Parking in Little Italy…it’s like being on a crowded hamster wheel – driving endlessly around in circles, darting through traffic with nowhere to park and no hope. It’s horrible during normal hours and almost unbearable during special occasions. So, for the Christmas tree lighting this past weekend, we got there plenty early, parked about 1/2 mile off the main drag and hoofed it to where the action was.
It started as a nice way to spend a couple of hours before dinner, strolling down India St. (why is Little Italy on India St.?) and stopping for a nice glass of wine and some gorgeous Charcuterie at a previously undiscovered sidewalk cafe. Good Lord, if that isn’t truly one of life’s pleasures while living in or visiting a Metropolitan area – finding a quaint little place with a sidewalk patio, quick service, nice wine and snacks and a great view for people watching.
Anyway, after the tree lighting, we were walking back to the car and passed by…huh? An Argentinian restaurant… in Little Italy… on India St. Okay. We had about 45 minutes until our reservations, there were some seats open at the bar and the SDSU/Air Force MWC Championship game was on. A quick drink and an appetizer while watching some of the game felt like destiny and a way to kill a half hour – so, in we went.
A couple of cocktails and a quick review of the menu had us ordering the empanadas. They were a safe and logical choice to gauge the kitchen – lots of technique involved in making a really good empanada, pastry and fillings all have to be executed and then married for everything to come together. Besides, who doesn’t love meat wrapped in any kind of pastry? These were a corn & cheese, chicken and beef empanada, all about 3/4 the size of an average human palm – in other words, fairly large – at least, larger than we expected. I had the bright idea of trying to cut them in half for a picture – that didn’t work out very well. But, I can tell you they had a nice doughiness on the wrapping with the filling inside flavorful, nicely seasoned and warm enough so that it was more like eating a thick stew than a clump of filling. I stepped outside after eating these and cancelled our previous reservations.
The bartender gave us some bread, which we largely ignored, for no other reason than we didn’t want to fill up before the meat came, but it came with this tray of herbed butter, oil marinated olives and a chimichurri you’d fight your dog for. The butter was good, the olives were salty, buttery little orbs of saline genius and the chimichurri, well, it turned out to be the only seasoning we would need the rest of the evening.
Since we weren’t all that familiar with the offerings and most of the single meat entrees were in the mid $20’s price range, we opted for this meat platter on the “Meant to be Shared” portion of the menu for $45. It came with sweetbreads, blood sausage, chorizo sausage, grilled chicken, short ribs, flap meat and skirt steak. A squeeze of lemon over the whole plate added a little acidic character which magnified the subtle seasonings applied in the kitchen and the rest of the evening was just an old fashioned chow down with meat and chimichurri sauce. The first bowl of chimichurri was not nearly enough, so we asked for and received a second with no issues. There was enough meat left over here for a light lunch the next day and they sent us home with a to-go container of chimichurri sauce which made the leftover experience magical.
Here’s the lowdown on the blood sausage… It was my first time…I was afraid and excited at the same time, I heard it could be sooo good, but was afraid it could hurt so bad. Would it be love or would it be hate? The consistency was almost pudding-like and the flavor, well, chocolatey wouldn’t be far off the mark, but with a slight irony and rich meaty flavor that was surprisingly satisfying without any weirdness other than the unexpected but not unpleasant texture.
The dulce de leche and coconut filled cookies with a cappucino and latte for dessert were a perfect way to finish the meal off while watching the end of the football game.
Here’s the Rundown:
Location/Ambience – Located a few blocks north of the madness that is central Little Italy – parking is still a challenge, but perhaps a bit more manageable. This place was packed – two parties of 20 or so people took up the bulk of the dining room and by 8:00 p.m., there was a line two deep waiting for bar seats. Great service at the bar combined with two big screen TV’s made for a nice experience.
Cost/Value – I would recommend the “Meant to be Shared” meals, as they are a lot of food for a relatively good cost. We had a light lunch the following day on the leftovers. Food, two cocktails and two glasses of wine plus dessert and two coffees were under $100 thanks to the happy hour pricing which lasted until 7:30. Combined with free football…great value!
Food/Service – Excellent on both. I don’t know about the sitdown part of the restaurant, but I’m not sure I’d come here for that experience. This is casual food, simply done. Really, the only thing they have to do here to get the meat right is to not screw it up and they accomplished that in spades! And the chimichurri…I can’t remember if I mentioned that…it’s the kind of thing songs are written about and legends are borne of.
And, congratulations to the San Diego State University Aztecs on winning the Mountain West Championship. Go Aztecs!
2060 India St.
San Diego, CA 92101
1607 India St.
San Diego, CA 92101