Royale: The Best Burger in Ocean Beach?

by on February 26, 2018 · 18 comments

in Ocean Beach

OBites Restaurant Review

Royale!
4204 Voltaire Street
San Diego, CA 92107.

Author’s note:  Editordude has asked me to write some restaurant reviews for the OB Rag as our previous food writer, Judi Curry, has resigned after years of penning detailed and helpful reviews about local restaurants. Thanks for your years of devotion and the provocative and interesting articles you provided, Judi! … My column will be entitled, “OBites.”

by Bob Edwards

If I told you that Royale, the new restaurant on Voltaire near Catalina, has the best hamburger in the Ocean Beach area, would you believe me?  Should you believe me?

Probably not, even though I loved it and think that most people will find it and the other food served at Royale delicious.

The reason I say “probably not” has to do with the subjective nature of food writing and the ridiculous concept of “best”  of anything when it comes to food.

Take pizza for example.  If you expect a thin crust-loving New Yorker to rave about a new restaurant that serves deep dish Chicago-style pizza you will be very disappointed, as well as possibly having your throat ripped out.

Interior. All photos by Bob Edwards

Geography and what you grew up eating play a big role in determining your opinion on pizza and any other cuisine.  Trust me on this.

I’ve lived with a New York ex-pat for almost 40 years and it’s the truth.  We won’t even get started on San Diego burritos vs. TexMex vs. San Francisco-style “Mission burritos”.  Everyone has a favorite even though San Diego style is OBVIOUSLY best.

Burger preferences are just as controversial.  Sometimes the thing that makes a burger or other food “best” in one person’s eyes is the very thing that another person hates.  Take a look at Yelp reviews of Hodad’s for example.  One person will be disgusted by the fact that the bun falls apart before you finish the burger while another raves about the juicy goodness that causes it to disintegrate at the end.  And if you eat at McDonalds every day, their burger will probably seem like comfortable home cooking to you even if it’s a nasty corporate travesty.

Moral of the story:  Don’t believe much of what a food critic or anyone else says about the “best” anything, they bring too many biases along for the ride.

Now, having told you to ignore my opinion, let me tell you about my experience at Royale.

Royale was originally a pop up burger place (Royale With Cheese) in the Park and Rec bar in University Heights.   It recently simplified its name and took over the space where Sessions Public House was located, next door to the Catalina Lounge on Voltaire Street.  The interior has been remodeled into a vividly-colored tribute to American diners.  Picture mid-century naugahyde bar stools, formica tables with metal trim, neon accents, diner-style plates and bowls, and condiment caddies containing classic plastic mustard and ketchup squeeze bottles.

Royale With Cheese

The menu leans heavily towards a modern, gastro-pub take on diner fare and cocktails.  It includes burgers, sandwiches, salads and sides.

I’ve enjoyed several meals at Royale.  For me the standout dish was the Royale With Cheese ($11) which the menu describes as “1/3 lb. beef patty, bacon, gruyere, caramelized onion, special sauce, mustard, pickles, buttermilk bun “. The patty is about 3/4 of an inch thick and hand formed.  I had it prepared medium and it arrived moist but not dripping.  All ingredients were high quality and fresh. A light handed touch with the secret sauce and mustard allowed each of the burger’s components to shine.

Another winner was the Fried Chicken Sandwich ($11) served on a sesame bun with a tasty jicama-cilantro slaw, slightly spicy “crystal mayo”, and pickles.  The breading was crisp and the chicken moist.  The Fish of the Day Sandwich ($12), which in this case was gold spot bass, is available fried or grilled.   My posse tried both and found each of them flaky and moist, very fresh and  cooked perfectly.    Dressed with lettuce, tartar sauce, and a rustic vegetable slaw of pickled cauliflower, green beans, and carrots, they were excellent.

Battered and fried veggies.

A couple of  my vegetarian-leaning friends shared  the Vegan Royale ($10), a seitan and roasted broccoli patty that was topped with fried eggplant, sautéed mushrooms, and pickled vegetables on a whole wheat bun.  They quite enjoyed it.

Fries or tater tots (yum!) can be added to the meals for $3.  Other sides included mixed veggies, available roasted or battered and fried ($6), both quite good.  One tablemate said, “I liked the vegetables, it made me think I was eating something healthier than just different forms of cholesterol between bread”.  Just cholesterol?!?!  Quality meat, cheese, and bacon are not “just” anything, they are a reason to live!  (Apologies to my vegan friends).

Tatar Tots

We also tried the house smoked trout salad ($14), a minimalist dish of trout, baby spinach, fingerling potatoes, and red onion with a sweet and lemony dressing.

Royale has a full bar.  One of my companions had a vodka house cocktail ($9) made with mint vodka, pomegranate, ginger, and lime soda.  She said it was very refreshing and strong.  There’s also an assortment of mainly local craft beers on draft ($6.50 to $7.50).  I tried some incredible house made lemonade,  with the lemons sourced from the owners’ farm in Valley Center.

Unfortunately, dessert was not available due to problems with the soft serve ice cream machine.  Our efficient and friendly server, Crystal, told us the ice cream is served with optional cookie crumbles.  Sounds great and I look forward to trying it.

For each of our meals we dined early, before 6 PM.  When we arrived, the bar was full and the restaurant mostly empty, though almost every table was occupied by the time we finished our meals.  At that hour it was a typically chill OB/PL crowd, some families with kids, lots of younger folks, and a sprinkling of old timers.  There’s a cool juke box with great music (Dylan, Gram Parsons!) but at our meals the juke box wasn’t in use and the house was playing mellow, low volume music that made for easy conversation.

The restaurant also serves brunch on the weekend. I look forward to giving it a try at some future date, once my cholesterol level goes down.

Royale! is located at 4204 Voltaire St, San Diego, CA 92107.  Hours are 4 PM to 11 PM on Monday to Thursday, open until 1 AM on Friday and Saturday, with brunch served from 10 AM on Saturday and Sunday.  There is ample parking available behind the restaurant.

 

{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

Genie February 26, 2018 at 2:21 pm

I loved your review!!!!

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Mercy Baron OB Mercy February 26, 2018 at 2:51 pm

Good review Bob. I look forward to trying this place out.

My BF is here 3 yrs from NY and I was born there. The NY style pizza that has impressed us the most so far in SD? Bongiornos in Solana Beach (Not related to the place of the same name in Poway). Really excellent.

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Bob Edwards February 27, 2018 at 7:37 am

Thanks OB Mercy, I’ll give Bongiornos a try the next time I’m up that way. The closest to New York style pie and vibe I’ve had in San Diego is at Hillcrest’s Bronx Pizza. We are super lucky, though, to have New Jersey/NY style Surf Rider Pizza right here in OB: fantastic thin crust, traditional toppings plus California style toppings such as BBQ chicken and assorted veggies for the heretics.

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Mercy Baron OB Mercy February 27, 2018 at 7:53 am

We love Surfrider Pizza and Bronx too.

One of the burgers taking SD by storm (I’m very involved in the food community here) and a lot of the food bloggers and reviewers rave about is the at The Balboa, a dive bar in Bankers Hill and my personal favorite too. Owner, Tom London is about to open a second location in Chula Vista. Their garlic fries are also delicious!

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Chris February 27, 2018 at 5:26 pm

The Balboa is awesome but you should try the burgers at Nunu’s. Trust me. Well hopefully they will still be good as the place is going through a remodel due to ownership change.

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OBKid February 26, 2018 at 3:21 pm

Will def try! Even though I’m OB…I’m a Rocky’s guy!

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Catsmom February 26, 2018 at 5:03 pm

I miss Judi!

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Dude February 26, 2018 at 9:42 pm

I’m curious, so in your opinion is the best burger in OB at Royale? It was the title of your review…

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Dave February 27, 2018 at 12:19 am

I also must know, just so I can likely disagree…

But there are two kinds of burgers, methinks – there’s the “classic” burger with greasy patty, pasteurized processed American “cheese food” and the basic veggies. Hodad’s wins this one, though Rocky’s is a contender.

Then there’s the “gourmet” burger – non-standard toppings, possibly other stuff than straight ground chuck in the patty, whatever. I’ll make a strong case here for Raglan, or any of the other names the (shudder) PB-original chain goes by depending on what neighborhood it’s in…

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Bob Edwards February 27, 2018 at 7:50 am

Dave, Disagreements are what will make America great again! I like your description of the two basic burgers, though if you google “taxonomy of burgers” you’ll find there’s a host of experts out there who disagree. Some of them take your theory much further, calling out scads of burger types (pub burger, fast food burger, fast food-type burger, mini-burger, gourmet burger, steak house burger, steamed burger (ugh!), smashed burger, etc. ) The mind spins. So many burgers, so little time.

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Bob Edwards February 27, 2018 at 7:24 am

Hey Dude, The point I was trying to make is that when it comes to art (movies, music, cooking, or whatever) one person’s “best” is not necessarily another’s “best”, so make up your own mind. Look for me to not make any claims about best this or that. I’ll just try to objectively describe my experience until the next one comes along. Thanks for reading the article, Dude.

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Dude February 27, 2018 at 1:32 pm

Objective food reviews… looking forward to more, thanks!

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RB February 27, 2018 at 8:22 am

Great review….I will try.

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Toolpusher March 2, 2018 at 12:44 am

Any serious pizza enthusiast knows Chicago-style is the best; same with hotdogs. Anyone who disagrees is either a New York partisan (i.e. Yankee fan-BOO) or has never had a Chicago-style pizza. Don’t believe me? Try Lefty’s in North Park. And they are only a little better than so-so as far as Chicago-style goes, but, still way-way better than any flimsy greasy New York-style thing they call pizza. Completely agree with the burritos. San Diego (or Southern California in general) has much better burritos. Even Tex-Mex (try Tommy’s) is better than the garbage they serve up north (i.e. Chipotle). Royale looks like a good place. Seems a little pricey. But, will give it a try, might be worth it.

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RB March 2, 2018 at 5:57 am

Lefty’s in Mission Hills is where I get my Chicago fix…. But don’t forget to try their Italian beef sandwiches. Love the Chicago sports decor too.

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Frank Gormlie Frank Gormlie March 2, 2018 at 3:26 pm

RB??? You go to and spend your money at a place called “Lefty’s”?? OMG, dude.

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Peter from South O March 3, 2018 at 7:49 am

Well, THAT certainly is a rabbit hole not worth going down. (snort!)

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Alex Alexander March 6, 2018 at 6:32 am

Raglan is the best burger

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