Monday, December 20, 2010

The Australian Pub is like life


From aust pub
16 seconds in the Aussie Pub one quiet Chargers loss evening

The Australian Pub is like life.

The first time I went there was my second day in San Diego in 2002 and I went boogie boarding in PB with my new roommate.  Coming out of the water I stepped on something and felt part of my toe get cut off (in my mind).  In my head it was a giant lobster that had clipped the end of my toe off.  It had been a stingray.  My roommate went and got the lifeguard and I hobbled over to the lifeguard station and they gave me a bucket of hot water to soak the foot in.  I sat there while lifeguards came and went and an incredibly painful shard-of-glass feeling on my luckily fully intact but bleeding toe went shooting up and down my legs.

We walked up the road to the pub.  I picked up the menu and got excited.  Six levels of heat chicken wings up to the ominous sounding HELLS BELLS!  Usually when these places say they are hot they are usually not.  Like Taco Bell levels of heat.  Nothing.  Vinegar does not equal heat and I’m not sure why so many places are convinced it does.

The menu had MILD, MEDIUM, HOT, 911, DOA and HELLS BELLS!

From aust pub

They also have the lame flavors like honey something and bbq nothing and sesame seeds with water and other stuff to largely avoid unless you are my brother who is the person who orders honey barbeque things.

So in any case I was excited.  We got day beers (hey we just had a serious emergency) and I ordered the Hells Bells. 

The 17 year old waitress who looked like she had never been out of Rhode Island until that afternoon when she moved to town with her Navy husband looked as if I had pulled out two rabid stingrays and threw them on her feet and toes.

She scared me.  She said something like “Have you ever been here before?  You don’t want those.  I like spicy food and I can only eat the mediums.  I swear.”

My roommate was buying it and looked over at me in serious disbelief and concern.  He had already saved me from the clutches of death once and it was his second day of knowing me.  I caved in.  I backed down.

“O.K. just give me the hot then, I said.”  Why does my Microsoft Word grammar check want to change “give” to “gives” in that sentence?  OK what the hell: 

“O.K. just gives me the hot then, I said.”  

From aust pub

The Australian Pub is like life.  Sometimes when the weather is perfect and the Pacific salt is drying on your legs you get to have a nice cold beer in a welcoming slightly sports-ish bar filled with a crazy assortment of alcoholic old timers, a couple of those surfer guys with the big black sunglasses with silver crosses on the side and a weird old guy with a dog.  The hot wings were not hot as promised.  They were basically Frank’s.  My roommate was calmed though and the waitress didn’t have to perform CPR so I wasn’t too angry.  I asked for a side of Hells Bells to try it out and, though they had a habanero bite to them, were still a bit on the sweet side for me.  But the wings were well cooked, oven hot, and came with crunchy carrot sticks and celery and ranch.

Their burger was decent, the roll a bit too big even for the ½ lb. and their pub style thick cut fries were well cooked and they had plenty of malt vinegar and salt as any good pub should to put on your chips if you fancy that.  I got the burger with a fried egg on it and it was pretty good.

From aust pub

The Australian Pub is like life.  Sometimes you go and nobody is there and the jukebox is still too loud and playing someone’s ten dollar load of Winger’s greatest hits.  Sometimes there are no seats and the place is packed with people.  Sometimes the waitress smiles and remembers you.  Sometimes she makes you order at the bar and come and get your food doesn’t smile and doesn’t even look at you while you amble at the bar for five minutes.

From aust pub

Sometimes the wings are well cooked, warm, spicy.  I’ve found the DOA are actually hotter than the HELLS BELLS and are also habanero based yet don’t have the sweet crap in it while the 911 are the hottest black pepper based wings they have and both are excellent in their own rights when the kitchen is ON.

From aust pub


Sometimes you get wings that are from some kind of baby chick, seriously I have never seen wings as small as some of the ones served here sometimes, the size of half of your pinky, what the f kind of animal is that? 

From aust pub

From aust pub

I mean have you ever seen a chicken with anything close to this size leg or wing?

Sometimes the wings are cold.  Sometimes they are undercooked.  Sometimes they are overfried.  Sometimes, actually very often, they put way too much salt in the sauce.

From aust pub


Still you keep coming back.  Like life you wake up the next day and try the same crap waiting for God to step down and reveal himself to you in some random way.  Usually it doesn’t happen as overtly as you’d like. 

Most of the time The Australian Pub’s food is somewhere in between God and baby chick wing.  Decent.  Wings in a basket with tons of flat screens, Winger, two pool tables (75 cents), an electronic darts board and a bathroom with those long flat wall length urinals that you find in NYC subway stations.

From aust pub

The fries are good.  Cajun seasoning isn’t that great so get them plain.  Shoestring and pub style are both usually well done. 

Their drinks are just ok.  Sometimes you get pitchers in these weird oversized plastic pitchers with some kind of ice insert that’s supposed to keep it cold but instead it just eventually tastes like old warm beer.  I think they need to change their keg lines, if those are things, or something.  Also they have no Australian beers except for one I think.  Really there’s nothing anymore (after the menu change) that’s Australian at all except for the name, that’s ok by me though.

From aust pub


The Australian Pub is like life.  It’s changed over the years.  It’s recently changed ownership and no longer has many of the Australian food items nobody seemed to ever order anyway (let’s keep vegemite down under anyway mate).  Their salads are not too exciting: out of the bag limp bits of greenery that nobody orders.  OK burgers.  A chicken quesadilla that is like what you would make at home if you lived in Ohio and had never heard of quesadillas or Mexico in your life served with a side of something curiously similar to mild Pace brand salsa.

From aust pub


From aust pub

The Australian Pub is like life.  Fickle, sometimes evolutionary.  It’s changed its allegiance from the Green Bay Packers to no sports pictures and a cleaner look.  They’ve taken down the scores of cheesy county fair type framed pictures of Green Bay Packer guys running around and all of the dusty mildewy encrusted Green Bay flags they used to have up.  Who knows what happens on Green Bay days now.  Once the Mrs. and I wandered into the Pub on a random weekday in the afternoon expecting to have the place to ourselves and couldn’t find a seat because a Green Bay game was on (we also noticed for the first time the overly Green Bay related d├ęcor).

From aust pub


They’ve finally cleaned the back room where the seats are too.  For the past eight years it was a construction zone in progress.  Broken TVs, some boxes of plates, an old keg or two, some old beer signs, a ripped up and dirty carpet that smelled like a frathouse and some dirty encrusted vinegar bottles with little flies.  Now it’s clean and there’s nothing but the seats and the tvs.  Amazing but true.  One day you wake up and it happens.

From aust pub


It’s life.  You get engaged (actually I met my wife here with the ring in my pocket after work, she spent the time at the Pub doing work while I sat there unable to think or eat, after eating I made her go down to the beach (romantic, sunset, beach, etc.) but she refused to go on the sand because it was too cold and foggy and there were flies and a homeless guy so I just proposed on the stairs in PB), have heated discussions with your friends about their impending divorce or cancer or lack of success or general unhappiness, have boring birthday party nights in an empty bar on a bad food night,  take your one year old daughter for some fries while some PB youngsters yell and do shots, listen to all sorts of Guns-n-Roses songs, watch the guy with his dog, win a game of pool or darts, forget to wash the DOA sauce off your fingers BEFORE you go pee (only once), have awesome wings and fries in a booth-load of amiable and interesting people, have horrible wings by yourself that are cold and tasteless, show up to have the place mysteriously closed or super packed or completely empty or out of food.

From aust pub


Like life sometimes it’s so good you can’t believe it.  The wings are hot, all properly shaped and sized and just cooked.  The fries are hot, the vinegar steam perfectly English.  The DOA sauce kicks it up with its habanero bite unfettered by the sweetness of whatever junk they put in HELLS BELLS and the 911 with its peppery goodness is a good yet still spicy respite from the DOA.  The beer is cold and tastes like they put in new tubes.  Someone ordered another awesome standby the spicy garlic wings (one or two of which are good complements to two six packs of DOA/911) so you didn’t have to look like too much of a pig by ordering three batches for yourself.  The heat from all the wings starts to make you dizzy and then you can’t hear for a little while yet the whole time you are smiling and laughing and talking and sharing stories with people you care about and who seem to care about you. 

From aust pub


The Australian Pub is like life, you don’t expect much (because, like life I guess, it’s a cheesy sports bar in PB) and usually don’t get much but when the sun shines and nobody hits you or swindles you and instead gives you a smile or a wave it feels so good and it always seems to be there when you return from five weeks in Thailand or six weeks in Dubai or three days in LA.

From aust pub


I wish I owned it.

I’m not even sure if or when it’s still open, go see and let me know how it is.  It's a little too clean now but what can you do.

They used to have wing nights on Wednesdays with half price wings that used to make it very crowded (but often a good night to get good wings).  Regular price for 6 wings is around $6 ($3 on wing nights duh).

They are in Pacific Beach near the beach in a mini mall on the corner of Cass and Grand a block West of Garnet.

They had a website at one point but it was like a Yahoo! GEOCities! Website or one of those make for free ones but they don’t have one anymore I don’t think.

Thank you Australian Pub.

1014 Grand Ave (and Cass)
San Diego, CA 92109
(858) 273-9921

Monday, November 29, 2010


Nessy Burger

From nessy burger

When I was a kid I was enchanted by Nessy, the Loch Ness monster, as well as UFOs, Bigfoot, Ghosts, the paranormal, and Aztec sacrifices.

I am happy, among other reasons, that Nessy Burger, the North San Diego burger eatery that people love, has little maps of Loch Ness and small newspaper clippings about the Loch Ness Monster.

I don't know why.  Maybe it's because it's so esoteric?  Maybe it seems heartfelt, rather than a marketing ploy, for some reason.  Like something personal and meaningful is behind it.

Whatever the reason these people make a kickass cheeseburger, tied in my opinion with Rocky's cheeseburger for best in San Diego.  Why are both the most uncomfortable places to eat at in the city I don't know.  (Rocky's is a tiny bar in PB packed with open-mouthed frat boys and other assorted white people watching golf on their 10 million sports channel flat panel tvs).

From nessy burger

Nessy is a stand on the side of the road, next to a gas station. 

You have to eat at one of the laminated tables (is that the right word?), linoleum?  Laminated?  And usually have to share with someone, or eat it in your car.  I ate mine standing outside the car.

From nessy burger

They use good meat for their burgers, and season it lightly, but perceptibly.  You can taste their cheese, and they have a special thousand island type sauce, and ketchup, and onions, and tomato, all freshly cut, that add up to be one of the best tasting cheeseburgers you will ever have. 

Again, I'm pissed about food blogs and food writing that usually just say:  this meal was excellent, very tasty.

But what can you say?  Their burgers are damn tasty, well cooked, they taste like a burger should, hot off the grill, etc.  Eating them is like experiencing a sudden chill of inspiration, a sublime intensity that stays with you for years, one of those moments you can't shake off lightly, one that keeps you going back to see if you can recapture it and you can.

From nessy burger

They also serve the burger upside-down for some reason, or have every time I've been there, I mean the bun is upside-down, the burger is sitting on the top part and the bottom part is on top.  You get it.

You need to eat them as soon as you can.

The place is usually packed with farm hand/laborer type guys, truck drivers, red faced fat sunburned dudes with Ford F600 trucks hauling their Off Road Vehicles to the desert, and a few tourists who just happened to eat there.

It's a jaunt from San Diego.  It's about 40 mins. up the highway 15 (North) from SD, right at the junction with the 76 (which is what you take to go to Pala Casino or Harrahs so you can inhale second hand smoke and lose all your money to corporations posing as being helpful for the Native Americans).

From nessy burger

Their burger is like $4-5.  Their fries aren't that great, however, but the burger more than makes up for them.

Open 7-7 M-F and 9-5 Sats & Sundays. 

I think they take cash only, though there is a ripoff ATM (charges you "fee" of $2 and your bank charges you $2 too) at the gas station.


Take 15 North, take 76 exit, go left (the Mobil gas station is visible from here as it's the only thing around), you can park in the big parking lot and walk to Nessy and get in line.

Check their website for more info, a menu, opening hours and contact info:



From nessy burger

Sunday, November 7, 2010

dosa truck - sd copper chimney

From dosa truck

[[Update (4/2011) - Copper Chimney has moved inside! Check their website for more info]]

Aw man I know this cool truck dude it has the most authentic Oaxacan Mayan Wrapped Banana Chutney you have JUST got to try it man, the thing is it's sooo underground nobody like you would ever go there, it's only for those in the know.  You know?

I'm tired of these kind of things and posts and food places.  Whenever I read them I go there and there are like 30 hipsters with beards and scarves on milling around sulking about how authentic everything is at the truck and how nobody else in the world gets them or gets how good this food is.  And the food isn't usually out of this world.

From dosa truck

Enter Dosa Truck San Diego aka Copper Chimney San Diego.  OK OK on where you should never go for recommendations because there are only 5 people who post things they say this truck is really good.  It's true it's good.  But why do you have to say how authentically South Indian it is?  Whoever posts this kind of garbage is the reason the Internet cannot be trusted to do anything useful.  You don't have to make yourself feel good about yourself because you say "wow, I have been looking and looking for some real authentic Hyderabad cuisine ever since I read the wikipedia article on Hyderabad cooking..." - it's either some hipster who likes to look for the most random food type they can find or it's a person from Hyderabad who has it in for Punjabi food taking over most people's concept of what Indian food is or who is just angry that Hyderabad gets shafted in the USA because nobody knows what it is.  Or it's one of those vegetarian anarchists who smoke, you know, there is so much to be said about vegetarian anarchists who smoke, maybe another time.

From dosa truck

What is it about Indian restaurants in the USA?  There must be a book somewhere that every person who opens an Indian restaurant reads and in it it must say something like:  "Americans only like food without spice or flavor.  Americans only eat food they know so only offer Chicken Tikka and Chicken Tikka Masala.  Americans will only eat Indian food if the entree is $13.95 or higher."

Everytime I go to Fillipi's in Little Italy I see tourists from either Japan or Europe with a guidebook that probably says "for authentic Italian food go to Filippi's in Little Italy."  Is it the same for Indian restaurants?

In Dubai there's a district called Karama that has like 6000 Indian restaurants, though maybe "sub-continent" is a better term because each restaurant has a different focus for their food, most anyway.  I know that the UAE has a lot of Indian/Western Asian folks in it, I used to live there, and accordingly they have an incredible number of incredible Indian/SC restaurants, the best in the world I'd risk to say, but...the USA also has some people of Indian/subcontinent persuasion/extraction and some people who've been out of the country for enough time to develop a decidedly non-vanilla palate but why are there never any decent Indian restaurants?

From dosa truck

I've looked!  NYC, LA, the Bay Area and now my new home San Diego, there are none.  NONE!

Why does Emirates airlines Indian lentil breakfast beat the pants out of anything I've had here in the States?  It's airplane food!  But it does, sadly, by far.

From dosa truck

Why complain?  In the hopes that someone tells me:  NO!  What are you crazy, haven't you ever eaten at XYZ restaurant??  Or in the hopes that someone says:  you are right, I know Indian food, I will open a restaurant tomorrow!

This is a very long introduction to the Dosa Truck.  An experience of good/great proportion and a welcome sight in SD.

Allen runs it.  He told me he's from South India, and serves Southern Indian food.

From dosa truck

The first time I went there I asked him for a spicy dosa and told him to make it extra spicy.  His eyes widened and he asked are you sure?  I told him please.  I grew up in Dubai.  He told me "No problem, when you eat this you will close your eyes and when you open them you'll see the Taj Mahal."

I'm not going to say the spicy dosa was out of this world but it was pretty delicious and very spicy (though far from some of the London/Dubai spice levels I've had even without asking to make it extra spicy).

From dosa truck

The spicy dosa is quite good, it has a chili pepper and onion filling and tastes just like that, chili paste and onion wrapped up in a semi-crunchy crepe like dosa (rice flour crepe basically) and served with a selection of dipping sauces and gravy.  The sauces range from spicy chili based ones to sweet coconut ones and all will make you go "what spice is that! it's strange and good!"

From dosa truck

Get a spicy dosa!

From dosa truck

I've also had the Masala Dosa, with the intention of comparing several around SD but I'm super lazy.  I'm not usually a fan of the masala dosa, though it looks really cool, a long hard dosa crepe rolled like an architecture student's portfolio bag and filled in the center with a very slightly spiced (almost imperceptible yet still delicious) potato mixture.  The potatoes are not mashed completely but are a bit and fluffed, though the bits of whole potatoes are cooked so well they melt in your mouth.  This is also served with the sauces and gravy.  Tear some off, dip, eat, do what you like, nobody really cares.

Masala Dosa!

From dosa truck

The Dosa truck is open sporadically and you should call Allen to make sure he's there (619 997 6946).  It's a truck on the side of the road with some grassy areas where you can sit and eat.

From dosa truck

It's got a haphazard way of running things, you go up, hope to be noticed, order, hang out somewhere, think that you've been forgotten, then get served, eat, clean up, then pay (or not!).

Allen has a unique payment system as well - if you are a student who doesn't have a lot of cash, he says to eat for free now and pay him when you get a job later in life.  A good system!

From dosa truck

It's a unique truck too.  He has a changing menu, usually a couple of biryanis (chicken and rice dish) and several Chinese dishes with Indian twists (one Indian American girl was commenting on eating it outside the truck:  "this is just like Chinese food from Mumbai")

The crowd is a mix of Indian patrons and random food people/med students who are still clinging on to coolness while in residency.

From dosa truck

When I was there two different Indian people approached me, surprised, and asked if I really liked Indian food (in a nice way, I guess they haven't talked to many non-Indians who dig it?).

I love Indian food.  I love good food.

Keralan, Goan, Hyderabadi, Sri Lankan, Northern, Mugul, Pashtun, Gujarati, Chinese, Sikh, whatever.

From dosa truck

Go get some from Allen.  If you don't have money pay him later.

Here's his website and his contact information:

"Truck This Week Near AM/PM Black Mtn /Kearny Villa/ Caroll centre Inter-section.
Monday Dinner5pm/9pm 
Fridays   5pm/900pm! 
Saturdays    1pm/9 00pm! 
Sundays 1pm to 4pm.
Please come very Hungry.  
Other Weekdays Closed for caterings.
 Call Allen 619 997 6946"

From dosa truck

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

bangkok spices thai restaurant

This is a restaurant on El Cajon BLVD.  It's pretty good.  Not spectacular.  In an old Pizza Hut building.  They have beer Chang but it's the USA version (less alcohol %), still pretty tasty.

The food seemed really fresh unlike most restaurants, like they used fresh produce and some of the flavor combinations were really complex and different than most general Thai restaurants though overall the spice was toned down. 

Today let the pictures talk:

From bangkok spices

From bangkok spices

From bangkok spices

From bangkok spices

From bangkok spices

From bangkok spices

From bangkok spices

From bangkok spices

From bangkok spices

2832 El Cajon Blvd
(between Idaho St & Utah St)
San Diego, CA 92104
Neighborhood: University Heights
(619) 281-1111
Mon, Wed-Sun 11:30 am - 9:30 pm

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

punjabi tandoor

From punjab

Alright people, you are finally getting the damn idea.  Eat this food immediately.  Go here now and do not stop at the parked 18 wheelers doing speed along the side road or the weird sex-prostitute cars along the dark streets. 

This is it I guess, for San Diego, and it’s pretty damn good, and finally has real prices.

We ordered a feast:  Chicken Vindaloo, Tandoori mix grill, chicken tikka masala, Vegetable Samosa, 2 naan, mix pickles, and raita.

This place is family run, there’s an elderly dad, the mom and some young hiphop kid who I can’t tell if he’s being surly, lazy, or just clueless, but he had problems taking my order on the phone (but seems like a nice guy!).

The only bad thing about this place is its physicality, though some might think it’s a cool “hole-in-the-wall” type vibe.  It’s true.  Plus they don’t have beer, which I find essential to vindaloo, but that’s why you get it to go, but it’s a bit cold when you eat it.

From punjab

The place has only like 4 plastic tables inside, most of them taken.  One filled with college students (I went at night), one had a 30-40ish couple and I overheard their conversation because I had to wait for the food:

He was Indian and she was Korean-American, heavy on the American:

She:  So what language do you speak?  Sikh?

He:  Sikh is a religion, not a language, the language is Punjabi.

She:  Oh, this food is good, you must have strong digestive system because you eat a lot of this yogurt

He:  Umm (eating)

She:  So do you prefer to eat with your hands or with utensils

He:  Depends

There was also some Tom Cruise looking Top Gun military dude waiting by the register for his food (the restaurant is near Miramar).  Behind him were the other offerings that you could buy there including Top Ramen, gum, and some snacks.

I finally got my food and left, leaving the professors to mull over ethnic issues while I went and gorged my fat face.

From punjab

Now these types of places are rare, the ones where the food looks a little funky but tastes 100% handmade and 100% delicious, the kind of street-type food that really gives you what you want, no holding back on spices, sweat, and tears.  I ate at one once in Kuwait that me and my friends found, I think it was called Miami restaurant, it was packed with Indian and Pakistani construction workers and you just got what they gave you, some curry on top of rice, but it was the best damn Indio-Pak-Bangladeshi food I ever had.

Speaking of which, I have no idea, and apparently neither does anyone, about the nuances surrounding Indian food, Punjabi, Hindi (though I assume Hindi is veggie), Pakistani, Bangladeshi, whatever.  When you go to an Indian restaurant in the USA, you get some generic version of all of this, but I suspect that there are so many details regarding it that I sound like an idiot when I talk about the food. 

Who the hell cares though, if the damn food is good, then you just eat it and be done with it.

Hours - 11-4, 5-10 m-f

11-10 sat

5-9 sun

San Diego Location
9235 Activity Road, Suite 111
San Diego, CA 92126
Tel: (858) 695-0956