasantries and serve the whole thing in it. All in all a great diner a bit north of San Diego check it out if you are in the area.
Overall Review: 8/10
Check out the Studio Diner here
After a conference in San Diego I decided to stop by a list place in before driving north for the camp Pendleton Mud Run. Since it was 4 o’clock and my first choice was closed I decided to check out a Triple D place. Hob Nob Hill was only 15 minutes away so I drove over for an early dinner. Upon my arrival I noticed two things. First, the it looked like I transported back in time to the 60s or 70s. Honestly, it was dark and dingy, not the most welcoming of places. Second, I was the youngest person in the restaurant by at least 40 years. This may be exactly why the decorations harkened back to their patrons younger days but also could be because I got there at 4pm.
I was quickly seated and just loved my paper napkin table setting. The waitress attended to me quickly, but she was oddly cold. I wonder what I did to make her not like me, but it may have been that she hated her life for working at this place. Just a thought. Guy Fieri ordered the lamb shank so I did the same. It came with bread, applesauce, mashed potatoes, and I threw in a cup of clam chowder.
So let’s talk food, the bread came first and it was a raisin wheat bread. It arrived warm which was nice and had a sweet flavor and a doughy texture. So far so good, I ate the whole mini loaf pretty quickly. After that came the clam chowder. The chowder had some decent flavor. It was a tad bit thin; I am used to a thicker chowder and for that matter, one with a lot more clams. It is always disappointing when there are twice as many potatoes than clams but it still tasted pretty good. The sad thing is that this was the best I was going to get today.
When the lamb shank and side dishes arrived I was immediately let down. The shank was grey and looked way overcooked and the gravy seemed like it was goopy and out of a mix. The mint jelly was without a doubt store bought and tasted awful. At first bite into the shank I realized that I was in for a disappointing entree. The shank tasted just like it looked, overcooked and flavorless. The gravy definitely added flavor but all in all the entree was flat and boring. The sides we even worse. The applesauce was heated up, probably in a microwave and the mashed potatoes had the gritty taste of the instant variety. Really sad and completely flavorless. I never put salt on my food as a way to attempt to manage sodium intake but I wanted to tear the cap off the salt shaker and dumb it in my food. Honestly, this food was unreasonable bland but it may be a reaction to the clientele.
As I stated before, Guy recommended the lamb shank so I had to try it and wow, that was pathetic. I am really starting to question this guy’s palate. In summary, Hob Nob Hill was a place lost to modern times which wouldn’t be bad if the food transported you back to that time as well. The problem is that the food had no chance in doing that, it just made me very sad to have chosen it as the only place I would try in my trip to San Diego. I would not recommend that you waste your time or money at this place; there are a hundred better options in the area.
Overall Rating: 3/10
Tonight we went to the Marathon Grill on south 6th street. We were a party of 15 and were managed fairly well by the wait staff. I ordered a refreshingly bitter IPA at 7.2% alcohol and settled into deciding what to order of their apparently American comfort food based menu. I was struggling between their 18 hour brisket and their meatloaf which both came with a different type of mashed potatoes. After some discussion with the waiter I decided to go for the meatloaf topped with a homemade BBQ sauce with roasted garlic mashed potatoes and spinach. In true me style I also ordered a side of parmesan topped grilled brussel sprouts because I can not resist some sprouts.
I was pleasantly surprised that even with a group of fifteen people, our food came out quickly and as a group. As you will see from my picture the plating and presentation was modern and clean. Some of the other plates were really nice, some that I would like to have in my home. But now for the food.
Though, the meatloaf was good but nothing special, the BBQ sauce lingered nicely on the tongue and had a bit off a back end kick that made up for the lack of taste in the meat. The spinach was cooked well if not a little oily. The biggest disappointment in the main dish was the mashed potatoes. When the waiter insisted on me keeping the garlic potatoes over substituting the horseradish potatoes I was really excited. Unfortunately the sweet flavor of roasted garlic did not come through in any way on the dish. I may be that it was overpowered by the layering of spinach and meatloaf on top or a complete lack of seasoning but for a mashed potato fanatic, it was extremely unfortunate. Lastly, the brussel sprouts were cooked well but they needed some additional flavoring aside from the cheese. Some fresh cracked pepper or even some bacon would have made all the difference.
All in all, it was a mediocre meal at a well put together restaurant with a friendly and very attentive waitstaff. I will say though that the beer was great! I would go back again but I would definitely try the brisket or the braised pork nachos that Renee ordered.