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

Friday, May 27, 2011



Kingburger or King Burger was a small smoky dark place in Kuwait that I ate at a few times in the 1980s.  The diners were mostly from the Philippines and blue collar workers.  They served giant cheeseburgers that were really good.  They also had huge rice dishes.  And ravioli.

I don’t know if this sign is related to Kingburger Kuwait or not.  In Kuwait it seemed like you weren’t constrained by trademarks or anything, so perhaps the Kuwait restaurant was a random one.  This sign though, it reminds me of the place in Kuwait.

I can’t find any information on anything named Kingburger in the states or anywhere else.  Does anyone know?  The other sign says "Ones a Meal"!

I asked about the signs in the pool hall that it is a part of.  The owner told me he didn’t know.  The sign had been up when he bought it.  At first he tried to tell me his burger was good, so it was called a "king" burger, but then he admitted he didn't know if it was trademarked or anything.

The pool hall is very nice though.  Dos Equis on draft and clean tables.  Mostly men.  Actually all men.   It’s called College Billiards on El Cajon near SDSU.

Here’s their website:

Here are pictures of the sign, thanks to AUNTIE MIA (and copyright her as well):

From Kingburger

From Kingburger

From Kingburger

From Kingburger

From Kingburger

Monday, March 28, 2011

Al Foron - Arabic in America

From al foron
One of the things I like best about Al Foron (see my review with pix: ), now that I think about it, is its unabashed openness about being Arabic, or related to the Middle East.

Too many restaurants cloak the Middle East, at least in the US, with a vagueness, hoping that Americans will be tricked into thinking the place is actually a Greek place (safe!) rather than an Arabic place (dangerous!).

So we get all kinds of weird attempts at "Mediterranean" food or Mediterranean named restaurants, usually it means ARABIC FOOD everyone, usually heavily Lebanese centric. But nobody knows wtf Mediterranean food is... restaurant owners, just say Arabic and I bet, like Al Foron, if you are real with yourself, you'll have a hit on your hands.

Unless you are really providing Cypriot, Turkish, Egyptian, Sicilian, Tunisian, Greek, Moroccan, Israeli, Syrian, French and Spanish food, please just say what you are.

I wish Arabic places would stop having Gyros too, leave that for the malls.

Kudos to Al Foron, who doesn't even translate the Arabic word for "oven" in its name.

It's Al Foron, if you don't know what it means, look it up, and it's ARABIC! And its sign is written in Arabic!

Believe that. Go eat there and see.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Some updates: Dosa Truck & Australian Pub are new places!

The 21st century moves quickly.  Some recent events related to restaurants I've reviewed:

Copper Chimney is now indoors!  The popular dosa truck has moved to a more semi-permanent location in the Black Mountain Road Indian district inside the supermarket next door to Ashoka.

I guess now it's called Spice Court Restaurant?

Details are sketchy on the dosa truck website but it has their hours and directions:

Lovers of Allen's handwritten signs, as I am, do not have to fear (yet) however as they have a big white board with a handwritten menu outside on the sidewalk.

In other news:

A trip back to PB yesterday revealed that the long standing Australian Pub in PB is no more.  In name at least.  Their new menu which I mentioned in my review of them is still there, as are their excellent wings, in some ways much better and consistent than the old Aussie Pub.

But their name is now The Black Pearl, it seems to be pirate themed.  The same red faced old timers were still congregating at the bar around 3pm on a nice weather Monday though, so all is well.  And now they don't have to explain why they don't carry Australian beer.  I can't find any info on the new named restaurant online.  If they have a website or if someone knows anything more please let me know via comments below.

Pitcher of Kona Porter, couple baskets of wings, delicious weather & good conversation = how life should be spent!

- GC

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Al Foron - The Cultural Magic of the Home - aka Great Arabic Food in SD!

From al foron

At the heart of every culture is a false sense of authenticity.

The notion of culture is such a shifting and amalgamated concept that cultural pronouncements often have a sense of antagonistic defensiveness about them.   My father is Xicano so you don’t understand me.  I believe that my God wears a yellow hat and if you don’t believe that too then I hate you.  I come from a long line of Ivy League New Englanders and very powerful people so I am too and I deserve to be.

And then defensiveness against defensive cultural statements often becomes childish and eventually racist and potentially destructive, often never instructive except to the speaker’s ignorance.   People who love Gods with yellow hats hate me so I hate them.

As a person growing up in a philosophically gringo American (USA) household I was often instructed/brainwashed/mercilessly forced to make or do whatever I wanted to with myself.  My great-grandfather came over from Ireland by himself, landed in NYC, and immediately changed his name and never told anyone ever about his past.  He was a fireman in the city for his career and this newly created cultural sense of self eventually created me. 

“Culture” often seems restricting to me, and yet there is definitely something alluringly comforting about it.   Who doesn’t want to be welcomed into a group?

I grew up around the world, because of my dad’s job, and as such often came into contact with the alien “other” on a daily and very personal basis.  Most of the time, however, the “culture” that was presented to me was of this variety:  “This is how we do it in my family, if you want, you can try it this way, and be like my family to me.”

This type of culture certainly allows for outsider influence.  It is never destructive to the outside either, but rather welcoming.  It is and can be often tantalizingly persuasive as well, but ultimately, usually both sides come out of the experience with a richer sense of the bigger picture that leaves room to stretch, as long as there is no political or religious or capitalist motive for the meeting to begin with (though sometimes these motives can also change because of the meeting).

Culture, however, is an artifice.  I’ve never met the official spokesperson for the USA/Xicano Rights/Catholic Church/Israeli Defense Forces/Egyptian Marxist Movement/Sufi Brotherhood/Enchilada Makers of the World/Womanhood/Oppressed Peoples/Crew Team/Earth Liberation Front/MBA Harvard Graduates before, so why do people think this one authentic person or thing exists? 

There is a special kind of culture that happens in a household, though, it seems.  It is like magic and secret, like a secret cult.  Sometimes it can be dysfunctional.  Sometimes it can lead to incredibly strong cohesion, and often, it is the place where the best food comes from.

The secret culture of the household is the producer for that authenticity that people seek when they go to the “authentic experience restaurant.”

It’s the mommywomb-yearning in us all.

It’s why Super Cocina is so good.  Your grandmother is waiting for you there, regardless of who you are (as long as you have seven bucks or so, maybe once with no money), and she’s kindly, and she’s been cooking those stews since 5 or 6am and for the past fifty years, and she learned her magic in the secret cult of her home.

It’s why Al Foron is so good.  It’s why it’s packed at 3pm on a Sunday.  A couple of people who know some really good “Lebanese” magic decided to open their home, and share it with whoever has $5.

From al foron

The owners seem to run it too, and it is their (and your) house.  It’s a concept many of my fellow country-people will quickly get nervous with, but one which I grew up with often in my friends’ houses.  The owners (if this good looking couple running around the small space frantically are the owners), are extremely welcoming, and both of them took the time to pause, ask you some personal questions about your life, and accommodate whatever weird thing you wanted, before running back to the kitchen to bring out the next batch of food for another table. 

What!  In that way that says “welcome home, it’s been too long since I last saw you,” the owners might also put their hand on your shoulder, not in a creepy way, but again, some USA types (and I only say this because I am one of you, or at least a semblance of one of you, and most of my family are you) might get forced to accept a closer personal space than they are used to having. 

But buck up Mr. red white and blue, there’s good food at the end of that tunnel.

From al foron

Al Foron’s specialty is their “flatbread” offerings.  They cook the bread in their own super hot oven and then cover it with a variety of delicious things that you can choose from.  In the Middle East these are usually called “beetza” (no “p” in Arabic and they sort of look like pizzas), but they do have traditional names, and the owners of Al Foron put these traditional names on the menus. 

I suppose it gives an authenticity to them.  I think calling them “pizzas” would confuse people in the States, even though everyone calls them that in the Middle East.  Or they often call it just “bread” really.  Bread with stuff on it.  Not too romantic either.

From al foron

We got the chicken taouk.  But listen.  This is not normal food.  This is not normal bread.  Don’t disregard it.  It looks simple.  Like a small pizza with some diced chicken on it.  It isn’t.  You notice it when you pick up a slice of the bread.  The softness of the bread is unreal and continues when you bite into it.  It’s like eating warm air that tastes like baking bread smells.  It’s serious business.

The chicken is also tasty, marinated and fresh tasting, much more than you expect by looking at the meat, which in most places wouldn’t taste like anything.  The marriage is made complete, however, by some homemade cucumber pickles and homemade Arabic garlic paste.

Now listen.  These aren’t your normal pickles.  They are homestyle Lebanese pickles, a kind of breed of pickle that those in the know have been keeping under wraps since the first Phoenician set sail to go sell some olive oil in Sicily.  These pickles are incredibly tasty and are just the right amount on the bread to add that certain salty vinegar that you never knew you needed so bad.

From al foron

The cherry on top, though, is the garlic paste.  Arabic garlic sauce has so many variations and consistencies.  I’ve had it in Syria where it was fairly subtle, tasting more like a slightly garlicky mayonnaise.  In the Emirates it is a nuclear assault of the most intense garlic concentrated paste that you will ever have the (good!) opportunity to experience.  Al Foron is somewhere in between with the added flavor of fresh and balance to it.  It gives you the garlic blast and the cool subtle oil both at once somehow.

Let me tell you:  bread, chicken, pickle and garlic all in the same bite = someone’s serious home-cult-culture-secret brew.   Please go and get one immediately.  If you waste your money somewhere else don’t say I didn’t tell you not to.

The other menu items we got were admittedly not as super-magical an experience but still some of the best homemade Lebanese food I’ve had in a very long time.

From al foron

My fatoush salad had the fresh ingredients like it should and the perfect amount of sumac sprinkled over every piece of it.  The pita shards on it were not crispy fried like they sometimes are on fatoush (like tortilla chips usually) but rather baked or warmed slightly which I actually liked better.  My only (minor) complaint was that the delicious and flavorful lemon based dressing was discovered pooling near the bottom of the bowl and not as much of it was on the top of the salad.  Maybe a side of dressing to put on top would have remedied it but the bowl was too full to mix up yourself.  The dressing and salad were really well done though.

From al foron

The tabouli was really nice as well.  All of these dishes are regionally different and tabouli is no exception.  Some places add more bulghar wheat to it than others, some have more lemon juice, some have more tomatoes, etc.  The tabouli at Al Foron as parsley heavy and light on the sauces and wateriness, which I actually liked.  It wasn’t as overly tasty as the other dishes though but it was great to eat fresh greens anyway!  Maybe it could have used a touch more dressing if I wanted to be picky.

Hummus is a staple throughout the Mediterranean and regionally different as well.  It’s also a matter of great cultural pride in the Levant and there have been recent cultural battles, between Israel and Lebanon in particular, over who gets the rights to claim hummus as their own.  Stupid people.

Hummus done well is fantastic, I don’t care if it’s Azeri or Chinese or Lesbian.

From al foron

If you make it the best, you get to claim the winning ticket, and my dollar, how’s that? 

The hummus at Al Foron is delicious.  Tahini hides well, though it's there, underneath the more dominant garbanzo and subtle garlic.  Their olive oil is from heaven and puddles on top, inviting you to choose to indulge or ration.  Their turnip pickles on the hummus are also a nice touch, some of the best Arabic pickles I’ve ever had, not too crunchy or watery or overly salty or weird tasting, perfection.  Perfect pickles.  Add that to delicious hummus on warm homemade bread and you’ve got your afternoon.

From al foron


The falafel sandwich was done really well as well.  Falafel is also one of those things that vary from restaurant to restaurant and from region to region.  The worst falafel I’ve ever had is in the USA from vegetarian places who don’t normally cook Arabic food.  Not sure why they even try, but they are usually way too bland, too big, undercooked or even baked (sick!).  A good falafel should be freshly scooped and fried nearby and eaten warm.  And fried well, crispy and crunchy on the outside and soft and light on the inside.  Yes deep fried.  Not healthy.  But I bet you don’t eat as many falafels as you do French fries so calm down.

Al Foron put a bunch of things in the “wrap” (please Al Foron, change the name to sandwich!  Wrap is an outdated word used by people trying to convince gringos to eat it.  Stick to sandweeesh, the authentic Arabic word!)  - the ingredients mixed well in the sandwich.  The falafel was a little bit too salty and dry though.  But frankly I ate the whole thing. 

Get to Al Foron, try everything, ask for advice, let them choose something for you, whatever, just go there, and welcome, ahlan wa sahlan, Al Foron to San Diego, thank you!

The place is cramped and small!  Very casual and hectic with lots of people talking loud and having a good time!  Get things yourself, walk to the kitchen to ask questions, do what you like, it’s your home!  Some Arabic music or videos would add to the ambiance (but not ‘classical’ more like Arabic dance hits from ART or something!).

Culture might be an artifice but Al Foron is the real deal.  Home food magic from the heart.

Closed Mondays, no Al Maza!  No alcohol!  Takes cards.

In a mini-mall off of El Cajon BLVD near SDSU.

5965 El Cajon BLVD
San Diego CA 92115
(619) 269-9904