Urban Solace – comfort food for the stomach

Recently, I had to take a work trip down to my old stomping grounds of San Diego.  While I was there, I decided that a stop at one of my favorite restaurants was necessary; it had been too long since I had been to Urban Solace.  I called up my friend, “Chef” Eddie, and off we went for dinner.  Located in the North Park area, Urban Solace opened its doors a few years ago.  Since then, it has earned much acclaim for Chef Matt Gordon’s wonderful upscale twist on comfort food.  Even though it was a weeknight, the restaurant was packed and there was about a 20 minute wait.  For those who are faced with some extra time before being seated, a large bar area located near the door is a great place to hang out and have a pre-meal cocktail or have some wine or beer (bottled and tap) from the extensive list.

Cheddar biscuits with orange honey butter

One thing that I always tell people they MUST order when eating at Urban Solace is the warm cheese biscuits with orange honey butter.  Naturally, Eddie and I ordered some as an appetizer.  Soft, fluffy, cheesy, these are the epitome of what cheddar biscuits should be.   Paired with sweet citrus butteriness, it’s an interesting flavor contrast.

Spinach salad

I was craving veggies so I decided to get the spinach salad: baby spinach, goat cheese, warm sherry vinegrette, bacon, dates, hazelnuts.  An excellent large salad, this was just what I wanted.  Healthy greens, meaty bacon for protein, hazelnuts for crunch, dates for a little sweetness…very well balanced.  Maybe not the healthiest salad, but I did get my veggies!

Duckaroni

I also was craving mac n’ cheese and heard nothing but great things about the version Urban Solace serves.  The duckaroni is a mac n’ cheese made with blue cheese, duck confit, roasted garlic, arugula, and scallions.  You can order it as a side or as a main dish; I opted for the side since I had the salad.  This was fantastic.  There was a lot of cheese sauce which is a big thing for me as my main complaint for a mac n’ cheese is that it’s not cheesy enough.  I loved the crumb topping.  The blue cheese flavor was surprisingly mild.  The duck was a great addition and the flavor just meshed well.  I’m used to either some sort of shellfish, chicken or bacon/ham being in a mac n’ cheese but duck was a new one for me and I have to say, it was good.

Chicken and Dumplings

Eddie went with the chicken and dumplings and let me steal a couple of bites.  This was excellent and very rich in chicken flavor.  The dumplings weren’t overly dense and soaked in the sauce making for yummy bite after bite.  He polished off his plate for the most part.

We didn’t have room for dessert because all this food stuffed us silly; we even had biscuits leftover!

All the times I have been here, the food has been spot on, both in flavor and execution.  Consistency in deliciousness is just one of the reasons why Urban Solace finds itself on the list of San Diego’s best restaurants.

The service is always friendly and excellent.  As for the prices, I think they are not very expensive for the quality of dining experience you get.

The Catty Critic gives Urban Solace 5 NOMs.  Now if only they would open up here in LA next door to my house…

Urban Solace
3823 30th Street
San Diego, CA 92104
(619) 295-6464
http://urbansolace.net/
Urban Solace on Urbanspoon

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Pomegranate

This place is one of my most favorite restaurants ever. Every time I have out-of-town guests, I make it a point to bring them here.  Well, I did when I lived in San Diego…

The restaurant itself is a tiny little place so I highly recommend making reservations a few days in advance, especially if you have a large party or are dining there during the weekend. It’s decorated with a bunch of random stuff and the walls are covered in writings from previous patrons in all sorts of languages.

The food here is fantastic. For larger groups (like 6+), we always get their appetizer sampler thingy which is NOT on the menu but the waitress will tell you about it so no worries. It is all veggies but they are delicious. I highly recommend getting this, especially if you’ve never been. It is a little pricy (~$30, if I recall correctly) but split between 6 or more people, totally worth it. And get the khachapuri (cheese pie)…flaky, buttery crust, yummy cheese…mmmm. There are 4 pieces in a order and you can fully expect people to go for seconds. Their khinkali (meat or veggie option) and varaniki (potato) dumplings are really tasty too so if you have a smaller group, you could split those instead.

I have never had anything bad here. EVER. The cabbage rolls (golubtsi) are fantastic. The lamb dishes (try the chakapuli or chanakhi) are amazing. The strogonoff…mmmm. Pay attention to the specials as there’s always something tasty. If they have the chicken with cinnamon n’ stuff, go for it. You won’t be sorry. Friday and Saturday, the chef makes a shashlik (Russian kabob w/ choice of: pork, chicken, lamb). When they bring it to you, they will add on a pomegranate sauce that is out of this world. Just have them keep pouring until your dish is swimming in it. 😉 Trust me…otherwise you may find yourself asking for more.

Desserts here are great, too, though I’ve always been to stuffed to order much. Babushka’s Surprise is a great treat for the fruit lover and you can’t go wrong with the Napolean torte. I still have to try the Toad Sweat Ice Cream…

As for drinks, if you love strong ginger ale, order some as this stuff will punch you in the gut and you will love it. The Turkish coffee will have you running around with “Flight of the Bumblebee” as your soundtrack. Definitely try some of the wine, especially the pomegranate one they they only sell by the bottle. They have some good beers here as well as my beer snob friends will admit.

The portions here are HUGE and the food fantastic which make the prices worthwhile. It can get pricey, make no mistake, especially if you order up appetizers and booze.

The service is fantastic and everyone’s really friendly though there’s usually only one or two waiters working so don’t be surprised if getting things can take a while. But be prepared for Russian accents.

They will take credit card but they really really really REALLY prefer cash.  Did I mention they prefer cash payment?

Damn…now I have a craving. Poo on my husband for making me move to LA.

Oh yeah, parking here is a pain… Be prepared to parallel park in a neighborhood.

Pomegranate gets all 5 NOMs and some extra NYOM NYOM NOMs as well.

Pomegranate
2302 El Cajon Blvd
(between Louisiana St & Texas St)
San Diego, CA 92104
(619) 297-4007
http://russiangeorgianfood.homestead.com/

Pomegranate Russian Georgian on Urbanspoon