Ralph Melton (ralphmelton) wrote,
Ralph Melton

West Coast Roadtrip, Jul-17-2011

We set off very late on Sunday with plans for brunch at Cottage in La Jolla, which had been recommended by multiple sources. Unfortunately, Cottage had a one-hour wait, and that left me unsure whether we would be able to do the other things I wanted to do that day. So we walked down the street to Prep Kitchen.

I chose the fish tacos with a roasted corn salsa. The fish in these was grilled, unlike the fried fish in the fish tacos from El Indio. I loved the grilled corn salsa, but the fish was grilled a bit past tender.

Lori chose a more traditional breakfast of bacon and eggs. The bacon and the potatoes were really good.

We shared a delicate, light lemon layer cake.

The reason that I was unwilling to wait for Cottage: I wanted to visit Julian Pie Company, an drive of an hour and a half inland from La Jolla. Lori was dubious about adding three hours of driving just to visit a rural pie shop when there were so many things we could do in San Diego. I had my own doubts, but it had been recommended by several people, and I sort of liked the idea of going to some difficulties to visit a Roadfood destination. I'm glad we visited, because it was a lovely drive through rocky scrubland and a wonderful stop. (And we arrived shortly before closing, so we were right to postpone our trip to Cottage.)

I ordered the apple pie with cinnamon sauce. As you may have noticed from my reports, I am not sensitive to subtle gradations of culinary quality in many foods. I rarely distinguish a mediocre hot dog from a good hot dog, and I have trouble discerning judging between ice creams unless they are utterly superlative. But I do notice a wide variety in pie crusts in my eating, from wretched pasty mistakes to superb gems, and this was an outstanding pie crust, one of the best I've had. It was tender enough to yield easily to the touch of a plastic fork, it was nicely flaky, and it had an outstanding flavor. The cinnamon sauce was very tasty, but I think that if I were to go back, I would ask for it on the side, so that it didn't soak the crust while I ate.

Lori ordered the dutch apple pie with cinnamon ice cream, which was also excellent. Sadly, our camera failed to record the close-up picture.

We also ordered a bottle of local apple cider. This was superb apple cider, very intense and flavorful. I was particularly impressed by the ingredient list on the apple cider: "Apples". How many foods are there for which the ingredient list is shorter than the product name?
The plastic-wrapped bar shown in this picture is the Julian Pie Company's "wonderbar", a chocolate-and-peanut-butter confection. I found it much too sweet for my taste, but almost all such things are too sweet for me.

We returned to San Diego to check off one last thing on our Pacific Ocean list: we wanted to visit a nice beach. We got to Ocean Beach a bit before sunset.

As we were stepping onto the sand, Lori was accosted by a man in full Elvis regalia–pompadour, sequined jumpsuit, the whole nine yards. We assumed at first that he was some sort of busker seeking tips, but he told us that he was part of a cover band playing nearby on Wednesday evenings. He emphasized that they performed Elvis's earlier, less well-known songs, and he sang "Pocket Full of Rainbows" to us (while we tried to politely disengage). The niggling consistency-checking part of my brain asks why, if he was so focused on performing early-Elvis songs, was he wearing a late-Elvis costume? I didn't ask, though, because I wanted less conversation with him, rather than more. Lori finally disengaged with an assurance that we would attend on Wednesday if we could, knowing full well that we planned to leave San Diego Monday morning.

I took pictures while Lori waded:

Again I'll link to the panoramic photo instead of including it:

Once the sun had set, we went to the nearby burger joint Hodad's:

There was a very long line to get into Hodad's. We considered going elsewhere, because Chris Ayers had said "the burger's not the best you've ever had", but it was late enough that other places were closed, and we overheard someone in line emphatically assuring her companion that it was worth the wait.

When we got in, we were taken aback: the floor was filthy with crumpled napkins and trampled french fries. (Lori describes it as "like a Pittsburgh bar at the end of St. Patrick's Day.")
And the tribal house music that was playing was so loud that it was hard to have a conversation. We were waved to a table that had not been cleared. Service was extremely slow; it took several minutes for the table to be cleared, and much longer for us to get menus and order. So we had lots of time to look at the decor and decipher the license plates:

The onion rings were super crunchy, so much so that they scraped the roof of my mouth as I ate.

I'm very harsh on Hodad's, but I will give them this: this is one of the most photogenic milkshakes I've encountered.
Flavorwise, it was nothing special, but milkshakes tend to make for boring photos and this one stands out.

We both chose the single cheeseburger. It comes in even more unwieldy configurations, but this was messy enough as it is. This is the essence of my scorn for this burger: I could not taste the meat at all. All I experienced was crunch from the onions (and perhaps also from the patty, which was done far past the medium I ordered).

I would not go back to Hodad's. I do not suspect Chris Ayers or the Sterns of deliberately playing a cruel practical joke on us, but it was an awful experience. This is not the first time I've had a bad meal in a Roadfood-listed place. But I've been far more forgiving of other bad meals, and I'm looking for the reason why. I think it comes down to two points:
- The trifecta of filthy conditions, loud music, and glacial service made a strong impression that Hodad's didn't care about creating a marginally pleasant experience.
- The food that was so bad was very familiar food. I think that I was more forgiving of the horrible lobster roll at Red's Eats, for example, because it was my first lobster roll. But for a burger, I could go to at least three different restaurants in Pittsburgh and get a vastly burger that's enormously superior to Hodad's, and that makes me even more passionate in my rejection of this junk.
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