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FOODfare: Bruski in Scripps Ranch

Bruski Burgers and Beer is open for business
Bruski Burgers and Beer is open for business
Photo courtesy of Bruski

Sitting on my terrace enjoying a St. Feuillien Cuvee de Noel earlier this month, I opened my Scripps Ranch community newsletter and spied news about a new restaurant called Bruski Burgers and Beer setting up shop a mere mile away from my house.

I wasted no time getting in touch with the owner and, shortly thereafter, found myself sitting across from him getting a feel for the authenticity of the operation. After all, the key to any good neighborhood bar (or eatery of any kind for that matter) is having some credible degree of genuine heart at the core. I’ll admit, I was characteristically skeptical and, while Bruskis owner Bruce Nguyen is no Tom Nickel, Scott Blair or Arsalun Tafazoli (never heard of them … get out your web browser and trace these names back to some of San Diego’s best beer-centric venues), this retired engineer was inspired to open shop by the same things that drove me to look him up—a love of non-macro beer and the lack of any place in the Ranch where residents could enjoy it.

Nguyen gained an appreciation for beer during frequent business travels to Europe and cites Germanic varieties as his absolute favorite. He admits to being a bit limited in his knowledge of the local options, but he’s studying up and is already familiar enough with known standouts including AleSmith, Port Brewing, Stone and his Scripps Ranch neighbors at Ballast Point (the world’s reigning Small Beer Company titleholder) to have put together a solid draft list spanning 24 taps (a third of which secrete local goodness). Bruski’s bottle list is also quite nice and very reasonably priced (I was able to procure a 12-ounce bottle of Dogfish Head’s 12% Palo Santo Marron for just $5).

The food is what you’d expect, both of a combo resto-watering hole and a quaint neighborhood joint. A tasty array of salads, fresh-made daily soups, burgers, sandwiches, pizzas and standard pub-style apps are on the competitively priced docket. You’ve seen the majority of these standard dishes on the menus at other bars, taverns and restaurants, but there are some thoughtful exceptions--most notably, the Monster Burger, an all-beef patty topped with an unnecessary but much welcomed kielbasa sausage.

Overall, the food is nothing complicated, and that’s by design. Instead of flashy edible frill, there’s straightforward yummy grub and, as a denizen of this nearly dining-destitute community, that’s just what the Ranch can use right now. That, and a place run by two families deeply entrenched in the community who have their neighbors’ kids taking orders and bussing tables and plan to give back via fundraisers supporting local schools, community groups and causes. Even if I weren’t a Rancher (we don’t call ourselves that, but one has to admit that it has kind of a nice ring to it), this is the kind of place I’d be more than happy to support.

9844 Hibert Street, Suite G-10, Scripps Ranch, 858.530.2739

Azure Thing

Looking to update its fare while staying true to its classic steak and seafood house environs, Blue Point Coastal Cuisine has brought aboard a new executive chef. Before making the move to this long-time Gaslamp standout, Daniel Barron was nominated for Best Chef/Restaurant—Southeast by the James Beard Foundation and played a key role in earning his last restaurant (AnQi in Costa Mesa) a spot on Gayot.com’s list of the country’s Top Ten Molecular Gastronomy Restaurants. Despite his cutting edge culinary abilities, Barron aims to practice a good deal of restraint early on, mainly utilizing his techniques to create interesting accoutrements to go with fresh meat and seafood offerings. Among those are chile gel, goat cheese crème and “glasses” made from prosciutto. Falling in line with a number of more modern operations, Barron has also lent his talents to the compilation of a progressive craft cocktail list that includes a Ginger Jack made with housemade ginger syrup and spiked cherries and the appropriately-handled New fashioned made with orange and black cherry vodkas, blood orange purée and cherry bitters. These cocktails, like the aforementioned accoutrements, will be changed out with the changing of the seasons, which is not surprising considering Barron’s commitment to the principles of the Slow Food Movement … just like his approach to putting his stamp on his new station.

565 Fifth Avenue, San Diego, 619.233.6623

Out of House and Home

Just a few months ago, there was much buzz about one of the few craft brewing operations that, despite having significant tenure in the San Diego market, rarely receives much attention. The impetus for brew fans' sudden focus on La Jolla Brew House was the hiring of a new brewer to take over for long-time head brewer Pat Korn. A young yet well-traveled brewer, it was the company that Travis Smith kept working under heralded brewers like Vinnie Cilurzo of Sonoma’s Russian River Brewing Co. and Patrick Rue of Orange County’s The Bruery that imparted optimism over the relative unknown’s September arrival. Smith’s first brews, particularly his Pariah IPA, turned out nicely, but last week, it was announced that Smith has left La Jolla Brewhouse and, though no specific reason has been given, reputable sources point toward a conflict of vision, creative differences and a breach of employment contract between Smith and the brewpub’s owner, Claudette Mannix. Though he’s left The Jewel, Smith plans on staying in San Diego and is already teamed up with a yet-to-be-named brewing partner to start up an operation called Societe Brewing that, as of now, is slated for start-up in 2012. When life gives you citra hops, make IPA.

7536 Fay Avenue, La Jolla, 858.456.6279

Ask and Ye Shall Receive

Taking a page out of the playbook from In ‘N’ Out Burger, many of today’s gourmet restaurants have secret menus and unlisted menu items that are available to all of those in the know. Among those are Del Mar’s KITCHEN 1540, where chef Paul McCabe’s foie gras with house-made pop rocks is a phantom starter staple, and the Gaslamp Quarter’s Stingaree, where chef Antonio Frisicia keeps one of the most spot-on kobe beef burgers in town under wraps. The latest to join this secret society is Flavor Del Mar, the new gastronomic playground of chef Jason Maitland. His undercover entrées include the $39 Burger, which comes adorned with shaved truffle and foie gras (which likely explains the need for secretiveness) as well as a decadent version of cassoulet that’s a protein-lover’s dream. Its composition changes daily, but a recent iteration included a mélange of duck confit, lamb loin, elk and three other cuts of meat meshed beneath a plump, tender veal cheek. Take this news you can use, and get in on the covert culinarianism. This message will self-destruct in 30 seconds.

1555 Camino Del mar, Del Mar, 858.755.3663