Thursday, June 10, 2010

Two New Favorite Eats for Summer: Cali Deli and Jimmy's Famous American Tavern

I've been hopping from one spot to the other in the last few weeks and there have been some encounters with original dishes that still make my mouth water thinking of them. Time to share a couple of new places with fun takes on traditional dishes:

Cali Deli's banh mi sandwiches -- particularly the ginger chicken and the lemongrass chicken. Tam Huynh recently opened this little spot in Hillcrest's prime real estate of Fifth Ave. between Robinson and University. His older brother Tuttuyh, a chiropractor in Indonesia already has six locations there. The Hillcrest spot is the family's first U.S. restaurant. They bake their own bread to achieve the perfect sandwich delivery system -- light and crispy crust and a soft interior. Inside the bread is a mix of cucumber, pickled carrots, cilantro, and jalapeno slices on request, along with whatever protein, even tofu, you order. If you're a Top Chef fan, you'll get a kick out of the fact that the brothers' cousin is season 3 winner Hung Huynh. They're at 3852 Fifth Ave.

Jimmy's Famous American Tavern is a welcome addition to Pt. Loma's harbor. Here's another restaurant that's now serving deviled egg starters (a little spicy and served with pickles and chips -- and can be topped with Dungeness crab). Woo hoo! I am worshipful of their big and puffy and oh so crispy onion rings and the fact that they get that way because of a dunking in buttermilk and Ballast Point beer. Add a little sweetness to your bite with a further dunking in housemade ketchup.

Their burgers are huge -- 10 ounces -- and they love to tout them. I had the plentiful Blues Burger, filled with Point Reyes Blue Cheese, Balsamic Glazed Onions, and tomato. It was a splendid mouthful. But I adored the very creative short rib Reuben brimming with a crunchy coleslaw. The acid from the slaw and the juicy richness of the meat were a perfect coupling.

The restaurant also won me over with their emphasis on buying ingredients from local farms and purveyors, as well as their focus on handcrafted cocktails. I like any restaurant that has a "liquid relations" vice president. Plus, chef James Nunn is an old punk rock drummer. Jimmy's Famous American Tavern is located in The Promenade at Point Loma at 4990 N. Harbor Dr.

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