Friday, November 22, 2013

IlTaco Pizza Puff Discovered in San Diego

I want to introduce you, foodie, to something you never had before. I want to take you to a land of ice and snow. A land where the wind never stops blowing. A land where if you see someone running on the road they are probably running away from the cops. A land neither here nor there, one nestled in a sea of red, one caught up in its incestuous corrupt history, one where silos in the country compete with brutal, state-sanctioned urban warfare just half an hour away, a land where I left my third grade girl behind and never looked back, a land where a Large size T-shirt at the store is really a Large size T-shirt, a land I, and several others like to call Illinois.

Chi-town has been in the news lately because of its rough and tumble downward turn but the history of Chicago is one of resilience and fortitude, one where the Cubs persist as a nugget of hope in a world going quickly and silently down the toilet, one where the beauty and mystique of the Iltaco Pizza Puff quietly reigns supreme.

If you don’t know, and you don’t (don’t you feel unhip, young fooder foodie?), the Iltaco Pizza Puff is a frozen block of flaky pastry goodness gently covering a red sauce lava filled cavity wherein swim streams of stringy melted cheese and, depending on your choice (don’t you love freedom) nuggets of sausage, pepperoni, beef or mystery msg chemical perfection.

Here’s the deal – if you live in Illinois you can buy these at the supermarket and bake them up in your oven, or, if you are a real person, you can find them at your neighborhood burger/pizza joint where they make them by tossing them into a vat of decades old simmering oil for x minutes.

My friends, if you haven’t had the pizza puff then maybe you won’t understand it. It’s not craft, handmade, organic, it does not save the planet, it likely will do serious harm to your body if you put too many of them into it, but as the real geniuses say “it is what it is.”

I lived on these things during the summer I became a man. It was my first job in life at the tender age of 16. I was fat and soft and meek and liked to read on the couch instead of walk around. But I spent a summer in Elgin, Illinois, working at a place called Racing Rapids, a water park slash go-kart thing that was a part of Santa’s Village – a psychotic amusement park tucked into middle America with a year-round Christmas theme (another story entirely) and I either had a pizza puff or nachos with extra cheese sauce on them for lunch every day.

Now I don’t know if it was the pizza puff or the outdoor activity but after that summer I was turned into a mean, lean, buffed out high schooler, goodbye awkward middle school, and I returned to my school triumphantly, like a hero, with bits of pastry still stuck on my chin and shirt.

You might ask, what the fuck sandiegofoodblog, I thought this was about San Diego, and you’d be right to do so.

Well, I found pizza puffs on the West Coast. They are available at Lefty’s Pizza in San Diego at their Mission Hills Location (not at North Park).

They are the only place (the owner told me) west of Arizona that has them in the entire country.

That is worth some driving, that is worth some getting in your car and getting one.

The pizza puff surprisingly holds together well. I say surprisingly because its crust is unlike anything you’ve seen before – it is a flaky (but somehow crispy as well) pastry crust that reminds one of spanakopita, but more buttery. You’d think it would fall apart and ooze out shit everywhere after frying up for 7 mins or so, but no – the pizza puff is magic, it holds its shape, it does not ooze, it does not dissolve in your fingers, it retains itself, and every bite is magical.

The cheese does not string out and fly all over the place, the sauce does not gather up in one corner only to explode out of the bottom on your lap, parts of it are not still frozen while other parts burn your face off – it is perfect.

And it exists in San Diego. Amazing. Go get one fool, you been schooled.

Thank you Lefty’s Pizza. Now we can all get buffed up for the summertime.


Here’s where to get it (hey they also have good pizzas, and beer!):

Lefty’s Chicago Pizza
Address: 4030 Goldfinch St, San Diego, CA 92103
Phone:(619) 299-4030

Saturday, September 28, 2013

hustlin ass youngster clockin the grip @ tacos el gordo national city

Tacos El Gordo is everywhere in South San Diego, even in Tijuana Baja California, even better there because of lax laws regarding taste?  It's even in Las Vegas haha!

Someone told me the other day that Tuesday is also known as Taco Tuesday.  I was like - for reals?  Every Tuesday is taco tuesday?  They was all like - "naw G only at Miguel's Cocina Old Town, I love those tacos, and every Tuesday they are like $3 for three (or $6 for 3?  something, I don't care, go look it up)"

I was all like - you eat at Miguel's and you are not a tourist?  Word.

Miguel's is ok to take your Aunt from downstate New Jersey to show her "authentic" "Mexican" "food" - but otherwise steer clear.  They have an ok happy hour but their food be illin.  And Mexiblanco.  Extremely.

But no, I didn't speak my mind to this aforementioned aficionado of blandiose taco de carnes viejos  I gave the homie his say and kept my hesistations to myself, then I ran as fast as I could to the border, or near it, to Tacos El Gordo National City.

This joint, besides maybe the homeboys who set up clandestine adobada shawarma things in alleyways along University in City Heights - wha just playin policeman haha go look somewhere else popo - is what San Diego has for tacos that are good good good and good.

 your tax dollars at work - cock blocking m'f'ers trying to get tacos shit you heard that

Tacos El Gordo has a long history south of the border as being some of the best tacos that Tijuana can shave up, at all hours and for cheap prices.  Nowadays Las Ahumadoras (Taco Street) and Tacos El Franc are better according to my last taxi driver, but El Gordo is always a good place to go for a steady flow of steamy salty meats and cilantro and salsas.

National City, like most El Gordo spots, is small, kind of 70's hamburger joint feel inside with booths, and has different stations to order different types of tacos.

There was one old crazy (drunk? - prolly, even though it was 2pm on a Wednesday) man manning the station below some signs for tacos de cabeza (head), sudero (shoulder), lengua (tongue).  Go to him for those, make sure to be clear what you want.  My homie tried to order five tacos, all different, started with "cabeza" then got 5 tacos de cabeza haha.  

shoulder sudero eat them bolero

Cabeza is maybe one of my least favorite tacos, it's not that it's because it's head meat - though it is head meat, just that it's less flavored in my opinion, than the other meats.

Tongue is chewy white boy, you heard that here first!

Shoulder tacos are some of my favorite.  They stew the meat a little, it's very wet, and very very tasty like it's been sitting in a broth of pig salt and onion basting and pork magical essences.  Get these dude and dudette.  

There's another guy or woman for the chorizo tacos, carne asada tacos and adobada tacos, just ask them don't worry.  There were some worried people who only spoke English there, about to have a heart attack, don't have a heart attack just ask them to try some meats for free, ask them where to go, etc.  They are very nice people.

oye mami damelo - chorizo

Chorizo is another favorite of mine, double up on your lipitor, it's so salty and sausagey and pink and tender and blasting with flavor - the most intense of the tacos at the el gordo and the most anywhere usually.  One time I had soy chorizo from Trader Joes, soyrizo, it was so disgusting I spat out the bite and then threw up all over my house, then brushed my teeth and ran to Taco El Gordo for chorizo.

If you are vegetarian or vegan good for you I'm really happy, but make up your own food, why say soy dogs, soy burger, soyrizo, just make something like a new name that doesn't have to deal with meat motherfuckaz.  Like blastipasche, or manifoldtetes, or slashoposhis.

You heard that.

Carne Asada is beef stupid.  Beef grilled up, tasty as shit, beefy, all that.

Adobada / Al Pastor - these are my favorites of favorites usually.  Sometimes you can get a meat tower that's a bit old, been charred up without cutting, or new and raw - make sure you get adobada at the right time, when every other motherfucka is getting them - when there's a line for them - when fucking smoke is pouring off the big round shawarma of pork - when the cutting man is sweating bullets all over the meat and his hands and not stopping cutting with his machete - when the pineapple on top is crying yellow tears all down the glistening cooking red meat - get them then!

adobada shawarma - sponge bob house on top

They are great, not as blasting with salt like chorizo, but tender, tasty, soury, bright, illuminating, sublime.  

All this stuff is great, go there, get a pina colada blast too, get everything on your tacos - onion, cilantro, special sauce, everything, eat them all in once sitting, sneak in some beer, whatever.  Go stoned, amazing.  Get some extra napkins, bring some wet naps, lick that shit.

They are cheap.  They are good.  They are a constant staple in San Diego and Tijuana and Las Vegas.

Go there at 2:30 am, they are the best then.

Here is the address for you haters - 

1940 Highland Ave
(between Nordica Ave & 19th St)
National City, CA 91950
Neighborhood: National City
(619) 474-5033

Be careful of cutting in line though, you might get el served:

Friday, April 20, 2012

Starting April 29th - Pranzo at Vivace

Vivace is a nice Italian centered, very nice date night restaurant, located at the Park Hyatt Aviara in Carlsbad, their service and setting has always been first class and I've never had less than a stellar time eating there or at the Park Hyatt.  Plus they have oysters at the antipasti buffett!  Well worth the $45 in unlimited oysters alone, let alone the other dishes.

So, I pass along this information passed along to me, they are having a new concept on Sunday brunch Italian style, I hope you check it out, here's the info, peace, Georgie Caye:

Pranzo – meaning lunch in Italian – remains a significant family event in Italy. Park Hyatt Aviara is continuing the tradition by offering a selection of traditional Italian specialties with the usual modern twist from Chef de Cuisine Jesse Paul. Menu Highlights:

Aperitvi – Bellini, Negroni, Americano

Antipasti Stations – crudo with oysters from Carlsbad Aquafarm, artisan burrata and mozzarella from local cheese makers, house-cured salumi sliced fresh to order and other assorted cold Italian delicacies.

Family Meal – each guest selects an individual entrée and contorni (side dish). Generous portions – and the delivery of additional plates – encourage guests to share the dishes amongst their family and friends. Wood Roasted Tenderloin with Beef Sugo; Wood Roasted Half Jidori Chicken with Marsala Brodo; Roasted Sea Bass - Grilled Meyer Lemon, Capers, Brodo; Ravioli al Formaggio with Mushroom Ragu and Huckleberries; Rigatoni alla Bolognese

Dolci – a selection of traditional Italian desserts including Tiramisu’, Zuppa Inglese, Ricotta Cannoli, Zeppole, Crostata alla frutta, Zabaglione, Biscotti, Panna Cotta, Torta di Cioccolato, Torrone

Pranzo will be served at Vivace at Park Hyatt Aviara every Sunday between 11:30 a.m. and 3:00 p.m and is priced at $45 per person (including glass of Prosecco/antipasti buffet/ choice of one pasta or entrée plus contorni/desserts). Reservations can be made by calling (760) 448-1234 or visiting  

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Japengo! (aka go to Sushi Ota now!)

From Japengo!

If you ever want to experience what an upscale sushi restaurant in Ohio might be like, head to La Jolla for Café Japengo.  If you miss eating at an airport sushi restaurant in anytown USA get yourself to Café Japengo for a fix.  If you want to see lots of people in suits chasing money and talking about sales with each other very loudly, yes, Café Japengo.  Dark, cheesily upscale but not, like a set piece from Mad Men 1987.

Not sure what kind of fish I got when ordering tuna sushi, it looked a bit like it was on its way out, like a jaggedly pulled piece of translucent tongue that a dog had yanked out of some dead animal’s mouth, and someone put on a piece of rice.  It tasted like chewy tap water.

Café Japengo is the kind of sushi restaurant that gives you a golf ball sized hunk of green horseradish because you need it to mask the flavor of their old fish.

The yellowtail was ok, I have to admit, it was not chewy like the tuna, and still tasted fresh, unlike the tuna, however, the tuna and the two rolls were pretty sick, I’m sorry to say.

From Japengo!

Spicy tuna roll’s seaweed wrap tasted watery and was old, chewy and hard to bite, unlike fresh seaweed which in rolls evaporates under your teeth like heaven. 

Sushi Ota is just down the road in Pacific Beach.  Why anyone would go to Café Japengo when Ota is so close is beyond me.

I thought I’d give it a shot, since it pretends to be fancy, is at the Hyatt, and has a large bar, however, it gave me a shot, in the stomach and the wallet, lunch jumps up and kicks you in the balls and yells “JAPENGO!”

A lunch should not cost $60, especially this lunch.

The place was packed with business people mid-week lunchtime, we waited and waited, the hostess was harried and ignored us standing at the counter while she counted a stack of menus frantically, then left, coming back to write something, then left again, a waiter nodded at me as he walked by with a tray of waters, then he left too.  The wait was 20 minutes for a table, but we could sit at the bar area, which was empty completely.  However, we sat there for another 15 minutes (alone in the bar) without anyone coming up to us.  I went and grabbed menus from the front counter.

Finally a very nice waiter came by.  He gave us a dish of water and two white tablets that looked like alka seltzer.  He said it was their special thing, you put the tablet in the water and it turns into a wet napkin, so “we wouldn’t have to go to the bathroom”.  The wet napkin trick looked like a tampon unfolding as it sat in the dish of water.  Our table remained foodless and drinkless for some time as I watched this feat of ingenuity.

From Japengo!

The napkin looked like gauze.  I didn’t understand it.  Except maybe one of the suit-wearing idiots around me was likely a salesperson for this napkin in a pill thing, and duped the manager or someone into buying them and having them.

I wish it was alka seltzer and I could take them after my meal.  Or gauze to wrap my bleeding wallet in after getting bilked for $60 worth of junk sushi.

The food was gross.  I ate it because it was expensive.  I’m passive aggressive about everything too so did not complain while there, so here are my complaints.  Take them as you will.  All kinds of people love this place on yelp. 

Sorry, really, Japengo, but actually I’m not sorry, you promised me so much, then just robbed me blind, leaving me in the sunlight with a feeling like I’ve been had.

Don’t go to Café Japengo, go to Sushi Ota, ok?

Monday, February 27, 2012

International Market & Grill - La Jolla, Iranian

The couple in the International Market Grill is arguing.  They are sweet like that.  An elderly Iranian couple run this unassuming kebab grill.  I’m sitting by myself in the corner watching UCSD students go to the Pho place next door.  This small, out of the way joint has some sweet kebabs though.  It is clean and well lit.  They also sell groceries like Cortas Hummus (the best canned brand you can buy, it often is better than most store or restaurant made Hummus, Trader Joe’s Hummus tastes like mustard), and Arabic and Iranian breads and a whole section of Iranian/Middle Eastern desserts.

A couple of detectives, or FBI agents or vacuum cleaner salesmen sidle up to the bar (there’s like a lunch bar around the grill area), dressed like a 1970s police show, one of them has suspenders and smoked a pipe outside – “You got scrambled eggs, lox?” (laughter) “how bought bacon?” (more laughter) “is that rice from China?” (laughing) “I want Chinese rice” “Can I get some water, some onion water?  I want it from the Straits of Hormuz, the Straits of Hormuz” (laughter) “They cook it up here like grandma” (laughing) – “The best “Italian” food I’ve ever seen” (laughing)

I’m about to stand up and throw my water glass at their heads, but the owner seems to know these guys and he jokingly takes it all in stride and everyone jibs and jabs like a bunch of men in a locker room.  You can PC-ify all you want in your classroom, but PC just doesn’t jive with reality, even a block from UC San Diego.

From International Market

Anyway.  I decided to resurrect San Diego Food Blog for this post (and perhaps future ones as well), because this place isn’t as packed as it should be.  It’s small, it’s out of the way for most people, tucked into a random mini-mall a block from UC San Diego, it’s kind of a café-type feel, you pay after you eat, and it takes a long time to make your order – but that’s only because they cook to order – and, it’s not exactly cheap (kebabs are around $7).

They specialize in kebabs but also have a revolving daily special based on Iranian favorites.

I’ve had their house kebab, a beef kebab lightly spiced in a Persian bread wrap with fresh lettuce and tomato and onion and a side dish of thick yogurt that I like dipping the sandwich in or spreading on top of it.  Chicken kebabs are also very good, as is their salad, and rice.  I haven’t had anything other than that.

pictures of bitten food (sorry, couldn't wait)

The food is very fresh, which is why I like this place so much, they make and marinate their meats every day, and the veggies are always of high quality.  Their kebabs are great, go and eat them. 

Expect a wait, if you’re in a hurry call them and order ahead.  Parking in this lot is tight during the noon rush, and there are lots of harried business people doing this or that as they worry about their money and boss.  If you can come at 11 it’s better than noon.

The International Market and Grill is closed on Sundays.

3211 Holiday Ct
Ste 100

(between Villa La Jolla Dr & Villa Norte)
La Jolla, CA 92037
(858) 535-9700

Thursday, January 12, 2012

ArtPower San Diego Presents Movie and a Dinner

This sounds like a good movie about food, you also get fed:

ArtPower! Presents: lezioni di cioccolato (lessons in chocolate) FOOVIES
[FOOD + MOVIE] Thursday January 19th, 2012 / 7:00 PM
The Loft

A ruthless Perugian businessman gets his comeuppance in this delectable
romantic comedy. Mattia is a cost-cutting contractor who is being
blackmailed by his injured employee, an Egyptian named Kamal. At fault for
the mishap, Mattia is forced to attend a chocolate cooking class in
Kamal¹s name. When he catches the eye of fellow chef Cecilia, he takes
advantage of being mistaken for the hardworking immigrant. [Claudio
Cupellini, 2007, Italy, 98 min.]

MENU Falafel Salad with Baby Romaine, Shaved Red Onion and Yogurt-Harissa
Dressing; Spaghetti Bolognese; Aged Parmesan Garlic Bread; Truffle Duo.
Drinks not included.

Regular: $30 (food + movie) / $8 (movie)
UCSD Student: $24 (food + movie) / $4 (movie)

To purchase tickets online, go to
or visit the UCSD Box Office, located in the Price Center Plaza.
Check out our facebook event at

Friday, August 5, 2011

Senor Grubby's - Carlsbad CA

From senor grubby

Pizza Port too crowded on a Sunday Afternoon!

We went to the beach the other day and then unwisely thought Pizza Port would be a good place to go afterwards.  Sunday on a sunny day at 4pm is no time to go to Pizza Port.  The line was almost out the back door and the place was mobbed with red faced shorts wearing people. 

From senor grubby

This is a cool looking church or house thing on the way to Senor Grubby's

So we walked down the road to Senor Grubby’s, a chain-sort of place serving up Mexican food.

From senor grubby

Overall Senor Grubby’s is a good place actually.  They have a good salsa bar, good chips, and lots of Mexican beer on tap.  There were plenty of seats, etc.

From senor grubby

From senor grubby

From senor grubby

But, I can’t get over the fact of my al pastor.  I walk in and shining there behind the counter is a mountain of meat with a pineapple on top.  I get very excited.  I’ve never actually had al pastor off the spit, which is how you are supposed to have it.

Their meat tower, however, was black, and looked like my grandmother’s family in Queens was storing it in the basement during the great depression.  The meat tasted the same:  old, black, dry and crunchy with the taste of licking an old piece of wood that used to be on fire a couple of days ago.

If you go, and you are the vocally complaining type, please do me a favor and pass this info on to them, tell them to either cut the meat or get off the pot, if the meat gets black cut it off and don’t serve it, serve the good stuff underneath.


From senor grubby
Bathroom Reading

From senor grubby

Cold beer on tap!

From senor grubby

Their hot salsa reminds me of the salsa I really like at Mama Testa (another dry old meat taco sometimes place), it’s got a strong tang to it like tamarind or something, pretty good stuff.

From senor grubby

The beers were good.  The company was good.  The place was pretty clean, they had an assortment of hot sauces on the table including Tapatio and Cholula, a bunch of teenagers working there, some kind of mix of music with a lot of horrible country (like “new country” not Johnny Cash), everything.

From senor grubby

Someone else got a California burrito, and for the kids she asked for rice and beans, thinking they would be on the side, but when it was delivered it was the size of a small baby wrapped up in a blanket.  The carne asada in the burrito wasn’t that good either, to tell the honest truths, but the cheese was ok (artificial orange tang) and the fries were pretty good, but the California burrito was overall a very dry experience, making salsa a necessity.

From senor grubby

Torta someone got - they say it was good but I didn't get a taste!

From senor grubby

Someone else had a burrito with shrimps of the devil (alal Diavolo?).  Anything with devil or red or hot or spicy peppers next to it, I order.  The burrito was actually pretty spicy and, from the bites I got to have, really good.

From senor grubby

I had carnitas tacos too and they were actually pretty good.  Nothing like Cuatro Milpas, but still a lot better than Rubio’s.  They looked like they might be dry but they were actually pretty moist.

From senor grubby

Overall, I would go back if Pizza Port was overcrowded, maybe even if not.   Pizza Port isn’t that great either.  I was trying to get the crowd to go to Fish House Vera Cruz, which, getting old in my days, I actually like a lot, but alas they told me they weren’t retired yet.


Senor Grubby’s:

377 Carlsbad Village Drive
Carlsbad, CA 92008-2918

(760) 729-6040