Restaurant Review of North Park’s “Urban Solace”

by on May 29, 2012 · 15 comments

in Culture, Popular, San Diego, The Widder Curry

“Urban Solace”
3823 30th Street
San Diego, CA 92104

When a good friend of mine – a gourmet chef that teaches several culinary classes in the San Diego area – asked me to join her for lunch the other day, I was delighted to accept. I met her at her house in North Park about 11:15am so that we were one of the first patron’s at the restaurant when it opened at 11:30am.

The restaurant could easily be missed if you did not know where you were going. The name is on a sign high above eye level; and the entrance is very unpretentious. Upon entering into a darkened room, with the hostess desk and the bar on the left, I was immediately struck with how long and narrow the room was, and it reminded me of many of the restaurants in San Francisco. There was an outside eating area on the right, but because it was overcast and damp we elected to eat indoors.

We were seated at the farthest seat at the back of the dining room, up against the wall that obviously housed the kitchen. (I say “obviously” because we could feel the vibrations from the kitchen on the wall nearest to where we were seated.) It was not distracting; we just knew it was there. There were several small tables set up a long side of us, as well as tables running down the opposite wall. Although I did not count the tables, I would venture to say that there were about 5 tables that faced the front part of the restaurant with 3-4 tables on the wall opposite us that ran perpendicular to those tables. We walked up one step to get to those tables. Meanwhile there were probably 20 tables or so that we in the front part of the restaurant so the space was well used. The music being played was not loud, and there was good ambiance for the diners.

Our waiter was training a new waitress and introduced both of them to us and asked us for our drink order. We both ordered only water, that was refilled several times during the meal. The menu was eclectic – something that one would expect in North Park.

It began with “STARTERS” and ranged in price from $5.50 for “Kennebec French Fries, smoked sea salt and herb-buttermilk blue cheese dip.” to $15.50 for “Foie!! Seared Artisan Foie Gras Brandied Cherry Reduction, French Toast, Cress.” The menu also had a section of Salads and Soup – the “house” soup is a Cream tomato fennel with garlic crouton, and Smoked Pepper Fraiche. There was a “special” soup of the day consisting of Asparagus and Mushroom that was creamy, served with a crouton.

Additionally, the menu offered sandwich and full plates, and ranged from $9 for a Roasted Chicken Salad sandwich tossed with grapes and pecans and served on grilled egg bread to BBQ Glazed Duroc Pork Belly, Creamed Corn, Pickled Tomato Salsa and served with a Spicy Herb Sauce for $19.50

My friend ordered the “Sassafras Marinated White Shrimp and Chili, infused with White Corn Grit Cakes” that was listed on the “Starter” menu. The price was $12.50. She also ordered a cup of the Tomato Fennel Soup ($3.00 for a cup and $4.50 for a bowl.) She said that both items were very good and had actually ordered them before.

I was not quite so lucky. I know! I know! I can just hear some of my critics now. I ordered the ½ sandwich, soup and salad for $10.25. I had my choice of either a Pastrami or Chicken Salad sandwich and I chose the Pastrami. It was attractively served – although the two pieces of bread were not put together right so the pastrami fell out of one side of the sandwich, but, more importantly, the pastrami was so salty that I could not eat it. The soup – asparagus and mushroom – was very tasty and the salad dressing was also good

After finishing the soup, the waiter and the trainee came to the table to ask how things were and my friend told them how salty the pastrami was. He said he was sorry and asked if I wanted something else instead. I said “no” because the soup and salad were adequate. When we received the bill my friend stated that she was surprised they did not take the sandwich off of the tab.

In addition to the items already mentioned, there was a “Side” section of three items: A Cheese Biscuit for $1.25; Mac and Cheese for $8.25 and Duckaroni for $9.

All six of the items on the dessert menu were $7 except the Artisan Cheese Plate which consisted of either 3, 4 or 5 cheeses, Anise Bread, Urban Red Figgy Compote, Honeycomb, Spiced Pecans and Sliced Apples. The prices varied from $13 for three cheeses; $16 for 4 cheeses, and $19 for 5 cheeses.

There was an extensive wine and beer list also.

Looking at the web site for the “Urban Solace” it appears that, while similar, the dinner menu is different. Would I go back to the restaurant? In all probability I would. I don’t think that it was necessarily the fault of the chef that the pastrami was so salty. It may have been brined that way and the chef was not aware of that. Besides, it wasn’t until later that I noticed that my very favorite dish was listed under the starters – that being “Sweetbreads” so I must return to try them. When we left, the place was quite full so the idea of getting there early was a good one. It should also be noted that they do take reservations.

{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar doug porter May 29, 2012 at 11:32 am

You should go back.
I dunno about the salty pastrami–my guess is that they’re trying to use a product with minimal chemicals, so salt would probably be that main curing ingredient–but I do know about the restaurant’s commitment to quality. And what makes Urban Solace a better restaurant are the high standards that the kitchen uses in purchasing its ingredients. They don’t cut corners, hence it’s a bit more expensive. In my opinion the better flavors are worth it.
You can make mac & cheese for almost nothing, using canned cheese goo and cheap pasta, or you can spend a little bit of money and get a finished product that’s not laden with unpronounceable chemicals and has real flavor. Urban Solace chooses the high road. It’s better for the planet and it’s better for your health, IMO.
And thanks for reviewing one of my fav restaurants.


avatar judi Curry May 29, 2012 at 1:13 pm

Thanks Doug. I intend on going back in a few weeks, just as soon as I can get someone to go with me. The person I was with this time, a professional chef, spoke so highly of the quality of food, that I hope – think – the pastrami was a fluke. Even when I lived in the “Borscht Belt” of Los Angeles, we sometimes got over-salted corned beef and/or pastrami. And…glad to see you are back to writing!


avatar Bryan May 29, 2012 at 2:31 pm
avatar Bill Ray Drums May 29, 2012 at 10:56 pm

The entrance reminds me of New Orleans in a way.


avatar jim grant May 30, 2012 at 9:36 am

Well to be honest here: Really???
If I remember correctly you said you are a top chef and trained and have written cook books ? And apparently fashion yourself a restaurant reviewer and critic…..I am none of those.
But I have enough common sense when I walk into a empty restaurant like you say you and your other chef friend did to ask for another table other than one by the kitchen , or an open door or a plethora of other dining distractions makes perfect sense to me .
As far as you being a little miffed at being charged for a sandwich you thought was salty one stupid question maybe I am not very smart and missed something in your review….if you took a bite and it was salty any chef , cook or cookbook author would summon the server and express concern. The server then has a couple options #1. ask you if you would like something else. #2 tell you tuff luck you ordered it …If you did not do this you apparently are not as restaurant suave as you claim .
Do you start with a perfect 100 when you enter a new place to review OR do you start at 0 and make them earn the 100 score ? My hunch is you never have given this much consideration…Often food critics opinions are a offshoot of the personality of said critic. Sounds like you are much happier eating at home.


avatar Anna Daniels May 30, 2012 at 10:04 am

Ouch! Did we read the same review? Readers agree and disagree and that makes for a lively conversation. Impugning Judi’s credibility in writing the restaurant review doesn’t make for a lively conversation.


avatar judi Curry May 30, 2012 at 10:41 am

My goodness Jim. What is eating you? I did not say I was a “top chef” – so maybe something is wrong with your memory. I did say that I have written two cookbooks with a third almost ready for publication. (Your memory is only a little faulty.) If you read the review, you will find that the restaurant was empty because we were the first ones there – on purpose – because we knew it would be crowded in a few minutes.l It was – and there were no available seats when we left. One could not see the kitchen because of the wall dividing the eating establishment and the kitchen. I said in the review it was not distracting; if it had been we would have asked to change our seat. When the hostess sat us she told us we could sit anywhere we wanted to sit. My friend had been there before – she chose the quiet table. By the time the server asked me how my meal was, my friend was done with her meal and ordering another for me would have meant that she would have had to stay longer while my new meal was cooked, delivered, and eaten. (The restaurant was quite crowded and it took a longer time to get the server’s attention, AND he was training a new employee.) We both had appointments and would have been late to those. The server, btw, had a third option – he could remove the item from the bill.

I divorced a man because of his “hunches” . Of course he wasn’t a food critic like you; he was a gambler and could frequently be found at Santa Anita or Hollywood Park. Your “hunch” is as right as his were. I go into a restaurant knowing that it is going to be wonderful; that I will highly recommend it, and there will be little, if anything, to keep me from going back to it. I don’t play a “numbers game”. And if you don’t think I am critical of my own cooking you are wrong again. I pay good money for eating at home as well as paying good money for eating out. Dining should be an enjoyable experience, be it at a restaurant; my own dining room; at the beach; in the mountains etc. My experience at this particular restaurant was not all that enjoyable, but I will be back because I do not think that the chef was to blame for the salty pastrami. To paraphrase the old Wendy’s ad – ” . . . what’s your beef”?


avatar Frank Gormlie May 30, 2012 at 11:10 am

I was just waiting for Jim to appear; I knew he would – either on yours or the homeless article.


avatar jim grant May 30, 2012 at 4:44 pm

If the meat was salty, summon the server get up and ask for the manager don’t eat food you don’t like Don’t you know better than that ?? and then complain. Don’t eat it then complain and then moan cause you had to pay for it …. I wonder “because we could feel the vibrations ” statements like this are intended to do what ?? put the place in good light ?? If you heard or felt noise or vibrations from the kitchen MOVE …
I really feel it is up to the patron to take charge in a restaurant. When we go to C Level or Roys or Bali Hai or a place with a view we want the best seat we can get and the best meal ….If I feel something is not right I mention it to the server or management. Most times they REALLY want to know . …. ….I will not take a crappy seat then complain ….It seems like you tolerate the kitchen seat , so so service and so so food and just sat and took it. You should know being a professional restaurant critic that sometimes you take the bull by the horns ….If you sat in a vibrating seat or noisy area….Gezze ask for another seat …..You just seem to be very hard to please, for instance you mention ” the bread was not put together right on the sandwich” holy hell really how pety are you ?
I fail to see how your divorce fits this conversation. I think after the bread remark you made i see why the divorce happened. Why when asked about your meal did you defer to ” your friend ?”
Did you ever see me refer to my self as a foodie ?? yeah thats right you did not. Nothing is eating me I am just baffled at your reviews I suggest you read up on HOW to write a Restaurant Review….You seemed sidetracked with your pet peeves ….This is my opinion bought and paid for by me . And I am glad people who don’t agree with me did not read this.
I am off to Bali Hai hope I get a window seat!!


avatar Anna Daniels May 30, 2012 at 8:26 pm

You know what Jim? I didn’t read it.


avatar jim grant May 30, 2012 at 9:30 pm

your response tells me different .


avatar doug porter May 31, 2012 at 6:24 am

wow. so much anger over food review. really. go back and read it aloud. you sound as if she hit you or something. and i happen to agree with some of your opinions.
just a little over the top, don’t ya think?


avatar Bearded OBcean May 31, 2012 at 10:59 am

Urban Solace has terrific blue grass brunches on Sunday mornings. They bring in a kick ass blue grass band to play on the patio.


avatar jim grant June 3, 2012 at 5:19 pm

I was just told I was out of line attacking the messenger and not sticking to the message in the restaurant reviews. So I apologize to you Judi and any others I offended. I will try and be more civil. I apologize the the Ob Rag for my lack of proper etiquette . Jim Grant


avatar judi Curry June 3, 2012 at 8:57 pm

Thanks Jim. No problem. Judi


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