The Whole Hog

The Whole Hog is a sandwich shop that S found on Yelp by searching for “pulled pork”. We’ve been really craving pulled pork ever since our trip to North Carolina in April. The Whole Hog boasts a “Carolina-style” pulled pork sandwich, and while I’m generally skeptical of Southern food in California, we decided to give it a try. Our friend A tagged along, too!

The Whole Hog

The restaurant is located in a small lot on Park Blvd. It was small and unassuming, yet quite charming in its own way.

The Whole Hog

We were given a quick introduction to the menu and settled on a few items to try:

PORK BELLY TACOS [$7.5]
Pork Belly Tacos

The pork belly tacos were a recent addition to the menu, I believe. The pork belly was cut into bite-sized chunks and were quite tender. I liked the pico de gallo and smoked salsa – the flavors complemented the pork belly quite nicely – but the cotija cheese and avocado crema were actually a tad overwhelming.

CAROLINA GOLD PULLED PORK SANDWICH [$8]
Pulled Pork

We learned that they actually use a South Carolinian mustard-based BBQ sauce for this pulled pork. …

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Chicago Trip Recap, Part 1: Hot Dogs and Deep Dish

S and I, along with one of our friends, recently went to Chicago for the first time! We did all the touristy things, hung out with his sister V (who is attending culinary school!), and had a wonderful time. I really loved Chicago and definitely hope to go back for future visits. We ate a lot of yummy food on the trip – I carefully planned out the “food itinerary” – and just writing these recaps is going to make me drool onto the keyboard.

Our first stop after arriving in Chicago was Portillo’s, which V recommended to us. There are many locations, and luckily one of them was just a short walk from the hotel.

Portillo's

Portillo’s

We found out that it’s not really a restaurant, but instead a food court of some sort, and you order at the counter of your choice. We were there, of course, for the hot dogs.

Hot dog assembly 

Here they are, being assembled! I like that the little holders look sort of like the taco holders that we see so often here in San Diego, haha.

Hot Dog

Hot Dog with everything: mustard, relish, freshly chopped onions, sliced red ripe tomatoes, kosher pickle, sport peppers, piled onto a perfectly steamed poppy seed bun

This hot dog was amazing. The flavor was spot-on. I really loved all the accompaniments, especially the relish and peppers, and I even enjoyed the pickle a lot! (S and I normally don’t eat pickles because they’re either too salty or too sour.) I was actually kind of sad that I had to share this with two other people… and if it weren’t for the fact that we were about to have a real dinner in about an hour, I would have insisted that we get another hot dog.

Chili Cheese Dog

Chili Cheese Dog, served with onions

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Carnitas’ Snack Shack – Del Mar

Carnitas’ Snack Shack is one of my favorite restaurants in San Diego – they certainly serve up some really delicious sandwiches and pork dishes. However, their North Park location is quite small and gets really crowded – S and I have been there at 10PM and still had to wait at least 20 minutes to order! So, when I heard that they were planning a second location in Del Mar, I was quite excited.

Carnitas' Snack Shack 

The Del Mar store took over the space formerly occupied by The Counter. (By the way, I heard recently that many locations of The Counter have been closing… I guess the mini chain isn’t doing so well?) The restaurant space has been changed up quite a bit – the front entrance is now on the side, and there’s a patio seating area.

Mural 

I thought this wall art was pretty cute, although having cute pigs serving pork sandwiches is sort of morbid when you think about it… haha.

You still order at the counter when you enter the restaurant, and the food will be brought out to you. There was plenty of seating, both inside the restaurant and out on the patio when we visited for lunch on a Sunday. In the middle of the restaurant is a long communal table, and there were booths all around. 

We decided to try the Triple Threat sandwich here – we’ve had it before on our first visit, and S had thought that it was a tad too salty. But since it’s such a favorite among customers, he wanted to give it another shot. 

Triple Threat Pork Sandwich

Triple Threat Pork Sandwich: pork loin schnitzel, pulled pork, bacon, pepperoncini relish, shack aioli [$9.50]

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Supernatural Sandwiches

Supernatural Sandwiches has been on my radar for quite some time, especially with so many features on Eater and Zagat, as well as other blogs. They had been a farmer’s market stand in Hillcrest for a while before opening a brick-and-mortar shop on Miramar Rd. However, initially the shop’s hours were only open Monday to Fridays, so it was a while before S and I got a chance to visit. On a recent Friday, S and I, along with one of our other friends, went to check it out for lunch since our bosses were out of town, hehe.

Supernatural Sandwiches 

The interior is pretty crowded. There’s a walk-up line, seats along the wall at a counter, and a few tables.

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There are the “Supernatural 7”, which are seafood-based sandwiches, and the “Sinister 7”, which feature more meat. I thought it was funny that this place had such a strong comics theme.

I was immediately drawn to the Neptune, which has diver scallops and bacon.

Neptune

Neptune: sauteed sweet local scallops, crispy smoked bacon, buttery toasted bun, spicy pyro aioli, zesty enchanted sauce, fresh local greens [$9.75]

The scallops were quite fresh and sweet, and I thought that the smoky and salty bacon paired quite well with them. I did think that there was a little bit too much sauce, though, which overpowered the delicate scallop flavor a bit. The bun was quite buttery and soft, which was really nice. My friend thought that the bacon was a bit too salty, but S and I actually liked it.

Cthulu

Cthulu: lobster roll with umami butter [$15] 

We also shared a lobster roll (well, S didn’t partake since he doesn’t eat crustaceans). I was excited about it because it’s been a long time since I’ve had a lobster roll… maybe a few years! I liked this one because the lobster flavor was prominent, with just enough flavor from the butter. My friend told me that it’s rare to see so much lobster claw meat in San Diego, since on the West Coast, lobsters tend to have more tail meat than claw. She thought that this was just okay, though… Then again, her last lobster roll was from the famous Luke’s Lobster in NYC, haha.

Cthulu 

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Devilicious Food Truck

It’s been quite a while since I’ve had a food truck lunch… As I’ve mentioned in some of the previous reviews, there was a good variety of food trucks that stop by near my workplace. Lately, though, I’ve noticed that some of my old favorites are either gone or have gone down in food quality. Sad. But when Devilicious started coming around my workplace, I was really excited because I love grilled cheese sandwiches, and I had heard good reviews of the food here. 

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The truck itself is pretty adorable (there were too many people around and I didn’t want to take a picture), thanks to the devil logo:

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For my first visit, my labmate and I split two sandwiches (cell phone pics here):

Butter-Poached Lobster Grilled Cheese [$12]: butter-poached lobster tail meat, melted jack & cheddar cheeses, caramelized onion, roma tomatoes on sourdough bread

Butter-Poached Lobster Grilled Cheese [$12]: butter-poached lobster tail meat, melted jack & cheddar cheeses, caramelized onion, roma tomatoes on sourdough bread

Duck Confit Grilled Cheese [$10]: shredded duck confit, caramelized red onions, gruyere & mozzarella cheeses, honey port reduction on sourdough bread

Duck Confit Grilled Cheese [$10]: shredded duck confit, caramelized red onions, gruyere & mozzarella cheeses, honey port reduction on sourdough bread

The bread was grilled to a perfect crisp and quite buttery. …

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Firehouse Subs (and Giveaway!)

Recently, S and I were invited to attend a “Meet the Founder” dinner at Firehouse Subs, a fast-casual sandwich chain that started in Jacksonville, Florida and has (finally) made its way across the country to California! S and I are actually quite familiar with Firehouse Subs already – there was a store close to Duke’s campus, and we would often eat there when we were tired of on-campus dining options back in college. After moving to California, we’d occasionally talk about the food that we missed from North Carolina, and Firehouse always comes up. So imagine my excitement when I found out that there is now a store in San Diego! We eagerly made our way to Point Loma, where it was located, for the dinner with Firehouse’s founder, Robin Sorensen. I’m really excited to write about this dinner, and there is a giveaway at the end of this post!

FHS with axe

Press image courtesy of The Zimmerman Agency

Upon arrival, we were first introduced to the Coca-Cola Freestyle Fountain, which allows for more than 120 flavor combinations. The same “freestyle fountain” is also used at Five Guys (Costa Verde plaza location), so I was familiar with it. It’s pretty neat – you select your base drink – Coke, Sprite, whatever, and then you can add different flavored syrups to make your customized fountain soda.

Coca-Cola

Coca-Cola Freestyle Fountain

Firehouse Subs, however, is unique in that they partnered with Coca-Cola to feature their very own Cherry Lime-ade drink in these fountains. I believe it was an exclusive drink available on these freestyle fountains, only at Firehouse. S had the “light” Cherry Lime-ade (less sugar than the normal version), and I had a sweet tea. Oh man, I’ve missed Southern sweet tea. We enjoyed both of our drinks; I’ve had the Cherry Lime-ade back in NC, but I didn’t realize that it was unique to Firehouse!

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The cups list of all the flavor possibilities

One of the things that I remember really enjoying at Firehouse is all of their hot sauces.

FHS Hot Sauce

Press image courtesy of The Zimmerman Agency

On our table was their Captain Soresen’s datil pepper hot sauce. I LOVED the fire hydrant bottle!

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Mr. Robin Sorensen talked us through Firehouse Subs’ mission statements: hearty and flavorful food, heartfelt service, and public safety. I really enjoyed his anecdotes about growing up in Jacksonville, being a fireman, starting the business with his brother, and seeing the restaurant flourish and grow into something he said he’d never have imagined when it all started.

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And of course, we got to sample some delicious subs, too!

Hook & Ladder: smoked turkey breast, Virginia honey ham, Monterey jack cheese, served Fully Involved

Hook & Ladder: smoked turkey breast, Virginia honey ham, Monterey jack cheese, served Fully Involved

The Hook & Ladder was one of my favorite sandwiches, and I was really happy to be eating it again. As Robin mentioned throughout his talk, Firehouse really focuses on using quality ingredients, and sticking to the same supplier throughout the years. To find the very best ingredients for their sandwiches, Robin says that they test products from all over the country, without knowing the prices, to decide which one tastes the best – and then they’ll deal with the pricing later. The Smithfield honey ham that’s in this sandwich is an example of an expensive but really tasty ingredient. I just really love the flavors of this sandwich – sweetness from the honey ham, smokiness from the turkey breast, salty and savory from the cheese. “Fully-involved” is a firemen’s term, but here it means served with mayonnaise, mustard, lettuce, tomato, onion, and a dill spear on the side. Even the condiments here are high quality – the mayo is made with “double eggs” (read: probably more unhealthy, but oh so delicious), and the mustard is a New York deli mustard.

New York Steamer: corned beef brisket, pastrami, melted Provolone, mayo, mustard, Italian dressing

New York Steamer: corned beef brisket, pastrami, melted Provolone, mayo, mustard, Italian dressing

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Green Acre

I usually pack my lunch at work since there aren’t really many decent options for eating out (except for the occasional food truck; but lately I’ve been a bit disappointed by the slowness of service and high prices of food trucks). But a while back, my labmates and I discovered Green Acres Cafe, located rather close-ish to my building. We have visited a couple of times, and I’ve enjoyed my experiences there. Fellow bloggers Dennis, Cathy, and CC also took a visit in May – check links at the end of the post!

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Green Acre is a Brian Malarkey restaurant (he also owns Searsucker, Burlap, Gabardine, Gingham, Herringbone, and Campine – all located in the San Diego area). I actually liked watching Brian on Top Chef, but I’ve heard that his more recent TV show, The Taste, hasn’t been all that great. I haven’t watched it, though.

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Out of all the Malarkey restaurants, I’ve only been to Searsucker and Green Acre. I liked Searsucker a lot and have been meaning to return. Unfortunately, some of the other restaurants do not have the best reviews so I’ve been a bit hesitant about trying them out.

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Green Acre truly is quite green. There’s a lovely garden right outside of the restaurant. I haven’t really had the chance to explore it, but it’s certainly refreshing from all the bland office buildings all around.

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The interior decor is quite adorable, too. Snacks (chips, popcorn, etc.), drinks, cookbooks, etc… but my favorite part? The super vintage wooden badminton rackets on the lower right! Haha.

Ordering counter, menu, and specials board…

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FYI, the food photos are actually from a different visit than when I took the menu photos… haha. So the soup I ordered actually wasn’t what was listed on the menu.

Sweet Corn & Padron Pepper Soup [$2/cup]

Sweet Corn & Padron Pepper Soup [$2/cup]

I knew that a sandwich would be more than enough for my meal, but when I saw that the soup of the day was corn & peppers, I just could not resist. In fact, I actually placed my order already, noticed the soup, then asked one of my labmates behind me in line to order it for me. Haha. It turned out to be really delicious – the corn was so sweet! And it was fresh off the cob, too. The peppers added a nice kick. It was also quite light on the cream, making it a great summer-y soup.

Crust-Ocean Sandwich [$9]

Crust-Ocean Sandwich [$9]

Labmate’s Crust-ocean sandwich, which is stone crab & shrimp salad, dressed with lemon, greens, and tomatoes, on sourdough bread. I’ve had this sandwich before and really enjoyed it. Unfortunately, my allergy to crab recently got worse (probably ate too much crab at Sycuan buffet and Vegas buffets…), so I don’t think I’ll be able to have this again. Major sadness. Oh well, at least I got to try it before my allergy worsed.

Tuna Melt Panini [$10]

Tuna Melt Panini [$9]

I chose the tuna melt panini. …

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Bella Vista Caffe

A while ago, I had lunch with the awesome Dennis of A Radiused Corner. I’ve wanted to meet him for quite a long time, since I’ve always found his blog really interesting and informative – before visiting his blog, I actually knew nothing about the different varieties of ramen, and now I can’t say I know much more, but I’ve really learned a lot from Dennis’ blog. He is currently doing an awesome series called “Everyday Bentos,” in which he documents the packed lunches of “everyday folks” – from salon hairstylists to homeopathic practitioners. It’s quite a creative project and a bit different from what many other food blogs feature. So, go check it out! :D

Anyway, we decided to visit Bella Vista Caffe, which is located on the premises of Sanford Consortium. It was relatively close to where both of us worked, and it had a really nice view and patio seating.

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Unfortunately I arrived a bit late, so we waited a while in line for the ordering counter. That gave us plenty of time to chat and make our decisions for what to eat, though! Hehe. Dennis decided to try the leek & truffle quiche, one of their newer menu additions I’m guessing, and a side of their from-scratch mushroom soup.

Leek & Truffle Quiche with side salad

Leek & Truffle Quiche with side salad

Mushroom soup

Mushroom soup

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[LA] Headline’s Diner & Press Club

I finally dug up the photos from our last trip to LA (yes, the same trip where we had ABC Cafe and Cafe Spot). We were looking to grab a quick lunch near UCLA, and I found Headline’s Diner & Press Club through Yelp.

It’s a pretty small diner – a handful of tables and seats at the counter. We sat at the counter. Notice that there’s a mirror on the back wall to make the place look bigger! Clever trick indeed, since both S and I thought that there was more seating in the back. Haha.

The menu is pretty simple – breakfast platters like scrambled eggs, omelettes, bacon, and sandwiches. Normally I choose breakfast, but that day I chose a sandwich. It turned out to be a good decision.

Tuna croissant, served with fruit ($7.75)

While the tuna salad was not bad, the croissant was quite underwhelming and dry. I feel like if you’re going to serve sandwiches on a croissant, it should be a good croissant – doesn’t have to be French patisserie quality, but at least not stale…

Bruin Special – 2 pancakes, 3 eggs, hash brown, 2 slices of bacon & 2 sausages links ($7.69)

S ordered the Bruin Special, which seems like a hefty plate of food from the description. Well.. it was all right. As you can see, the bacon is pretty flimsy, and the sausage links were small. Hash browns are nothing like the crispy, browned thin potato slices that we love – it’s more of a… scalloped-potatoes hash? Not really sure how to describe but it’s definitely not hash browns. I was quite disappointed.

Overall, we weren’t very satisfied with the meal, but I guess I can see why college students would like the place. (After all, greasy diner food screams hangover cure.) For my diner fix, I still think Studio Diner is the best I’ve had since moving to San Diego.

Headline’s Diner & Press Club
10922 Kinross Ave, Los Angeles, CA

http://headlinesdiner.com/

Hours: Mon-Fri 6am-10pm; Sat-Sun 7am-10pm

Cali Baguette Express

S and I wanted to have a quick and light lunch one Saturday, so we stopped by Cali Baguette Express. I believe there are a few locations around San Diego, and we visited the one on Convoy St.

Our current favorite place for banh mi is K Sandwiches – you can get a pretty hefty sandwich there for about $3, and they have a bakery with assorted pastries, including, notably, delicious cream cheese croissants ($1 each!). So I was curious as to how Cali Baguette Express would hold up to our current favorite. The store is a bit smaller, and there is no bakery, but the menu is quite similar.

There are also smoothies available. S ordered a Thai iced tea – if you haven’t had one before, it’s a Thai black tea with sweetened condensed milk.

#1: Cali Special ($3.25)

 

I chose the Cali Special – figured I’d go with the namesake sandwich. It was a lot smaller than the sandwich at K Sandwiches, and definitely less meat. Even the bread wasn’t as good (it tasted almost stale?). S had #6, the BBQ pork sandwich. We didn’t like it at all since there were barely a few pieces of pork, and again the nearly-stale bread was a big turn-off. I didn’t even remember to take a picture of it…

We were quite disappointed with Cali Baguette Express. It’s rather highly rated on Yelp (4 stars), so maybe we came on an off day. Nevertheless, I don’t think we will be returning and will stick to K Sandwiches instead for our banh mi cravings.

Cali Baguette Express
4425 Convoy St. Suite 200A, San Diego, CA
(858) 278-2525 

Hours: Mon-Sat 7am-8:30pm; Sun 8am-8pm