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FOODfare: Lunch At Searsucker

Courtesy photo

San Diego’s dining public expected a lot when the flamboyant gastro guy they backed on season three of Top Chef left his post as executive chef at the most successful Oceanaire outpost in the country to open his first restaurant, Searsucker, in the heart of the Gaslamp Quarter.

By taking the vast space vacated by Z Gallerie and busting out a colossal menu belted out nightly to a dining room seating up to 200 at a time by a brigade on full display in an open kitchen, it seemed chef and TV personality Brian Malarkey may have set himself up more for failure than success. Yet, low and behold, Searsucker has packed patrons in and brought them back behind bold food that’s low on pretention and high on flavor.

Many of those satisfied customers are looking forward to Searsucker launching lunch service. Like the dinner bill of fare, the mid-day menu is built to be simple, tasty and easy to execute on a grand scale via a ticket system that should keep things moving and get worker bees back to the hive with full stomachs.

Guests can graze on fresh soups or greens adorned with standard proteins like chicken, steak and shrimp or go for specialty numbers like smoked trout with watercress, arugula and a grapefruit vinaigrette ($9) or the Med-inspired “chop chop” with fennel, salami, olives and a balsamic-lemon dressing ($9). Then there are sandwiches, some of which are served hot as with the angry lobster and arugula with sriracha aioli on whole wheat sourdough ($15) or ham “slab” with Swiss cheese and pears on ciabatta bread ($12), or at room temp like the vodka-cured salmon and avocado with sprouts ($10) and drunken rotisserie chicken salad with rosemary and port-marinated cherries ($10). All of these offerings can be had with a decadent side of duck fat fries ($3) or a sweet-tooth kicker ($5 each including a lemon “pucker” bar or “Alba sandwich” of carrot cake with mascarpone ice cream).

Lunch will be available on weekdays from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. starting midway through next week. Suck on that!

611 Fifth Avenue, Downtown, 619.233.7327

Duck, Duck, Booze

The only thing better than a good lunch is a good brunch. It’s the best of two meals. Go breakfast-style, go with the lunch bunch, or smash them together. Anything goes. Throw in an eye-opening cocktail (or several), and you have all the makings of the kind of good time that’ll keep the rest of the day from being anything but a relaxing rest period. Proving they’re onboard with this mode of thinking is up-and-comer Sessions Public, a tipple-fueled spot in OB that’s won over diners comfy culinary delights that gently push the envelope via thoughtful flavor combos. Last month, they rolled out their first Sunday brunch service behind traditional dishes with modern twists like machaca with savory shredded duck inserted in place of the traditional beef ($11) and pancakes made from a beer batter and topped with caramelized bananas and peach butter ($9) plus standards done right like huevos rancheros ($9), buiscuits and gravy (9), beignets ($7) and a Breakfast Burger topped with a fried egg and hash browns ($12). Wash down these hearty dishes with a Bloody Beer or Bloody Mary (including an “ultimate” version served with a bacon lollipop, jumbo shrimp and blue cheese-stuffed olives) made with a zesty mix from San Diego’s own Ballast Point Brewing and Spirits. Brunch is always worth crawling out of bed for and you can enjoy our own Sunday session from 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.

4204 Voltaire Street, Ocean Beach, 619.756.7715

There’s Getting Lit…

In honor of Diwali, a Hindu festival celebrating prosperity and the victory of good over evil, Royal India will be offering a special menu and entertainment this weekend. It’s an annual tradition for co-owners Sam and Jag Kambo to shine a light on this Festival of Lights, educating through one of the best mediums around…food. This year’s champagne-accompanied menu will include a number of exotically spiced regional favorites from the Kambos’ homeland, which will be enjoyed via candlelight amidst traditional Diwali décor. The celebration will take place on Nov. 19 and 20 with belly-dancing performers gyrating their way into the festivities on Saturday. That’s one way to shake things up in the Gaslamp.

329 Market Street, Downtown, 619.269.9999

…And Then There’s Getting Lit

To those who’ve never been, the name West Coast Tavern might sound like a spot for fru-fru avocado green California cuisine, but show up on a Wednesday and you’ll get an experience that’s anything but Cali-cliché. This week marked the bar-restaurant in question’s inaugural Beer, Bourbon and Barbecue Wednesday. Talk about a name where you know exactly what you’re getting. While it’s no secret that North Park is the place to go for good beer, few are aware that West Coast Tavern boasts an impressive selection of over 40 bourbon whiskeys. Find out which variety goes best with the rotating line-up of special food items. The first week featured crawfish etouffée with fried okra and dirty rice while the Nov. 24 edition will include bourbon-cured Niman Ranch pork belly with cheesy grits and BBQ yams. I don’t know on what planet that’s considered barbecue, but when it comes to traditional stick-to-your-ribs southern fare (and new chef Peter Zakarian), it seems foolish to split hairs?

2895 University Avenue, North Park, 619.295.1688

Flat Out Stoned

For the most part, Scripps Ranch is a culinary no-man’s land. With the exception of a French bistro, La Bastide, the rest of the community consists of chain restaurants, fast food joints and smallish take-out spots. As a resident of this neighborhood, I’d love to see an inventive eatery, a neighborhood pub or an inspired spot fit for a foodie open up, but at the same time, I respect the fact that our demographic drives the types of businesses that target the area. The latest to lay down stakes is Stone Flats, the latest link in a nationwide chain focused on fast-yet-healthy eats. Their specialty will be “craft your own” flatbreads, soups and salads that are made to order using made-from-scratch dough, sauces and dressings. This should appeal to many an on-the-go soccer mom and homebound nine-to-fiver. Though it remains to be seen how quickly this concept will take off, but these stoners seem pretty confident. Already, they have plans to open up in Point Loma’s Liberty Station in the not-too-distant future.

9844 Hibert Street, Scripps Ranch, 858.444.2280

Stoned Again?

And speaking of new places, a quick consult of our local craigslist site turns up an employer posting ads looking to stock able bodies for a facility in South Park that will feature an outdoor beer garden. Could this be the new Stone Brewing Co. venture or is it some new entrepreneur with a thirst for brewskies and the great outdoors? Only time will tell, but you can bet I‘ll be keeping my beer goggles trained on that.