A cooks night out is a wonderful experience. For a few hours, being away from a flame and out of harm’s way from razor-sharp knives while removed from the demands of meal preparation is a delightful treat.
For me, dining out doesn’t have to be a fancy meal spanning several hours but it has to be good food. Good food governs my desire accompanied by a hearty brew or a fine wine alongside. Therefore, I follow the perceived aroma when I review a menu and if I end up at a white cloth eatery or a local order-and-take-out place then that is where my tastes have steered me.
This weekend what I craved was a casual experience with terrific food flavored such that it totally satisfied my palate. My appetite wasn’t taking precedence here. My taste buds were in charge. In San Diego, it is easy to satisfy my requirements.
My dining companions and I ended up in North Park. We heard there was an arts festival that evening and thought that would be a relaxing and stimulating stroll after our meal. We’re a motley crew with eclectic tastes so arts and food just seem to fit like a glove.
North Park is dense with fine food establishments from sit down eateries to places where you need to perch on a planter while you eat. It is an area with restaurants galore, great deserts shops, taverns and bars, even a wonderful coffee spot to end the night, Café Calabria.
We began the night at Carnitas Snack Shack, always a favorite, which specializes in pork (you guessed it) carnitas!
While we waited for our food, we enjoyed the ambient artwork and the raised bed of vegetables behind our table.
Our starter was an exquisite Pork Belly appetizer with sweet chili glazed served with a frisee salad. It was tangy sweet, melt in your mouth memorable, balanced by the slightly bitter flavor of frisee with some fresh radishes to surprise your palate.
One of my companions (with a mouth the size of a mason jar opening) ordered the Snack Shack Triple Threat Sandwich: pork Schnitzel, pulled pork, bacon pepperoncini, pickle relish, shack aioli served with a sweet corn salad. I had to participate in an arm wrestling match in order to get a bite; it was that good!
The last dish we enjoyed was the Carnitas Tacos: two carnitas tacos with guacamole and salsa fresco served with a sweet corn salad. If you prefer, you can order this as a torta sandwich. This one made my taste-buds smile and my tummy feel content.
We did order the seasoned fries, served with a sinfully good bacon ketchup, but they vanished before I could get a photo. Let me just say that this food is so good that you should try to get photos before it hits the table or it’s gone in minutes.
After dinner, we strolled the length of the arts festival and encountered some wonderful food trucks. Too full to taste them we just stood and inhaled their goodness. This one represents some fine restaurants in the San Diego area. Great food all around.
The evening ended with a visit to a brew market and then a tavern for a glass of chocolate stout to top off the evening.
One of us, not me, bought a decadent piece of cake at a nearby bakery before we left the area. It too mysteriously vanished before I could take a shot of it—or get a taste! But word has it that we should go back so I can get my own piece.