A Restaurant Review of “Shades”

by on June 12, 2012 · 8 comments

in Culture, Ocean Beach, Popular, The Widder Curry

5083 Santa Monica Ave.
San Diego, CA 92107

I have never done a review of “Shades” restaurant. I don’t know why not. It is one of my favorite Ocean Beach Restaurants; I am a member of their “Regular’s Club” – spend $100 and get $5 off your bill. (The nice thing is that the $100 does not have to be spent at one time because it is accumulative.) Whenever I have out of town guests I always take them to Shades. The view is magnificent; the food is good; and the noise level is bearable.

I probably would not be doing this review now if the service was not so slow that afternoon when one of the members of my widow support group and I went there for lunch. It was the 3rd anniversary of her husband’s death, and Shades was always a favorite with her and her husband. We arranged to have lunch together and then go up to Ft. Rosecrans to “visit” with our husband’s. (They are in one of the walls fronting the bay and very close to each other.)

It was 1:00pm before we arrived and the restaurant was not full, but it was not empty. We waited 4 minutes before we were acknowledged by a waitress and then seated at a window table that was in the process of being cleaned. First we were told to just wait a moment while it was cleaned; then we were directed to follow her to the table, where she proceeded to clean the table and chairs. Unfortunately, the rag used to clean the chairs was wet, and, by the end of the meal, so were we!

If you haven’t been to Shades before you are in for a real treat. Breakfast is my favorite meal there and I think I have tried almost everything on the menu and been pleased with all of it. They offer a variety of Omelets, Scrambles, Benedicts, Pancakes/French Toast and two sections called “Specialties” and “Classics.”I didn’t realize it until I began writing up this review that breakfast is served from 6:30am to 2:00pm and I could have had breakfast instead of lunch. (Usually we are asked if we wanted one or the other, but this time we were not asked.)

Something new has been added to the menu – at least new since I was there last – and that is the breakfast menu comes as a “regular” portion or as a “mini”. The prices range from $6.95 to $9.95 and the Omelets and Scrambles come with a choice of Homefries, Refried Beans or Fruit and Toast, English Muffin or Tortilla’s. The “Benedicts” come with a choice of Homefries, Refried Beans or fruit. I have not been unhappy with any of their breakfast items.

Lunch is served from 11:30am to 4:30pm and it, too, has a variety of items to choose from. Besides the Sandwiches and Burgers, Blankets (flat bread pizza’s) and specialties – Carnitas Quesadilla, Tamale Plate, Fish Taco’s or Fish and Chips – there are six different kinds of salads that are large enough to make a meal from ($6.95 from a half salad to $9.95 for a full order) and three “starter salads” – two Couscous salads and one small salad. The two couscous salads are $2.75 each while the small salad is $4.25.

One of my favorite items on the lunch – and dinner – menu is their Tortilla Soup. It is one of the best around and one order will be enough for even the heartiest eater. Be careful, though. It is spicy. It is on the menu for $7.95 and only comes in a large bowl. It is topped with a Grilled Chicken Breast, Avocado, Sour Cream and Tortilla Strips. If you don’t like the Mexican cheese, which is liberally sprinkled on top, ask for it on the side.

The soups are delicious, no matter what kind you order. That afternoon, a Friday, I ordered Clam Chowder, my friend ordered Corn Chowder, and there were two additional soups to select from.

Additionally, there is also a “Nibblers” menu – appetizers if you will, and four Panini’s. The prices are the same – $8.95 for all the Panini’s and you can add a cup of soup or a small salad for $2.50. For $1.00 more you can add roasted potatoes, couscous, Sweet Potato fries – some of the best I have ever eaten – French fries or Onion Rings. Ask for their special sauce to go with the sweet potato fries. Yummy.

The Dinners, which I will not go into here, offer a variety of specialties from fish to meat, to ribs, to pasta, to vegetarian. The prices also vary from about $11.95 for a “Surfer Burger” to $19.95 for a Filet Mignon. The other item prices are between those listed above.

There is a limited dessert menu and Shades offers a catering service at reasonable prices. It should be noted that there is a full bar, including mixed drinks, beer and wine.

So you ask, why am I writing this review now when I never have before? In the past the service has always been impeccable. We’ve always been seated right away, and if there was not a table available our name was placed on a “wait list.” The orders have been taken almost immediately; served quickly, and always hot. We have been asked if we wanted dessert , more beverage, etc. That day was, I hope, an exception to the rule.

After we were seated, the waitress asked us for our drink order and brought it promptly. (Water and raspberry iced tea.) But then we waited, and waited and waited for our food order to be taken. Two parties were seated after us – one party of 3 and one party of 4 – and their orders were taken before ours – different waitress – and, in fact, the party of 3 were paying their bill when we were being served. (In all fairness my soup was hot as was my friends.) She ordered soup and salad lunch special and I ordered a soup and half sandwich special.

My sandwich, a half Power Roast Beef served on a French Baguette with White Cheddar, Roma Tomatoes, Red Onion, Garlic Cream and spring greens was nothing special. If anything it was a little dry and could have used more of the Garlic Cream. I expect greater things from Shades, and was a little disappointed. My friend’s salad was as she ordered it and she said it was tasty. It was served with Ry-Krisp, something I haven’t seen for many years.

When we ordered I asked if we could have separate checks, because as a member of the “Regulars Club” I wanted to get credit for today’s order. I know that my friend always pays with a credit card so it was easier to have two checks. We received only one with both lunches listed on it. I asked the waitress for two checks and she changed it without hesitation. I wish it had been done initially.

When paying our bill it turned out that their computer system was down and the cashier had to write down the information for the “Regulars Club” because he could not input it into the memory bank. That was no big deal; if a credit was coming I will get it next time. And there will be a next time. The food was delicious; the ambience was nice; and I am sure the service will improve the next time.

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Bearded OBcean June 12, 2012 at 10:35 am

In my humble opinion, Shades slipped a bit when they changed their menu a few years ago; back when they also had that sandwich shop of Newport. My wife and I sent there probably twice a week for years before they changed the menu. HH was considerably better in those days as well. Better prices. They could throw a better beer or two on the tap to catch up with the rest of OB, but what can you do?


Harold Fine June 12, 2012 at 3:09 pm

Now I have to walk to Shades and try their tortilla soup. Second time I’ve heard good things about it.


judi Curry June 12, 2012 at 4:45 pm

I think it will worth the walk.


OB Mercy June 14, 2012 at 10:12 am

I think the lack of comments on here says a lot. Shades is at best mediocre. Normally, I would put a IMHO after that, but it seems to be most OBcians I’ve spoken to feel this way. Good breakfasts, I’ll give them that, but that’s about all I’ll give them. Ok, and a great view! I reviewed them a couple of years back as part of the Elite Yelp Team. Don’t know how you can screw up a grilled chicken sammie with fries, but they did it on both me and my friend’s order. I also do not appreciate how the owner is treating a new business here in town, the OB Seafood Truck. He basically told them to get off the street…they were across the street. They are NOT competition for Shades, or any other restaurant. No other restaurant has had a problem with them, as the owners talk to other biz owners first…including Shades. Harumph!


Frank Gormlie June 14, 2012 at 10:24 am

OB Mercy – have you considered writing for the OB Rag? Contact us via email – obragblog@gmail.com


RB June 14, 2012 at 11:30 am

Their side salads are very good and I like their fish chips better than Shakespeare’s, the place I use to get my English fried fish fix. If you eat early, the happy hour beer prices are also worth the trip.


Kenloc June 14, 2012 at 1:25 pm

We go there for breakfast,but thats about it.Good breakfast,but the coffee is terrible.So is the creamer made from powdered creamer and water.Yuck.It’s the only place I don’t have coffee with breakfast.(their OJ is great!)The service you described is the service we get pretty much everytime we go. We expect to wait awhile when we go there. We wont go for lunch or dinner any more.Too many bad experiences with the food.Combine that with that lackluster service and it’s a no go.Too many places that are serving decent eats in OB to go here. This place and Nick’s could be so much better,instead they rely on the view to bring them biz,not the food.


judi Curry June 14, 2012 at 4:40 pm

I have been very disappointed in Nick’s. Haven’t gone to Shades for dinner for a long time. I have always asked for real cream for my coffee. Someone else told me the same thing a long time ago. There are sure a lot of new, good restaurants in the area. Have to take someone out for their 40th b/d tonight. Usually I’d go to Shades. Not tonight.


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