If you’ve ever driven the freeways of Southern California, you’d think that the only restaurants are major fast-food joints like Carl’s Jr., In & Out Burger, Taco Bell, McDonald’s and Wienerschnitzel. While the car culture dictates this kind of grab-and-go dining, there are many fantastic and imaginative chefs doing what they know best out west.
You simply need to know where to go. While the options are plentiful, dinner is served at an earlier hour and I narrowed down my selection to three remarkable places for every budget.
#3: San Diego — Phil’s B.B.Q.
I met Phil way back in the day when his BBQ place was a well-known local secret in the Mission Hills neighborhood. The man is a hardworking and very smart businessman who truly knows what it takes to roast meat and prepare all of the sides. Phil’s B.B.Q has been my run-to eatery since 2000. Don’t just take my word for it, trust the nightly line that wraps around the building in the neighborhood known as The Midway. Your dinner is worth the wait.
I recommend the Babyback Ribs, Coleslaw, Corn on the Cob and Mixed Salad. The ribs are consistently juicy, savory and mouthwatering.
Tip: If there are only two of you dining, eat at the bar and avoid the parade waiting for a table.
Note: You can purchase their signature BBQ Sauce to go.
3750 Sports Arena Boulevard
San Diego, CA
#2: Palm Springs — The New York Company Restaurant & Bar
I recently met up with a dear friend to celebrate his birthday in the desert and he recommended this restaurant owned and operated by one of our east coast transplants. Wally D’Agostino oversees the kitchen and everything at this little flavor of NYC just a short ride from the Palm Spring’s tourist area — The New York Company Restaurant & Bar. It’s a flashback to old-world New York and a welcome addition to the PS community.
The décor and ambiance is reminiscent of the old-school Restaurant Row establishments with vintage pictures, live entertainment on certain nights and a varied menu for every taste. We went there for the Mussels and stayed for the Pork Chops and Beef Ribs — smart choices. The portions are large so you will probably take some of your meal home. It’s a slice of the Big Apple under palm trees and a scorching sun.
Tip: Share the Mussels (above) order a sparkling wine and request plenty of warm bread for the flavorful butter and garlic broth.
The New York Company
1260 South Palm Canyon Drive,
Palm Springs, CA
#1: La Jolla — George’s At The Cove
Cuisine coined California Modern is created under the careful watch and supervision of Executive Chef, Trey Foshee. Made with the freshest local ingredients, California Modern is inventive, beautifully presented and delicious. You can begin your meal with unique items like Roasted Sardine, Fish Tacos or Grilled Octopus. I recommend the Bay Scallop Aguachile, nasturtium, Buddha’s hand and radish (above). This dish was fresh with a blend of spices, tangy and enjoyable textures.
For entrée, try the Red Wine Braised Prime Short Rib, turnips, carrots, mustard greens, soft polenta or the California Lamb, lentils, roasted salsify and puffed quinoa (above). The menu changes often with the best local ingredients available. There is indoor and outdoor seating in this multiplex with breathtaking views of the Pacific.
Note: Ask manager Nolan Cooper to recommend wine pairings with your dinner selections.
George’s At The Cove
1250 Prospect Street,
La Jolla, CA
This is our second story of a 3-part series on travel in Southern California. Be sure to check back for more travel coverage.