Food Observations

A blog for eaters

Archive for the category “Uncategorized”

Red Lobster

Well, this is certainly an awkward time for a food critic & blogger! As some of you know, what I post was actually eaten roughly six months ago. I’m that far behind. I don’t want anyone to be under the impression that restaurants are open in SoCal, because they’re not. With that said, I’ll start including visit dates. I’m not a big fan of “take-out” but I do plan to explore some of those options, while they last.

Bar Harbor Lobster Bake at Red Lobster in Mira Mesa, October 2019. This was definitely among the best dishes I’ve ordered at RL over the years. It’s one of their seasonal things that’s not always on the menu. Some sort of garlic linguine pasta mounded with an assortment of seafood including a split, grilled lobster tail, mussels, shrimp, scallops, etc. Excellent dish although their scallops were fairly petite.

Outback Steakhouse

One of the last decent meals I’ve had at OB. A plate of chicken wings. 😐

Phil’s BBQ

Phil’s is kicking their Happy Hour menu into high gear! I really enjoyed this order of HH Pulled Pork Fries at their Rancho Bernardo location.

Mariscos Mar de Cortez

Tasty Camarones Al Mojo de Ajo at Mariscos Mar de Cortez in Ramona!  Sautéed shrimp with garlic, butter, onions and house spices.  Served with rice & beans, pico de gallo, a blob of guacamole, and hot, supple tortillas. This dish would have been more aptly named “Cebollas Al Mojo de Ajo”. It was definitely onion forward and lacking in shrimp.
The shrimps were tasty, meaty and succulent; cooked perfectly.  Unfortunately the ratio of shrimp to onions was pretty conservative.  What I can tell you is the shrimps were of high quality.  Not some frozen, farmed institutional variety from <insert name of Asian country here>!  The buttery garlic sauce was really good and nicely balanced, not at all overbearing.
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Wynola Pizza & Bistro

Outstanding BBQ Chicken Pizza at Wynola Pizza! Delicious thin, crispy wood-fired crust. Unfortunately, the Caesar salad was not nearly as good as last time. Seems as if the parmesan cheese was an endangered species this time.

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The Par Lounge

Outstanding “Moody Bleu” at The Par Lounge in Ramona! “Bleu Moody” blue cheese, caramelized onions, spring greens, Creole honey mustard, and a roasted garlic aioli. You probably want to avoid this one if you’re prone to diverticulitis. Honestly, I’d rather have it on a nice brioche bun anyway.

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El Patron Mexican Grill

Tasty order of rolled tacos with guacamole dispensed from a caulk gun! LOL, that’s what it sounded like anyway. Happy New Year, FoodObs friends! You’re the best blog followers, that I can tell you.

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Grand Ole BBQ

Grand Ole BBQ has now been open in Flinn Springs since the beginning of the year and I finally got in there to try them out! GOB started in 2010 as a catering company, followed by a restaurant location in North Park. Now they occupy a premier venue in east county that is just phenomenal! Such a fun place, you’d swear you were in Texas!
I have to say this was the best BBQ brisket I’ve ever put in my mouth! Thick slices from different parts of the whole brisket that pulled apart perfectly, had a good amount of moisture, smoke ring and flavorful bark. The Texas hot link was tasty but the texture and mouthfeel got tiring after a while. Not overly spicy. I was sad to learn that mac salad is no longer offered despite earlier menu photos showing it. I got the tater salad which was excellent. Acted as the perfect cooling agent to the fatty, smokey, spicy, meaty mains I enjoyed. Their mac & cheese exceeded my expectations. They’re using a legit recipe that is not at all institutional. Could have been served hotter though.
The menu is fairly inflexible. No options to order any sort of 2 or 3 meat combo with sides. You pretty much have to piecemeal together an entire a la carte order ($$$). Lady FoodObs requested a side of their queso but was informed that it’s only available with their special “El Boracho” thing. Ok, maybe next time. They did have an impressive draft beer menu that included Ramona’s own Turquoise Barn Cider!
Despite the menu inflexibility, the service overall was remarkable. Especially considering how busy they were. Clearly a well trained, experienced and thoughtful staff here. Now when I talk about an “east county venue” I’m talking about more than just a BBQ restaurant. They have an extraordinary outdoor section with live music on the weekends, etc. GOB is definitely worth checking out if you’ve never been. You’d be hard pressed to find better Que anywhere else on the west coast.
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Black Bear Diner

Black Bear Diner is a fast-growing, community-oriented, family dining concept that offers great food in a fun, bear-themed atmosphere. They first opened in northern California in 1995 and have since expanded to 132 restaurants across 13 states. Recently they opened their first location in San Diego County, located in the city of El Cajon. I’ve eaten at BBDs back in the day in Bullhead City and Long Beach, only for breakfast. I was excited to try their first San Diego location.
There’s so much on their menu I wanted to order, it was hard to decide. For my first dinner visit I kept it simple with a Turkey Club Sandwich. Whoever cut my sandwich clearly failed geometry. It was still tasty nonetheless. Even after being open for several months, the El Cajon location still seems to be working out the kinks with their service. They were all very nice, but it seemed as if it was their first restaurant job.
My dear, elderly mother after examining the menu for like 30 minutes, wound up ordering the steak special off the placemat. In lieu of their side options, she simply request sliced tomatoes. The waiter stated they did not have sliced tomatoes but instead had only cherry tomatoes cut in half. I thought to myself, “what kind of tomatoes do you put on your burgers and sandwiches?”, but I digress. Lady FoodObs also had the “placemat special”. A very good looking and delicious sirloin steak with sides. That mac & chz though was pretty institutional. They could have definitely done better with that.
The cornbread muffins served on the side looked and tasted excellent! If you’re ever there and have leftovers on the table, it’s well worth taking home. The next day, wrap in foil and bake at 350 for about 12 minutes. Gail had the “placemat” steak special as well and it looked at tasted great. One of her sides was mac & cheese which looked good, but tasted very institutional. My son had the creamy pesto pasta dish with grilled chicken which he proclaimed to be “better than Olive Garden”! I’d say that’s impressive!
I can’t wait to go back. This place serves liberally portioned down-home country style comfort food quite admirably. I want to try and compare them to Cracker Barrel but you just can’t. Both have similar yet distinct menus and are both very good in their own way.

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Outback Steakhouse

Outstanding “Bloomin’ Fried Chicken” with terrible, overcooked broccoli! It tasted like some kind of funk. I don’t know how else to describe it. What I can tell you is the service has declined dramatically at the two Outbacks I frequent in SoCal. More on that in a future post.

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