Mar 262014
 

Bao’s Awesome Burgers & Sandwiches, or BABS for short, is one of my favorite “hidden gems” in San Diego. S and I really enjoy their burgers, which are a little different from a standard burger as you’ll see later in this post. It had been a while since our last visit, and when I read about Kirbie’s recent visit on her blog, I had such a craving that S and I went there for dinner that day.

The place had undergone some renovations since my last visit. The place used to be quite dim, without much decor on the walls. The tables and chairs also used to be a little bit worn. This time, however, we were pleasantly surprised to find that the walls had been re-painted, the place was brightly lit, and there were new tables and chairs. Everything felt much brighter and more welcoming, and there seemed to be more customers there than our previous visits, too!

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I thought this plastic burger was really cute and had to take a photo, haha.

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The menu still looks largely the same. S had their Original Burger – he doesn’t like too many fancy things on his burgers.

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Original Burger [$4.99]

Remember what I said about the burger here being special? Well, as you can see, the patty is really thick – and that’s because it’s stuffed with melted cheddar cheese on the inside!

Patty stuffed with melted cheese

Patty stuffed with melted cheese

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Mar 162014
 

I had meant to put this post up before Burger Week ended, but didn’t have the time =( Fortunately, Burger Lounge’s special was a regular menu item. Instead, they were simply offering their “Little Lounge Burger” with bacon for $5 (normally $5.95 for the burger, plus $1.95 for bacon).

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Since my first visit to Burger Lounge, the restaurant has really expanded, now with 8 locations throughout San Diego county and several more in Los Angeles. While S and I weren’t particularly impressed with the place when we first tried it, it’s so popular that we decided to try it out again. Since one of our initial complaints had been that their pricing is a bit high for the portions, we thought the Burger Week special was a perfect chance to check it out.

As I mentioned above, the Burger Week special is a Little Lounge Burger with bacon. From their website, it seems that bacon is a recent addition to the menu, and of course, in line with their grass-fed organic philosophy, it’s nitrate/nitrite-free bacon… which would explain why it’d normally cost almost two dollars just to add bacon to your burger.

Little Lounge Burger with Bacon

Little Lounge Burger with Bacon

The burger features a 1/4-pound beef patty, served “Lounge-Style” meaning: butter-toasted bun, organic cheese (white or American), onions (fresh or grilled), lettuce, tomato, and house-made 1000 Island dressing.

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Mar 142014
 

I learned from the blog Oh-So Yummy that this week (March 7-16) is San Diego Burger Week, where various restaurants are offering $5 burger specials! The list of participating restaurants is actually pretty long, and S and I had a hard time deciding whether we wanted to try something or revisit some old favorites. One place that I definitely wanted to hit was Carnitas’ Snack Shack – we’ve only been to this San Diego favorite once, but I had a really great impression of the food and have been wanting to return. FINALLY, two years since my first post, we made a revisit!

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The shack is still a shack, with the pork statue on top of the little ordering window. To avoid the crowd, we opted for a late dinner, arriving around 10PM. There was still a small line at that time!

Menu of the day (not sure if it changes daily or seasonally):

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The Burger Week special isn’t listed on the menu – you have to ask for it at the window.

Shack Pork Burger: house ground pork burger, candied bacon, gorgonzola, pretzel bun [$5]

Shack Pork Burger: house ground pork burger, candied bacon, gorgonzola, pretzel bun [$5]

S and I each ordered one, because I guess we weren’t feeling like sharing that day, haha.

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I’ve had burgers with pork patties, but this has been the best by far – it was really juicy and “porky,” instead of just imitating a beef burger. One thing I really enjoyed was how well the flavors played together – the candied bacon and gorgonzola cheese paired quite well, but neither (in my opinion) overpowered the patty too much. (S, who doesn’t like any strong cheeses, did not appreciate the gorgonzola. Haha. But he still enjoyed the burger!)

Pork Belly App: braised Duroc pork, sweet-spicy glaze, frisée salad: apples, radishes, lemon vinaigrette [$8]

Pork Belly App: braised Duroc pork, sweet-spicy glaze, frisée salad [$8]

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Feb 162014
 

S and I have been wanting to check out Eureka!, a pub that opened in Westfield UTC about a year ago. I always lament that there aren’t many good food options in UTC, but this place looked quite promising. We actually tried to visit once previously, but the wait for a seat was too long, and we didn’t feel like waiting that time. But this time, we were able to get a seat around 6PM on Sunday evening – the place still seemed busy, but luckily it was Pro Bowl day so I’m guessing that’s the reason for some empty tables. Haha. That said, this is a sports-y bar with several TVs around the restaurant, so I was mentally making a note that we could watch games here in the future.

They have a good list of beers on tap, which seem to rotate. S and I weren’t in the mood for beer that night, but there were certainly some that piqued my interest… Next time, next time.

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 We were both in the mood for burgers, which seemed to be their most known-for item. The menu also includes salads, pastas, and other entrées (e.g. short ribs, salmon, etc.).

Jalapeno Egg Burger: fried egg with melted cheese, crispy bacon, spicy chipotle sauce, jalapeno peppers [$11.50]

Jalapeno Egg Burger: fried egg with melted cheese, crispy bacon, spicy chipotle sauce, jalapeno peppers [$11.50]

I chose the Jalapeno Egg Burger… surprise, haha. I can’t resist ordering a spicy burger, and this one had a fried egg on top. Yeah, my mind was made up as soon as I saw this. It tasted really good – very juicy patty, perfect amount of sauce (I don’t like it when there’s so much sauce that you can’t taste the patty anymore!). My complains would be that the bottom bun got kind of soggy despite being toasted; I think there was some sauce on the plate, which got soaked up by the bun. Sad. The other thing was that the bacon wasn’t really crispy, making it kind of hard to bite off with the rest of the burger… so I ended up taking the bacon slices out and eating those separately. Haha.

Each burger comes with a side of regular fries, or you could upgrade to sweet honey cinnamon potato fries, panko-crusted onion rings, coleslaw, or house salad for $1.25. I’d read good things about the sweet potato fries and decided to try those…

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Nov 052013
 

I’ve posted before about Neighborhood, one of my favorite restaurants in San Diego’s Gaslamp District. A couple of weeks ago, we went with a couple of friends to the Alton Brown live show (which was absolutely awesome, and you should get tickets immediately to the show if he is coming to your city!), and after the show ended, we decided to grab dinner at Neighborhood, since it was already almost 9:30PM, and we figured the four of us could get seats pretty quickly. Turns out the restaurant was still pretty crowded, but luckily we were able to snag a big table that’s half indoors and half outdoors. Haha.

Anyway, onto the food… Sorry the pictures turned out so dark. The restaurant isn’t exactly well-lit, plus we were sitting half outside…

Pale Ale Battered Onion Rings [$5]

Pale Ale Battered Onion Rings [$5]

Idaho Potato Fries [$4]

Idaho Potato Fries [$4]

We started out with a couple of appetizers – the classics, fries and onion rings. The onion rings were really delicious – the rings were cut really thick from what seemed to be a regular-sized onion, which was quite sweet. The batter was crunchy and balanced out the sweetness of the onion. It was served with mustard seed mayo, but I felt like it didn’t even need any sauce. The fries were thin-cut and not super crunchy, but still really good. (S likes his fries almost soggy, so he really enjoyed these, haha.) The accompanying sauces were garlic herb mayo, which was very garlicky, and I added a sun-dried tomato aioli, which I preferred.

The Local Animal [$9]

The Local Animal [$9]

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Sep 232013
 

When I’m shopping at Fashion Valley Mall, I often don’t know where to eat nearby. Usually I end up at The Cheesecake Factory, which isn’t bad (but also isn’t too good either). Recently, some of my friends recommended Stacked, which serves pretty typical American bar food. S and I recently went shopping together (this man loves shopping as much as I do!), and afterwards we decided to grab dinner there.

The place looked quite crowded, but luckily two spots opened up at the bar area right after we arrived. It happened to be the start of college football season, so there was a good crowd watching the game.

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As you can see, there’s a decent selection of beers and drinks. We were just interested in the food, though.

The ordering system was very interesting. You’re presented with menus that have no pricing – which worried S and me a bit at first, since that usually means things are on the pricey side. However, we found out that it’s because they wanted customers to be “ingredient-focused”… Didn’t work too much for me, since in the end I still decided on a couple of things based on price. Anyway, once you make up your mind, the server presents you with an iPad ordering system. You choose your order, complete with customizations, and send it off to the kitchen. I thought it was kind of neat, and you really get complete control over everything you get. And this way, there’s no blaming mistakes on your server; you’re the one that sent the order. Haha.

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Burger: beef patty, jack cheese, green leaf lettuce, Roma tomato, grilled onions, chipotle mayo, fried egg

Burger: beef patty, jack cheese, green leaf lettuce, Roma tomato, grilled onions, ketchup, mayo, fried egg, brioche bun

As I’ve mentioned, everything here is completely customizable so we built our own burger. We decided not to add any crazy toppings and just try out the traditional burger (but with a fried egg on top). It turned out quite well! I really enjoyed the juicy patty, and of course the tried and true toppings worked well together.

Stacked Mac: pulled pork, roasted garlic, green onions

Stacked Mac: pulled pork, roasted garlic, green onions

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Sep 192013
 

A while back, S and I tried out Slater’s 50/50, a super popular Southern California burger chain. We had a really enjoyable experience there but haven’t returned too often, mostly because it’s a bit far from where we live, and there’s usually a pretty long wait for a table (and they don’t take reservations). Recently, one of our friends wanted to try it out, so we decided to go on a weeknight, when there was less of a wait.

Slater’s is famous for its half-beef, half-bacon patty. My first impression of the patty was that it was too salty, but during several other visits, it was actually quite nicely balanced and very juicy. I also like that you can customize your own burger, choosing from a wide variety of toppings and sauces! Sometimes I do get overwhelmed with options, though, and would rather just go with one of the restaurant’s own creations.

Anyway, we first started out with some appetizers since we had five people. When it’s just S and me, we don’t usually get apps unless we’re super hungry…

Slater's Vampire Dip [$4]

Slater’s Vampire Dip [$8.95]

The Vampire Dip is a roasted garlic, cheese, and artichoke dip – named so for the ample amount of garlic it contains, I assume? It was served in a bread bowl and with pita chips. A lot of people on Yelp raved about this dip, but I thought it was just okay. The consistency was too thick for my liking, and the flavor was good but not super impressive. Haha. I did like the bread bowl, though.

Slater's Fries & Fried Bacon Mac n Cheese Balls

Slater’s Fries & Fried Bacon Mac n Cheese Balls [$6.45]

We also tried out the fries and fried mac n cheese balls in a combo. The fries were pretty standard, served with not-so-standard but oh-so-good bacon ketchup. I thought the bacon made the ketchup so much tastier. The mac n cheese balls were my pick, and they were served with Tapatio ranch. I thought they were flavorful enough without the ranch, though.

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Inside workings of the fried bacon mac n cheese ball. It was actually really delicious – the exterior was super crispy, and the mac n cheese inside was smooth and creamy. Not too much bacon flavor, but that might be because my palate was already saturated with the bacon ketchup from the fries.

Onto our burgers. S and I both chose to customize our burgers. You can see the design sheet and my choices here:

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Aug 282013
 

Ahh yes, another visit to Hodad’s. While I wasn’t impressed on my very first visit, every subsequent time I’ve been to Hodad’s has affirmed my love for their delicious burgers. Haha. I’m not sure what went wrong on my first visit, but honestly, it’s still one of the best burgers I’ve had.

We visited the Ocean Beach location (they now have a couple of other locations, too, but I’ve never been to those), which is now apparently less crowded ever since the downtown store opened up. We went at 7pm on a Monday night, and the wait was only 15 minutes or so. Nice.

Frings (fries & onion rings) [$5.75]

Frings [$5.75]

Since we had a large-ish group, we decided to get two orders of Frings (fries & onion rings). My table had 3 girls and 1 guy, and we didn’t manage to finish the fries. The onion rings, though, we did polish off. I really like the batter on these onion rings! The crumbly texture made it extra crispy.

Single Cheeseburger [$5.75]

Single Cheeseburger [$5.75]

S and I have decided that their regular-sized burgers are much better than the minis, which have a smaller patty (and therefore messed up ratio). So here’s my single cheeseburger… The standard comes with ketchup, mustard, mayo, onions, lettuce, tomatoes, and pickles. I asked for no mayo, and I took out 2 of the onions so that I could eat the burger comfortably.

And the verdict? Still one of the best burgers I’ve had! I really think that the toppings (namely tomato and pickles) are what makes this burger so great (in addition to the juicy patty, of course). The toppings complement the beef really nicely.

Vanilla Malt [$6.25]

Vanilla Malt [$6.25]

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May 082013
 

S and I love burgers, and luckily for us, San Diego is filled with awesome burger joints. Our favorite is Hodad’s, but sometimes we just want to avoid the long lines and sort-of far drive. We recently tried out Bao’s Awesome Burgers & Sandwiches, aka BABS, on Convoy St.

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It’s located in the A Cafe/ RakiRaki/ Tapioca Express/ Crab Hut plaza, which unfortunately has terrible parking. Luckily we found a spot easily during our last visit, but sometimes it’s just impossible.

The menu here is all-American (burgers, sandwiches, fries, etc.), but I believe the owners are Asian-American, so the flavor is quite fusion-y. I debated for a while between getting a burger or sandwich, and in the end, both S and I chose burgers.

Original burger ($4.99)

White Hot Burger: pepper jack cheese, topped with chopped habaneros & spicy hot sauce ($6.99)

White Hot burger ($6.99)

Original Burger: cheddar cheese, topped with Cajun sauce ($4.99)

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Jan 172013
 

We recently visited The Counter with two of our good friends. I’d never heard of it before, but our friends said that they really liked it when they were in college, and wanted to go back and check it out again. S and I rarely turn down burgers, so we jumped on board.

The place resembled Slater’s 50/50 in that you could build your own custom burger from a large list of ingredients. The atmosphere is pretty trendy (do people still say that?) and modern.

For customizing your burger, you could choose the size and type of patty, cheese, 4 toppings, a sauce, and type of bun. I always have a hard time deciding whether I want to go with one of the restaurant’s own signatures or create my own. But we did immediately decide to share some fries…

"Fifty-fifty": half Parmesan French fries, half Crispy Onion Strings ($5.95)

“Fifty-fifty”: half Parmesan French fries, half Crispy Onion Strings ($5.95)

I was surprised when S suggested we try the Parmesan fries because he usually turns up his nose at Parmesan cheese (literally). I guess the stinky sweet potato fries at Karl Strauss really changed his mind. Anyway, I really enjoyed the crispy fries but wasn’t as thrilled with the onion strings. I guess I’m a bigger fan of thick onion rings than the flimsy strings.

After much debate, I finally decided to go with a salad with a 1/3-pound patty. I’ve listed all the toppings in the caption below:

1/3-pound beef patty with horseradish cheddar, caramelized onions, roasted red peppers, cucumbers, and scallions, with sun-dried tomato vinaigrette over a salad ($11.45)

1/3-pound beef patty with horseradish cheddar, caramelized onions, roasted red peppers, cucumbers, and scallions, with sun-dried tomato vinaigrette over a salad ($11.45)

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