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Eden Is A Hillcrest Dining Paradise

Crack Pot of mussels
Crack Pot of mussels
Courtesy Photo

So how many good times can you jam onto a street corner? A helluva a lot more than you’d ever think possible when you let San Diego favorite Chef Scotty Wagner and Nightlife Czar David Laurent loose on an unsuspecting building. The old Universal in Hillcrest didn't likely know what hit it as Eden transformed the joint from an over-priced, lightly trafficked night club into just about any dang thing you want.

Vermont and University will never be the same as a fabulous restaurant, a cool bistro and a well thought-out nightclub commandeer the premises. Unlike its short-lived predecessor, Eden is not going to gouge you with ridiculous cover charges and bottle-service pricing. Most everything here is affordable and meant to be that way.

The monstrous space has morphed into a labyrinth of fun, able to keep you engaged from dusk till dawn. Start the day off at the ChiliCo Bistro with an eclectic breakfast or lunch menu featuring global burritos and paninis. They’ll even bring your goodies right out to your car if you’re savvy enough to wrangle their secret text order number. Gotta love those drive-by triple-mocha-frapa-whatevers.

At the heart of the building beats Eden: a hyper-cool, modular restaurant that will literally change from night to night. The chef’s table for 12 looks to be a hot-spot destined for high-demand, especially with Chef Scotty at your beck and call.

We came for food, and Eden did not disappoint with variety and unique twists on old favorites. Shared Temptations (appetizers) arrived in the guise of Curried Blue Potato Samosa (crisp, buttery turnovers with mango pickle, cucumber yogurt dipping sauce, $9), Smac-N-Cheese (peppercorn-laced gorgonzola mac-n-cheese with artisanal pepperoni, sm $6, lg $11), Crack Pot (Carlsbad aquafarm mussels in a Thai perfumed fresh coconut milk, $13) and “Off The Hook” Ceviche (scallops with passion fruit-laced shrimp over blood orange basil sorbet, $12). The samosas were enjoyable and mushy but in a good, comforting way. The Smac-n-cheese was the table favorite with a perfect blend of al dente pasta, gooey cheesy sauce and a kick of spice. The mussels were divine, although the sauce was a tad hard to fetch underneath the generous amount of shellfish, but once reached perfect dipping bread, scrumptious.

Entrees continued to delight with Biscuits-N-Gravy (flaky New England pepper biscuits with Baja lobster gravy, English peas, sherry & chervil, $19) that lived up to the Baja lobster creed. Sweet succulent lobster glistened in a zesty gravy - a nice play on a classic although the biscuit could have been a little lighter. Porcini Pillows (house made ricotta stuffed pasta, porcini browned butter, oil cured olive and crispy fried shallot, $19) delivered a nice consistency and fabulously savory flavor. The Redeye (coffee-cacao rubbed grass-fed filet mignon, stone smoked porter demi-mascarpone-vanilla bean mashers-$19) set off the taste buds in all directions. Strong coffee nuances complimented a Cabernet-reduction, and a silky smooth mash pushed flavor combinations to new levels. The Cuban Conquest (garam marsala pork medallions, roasted red pepper sofrito, caramelized plantain hash and tomatillo poppers, $19) delivered tender pork bites that balanced between heat and a sweet smoky flavor. All in all a round of good eats.

We were forced to have dessert (that’s our story and we’re sticking to it) that consisted of the Adams Apple (twice baked McIntosh apple bread pudding, black walnut caramel and buttermilk ice cream, $6) and the Southern Comfort (peaches n’ sour cream cheesecake with candied cayenne pecan crust & SoCo caramel, $8). After those descriptions does anything further need to be said? OMG!!

Mark your calendars for Monday nights when the whole place goes communal with long tables and organic fare from Hillcrest’s incredible Farmers Market. Put on something tie-dyed and go rub elbows with your neighbors…Hillcrest just got its own Kibbutz.

The central patio engages with two fire pits that morph into grills on the weekend, and is replete with our fav – a Bloody Mary bar. The space has retractable awnings, plenty of seating and a water scrim for screening films and whatnot on the back wall. Sundays are a kick with the '70s themed “Brady Brunch”. Can’t wait to see tater tot menu items on this one.

The real colossus is the Nightclub, which is also dubbed “Eden.” Open Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights, a room full of multifunctional furniture transforms to include dancing, an organic cocktail bar and wine bar. Other nocturnal events will include a Blues & Booze Tuesday.

Eden creators expect a mixed crowd most nights and Hillcrest has one more reason to hang. Although there are still some significant issues with service and getting things out of the kitchen on a busy day, plan on taking a big bite out of this Apple. Sinful pleasures abound!

The Good – Food is awesome and ambiance frisky

The Bad – service needs some attention but that usually comes with time

Details »
  • City: san diego
  • Phone: 619-269-5906
  • Name: Eden
  • Address: 1220 university ave