Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Whole Foods Hillcrest's New 7th Ave Pub

Last week, my friend Carolyn Kates invited me to come by the Whole Foods in Hillcrest, where she works, to learn about the program she created in which local producers make products exclusive to the Hillcrest store. I wrote about that for this week's Local Bounty blog post in San Diego Magazine. After checking out the products, she invited to have lunch with her in the store's new eatery, what they call the 7th Ave Pub--just a short stroll up the ramp to street level at University and 7th.

It's a cozy place with a contemporary feel, perfect for a beer and a burger. In fact, the pub carries 30 beers on draft, and several in bottles and cans--many, like Stone, Coronado Brewing Company, San Diego Brewing Co, Alesmith, and Ballast Point--from local brewers. There's also a small wine line list and some interesting non-alcoholic drinks, like the lemon ginger iced tea I ordered, which was remarkably refreshing.

The menu currently is a work in progress. Indeed, the 7th Ave Pub is a work in progress itself. The day I was there, a dumb waiter was being installed so that food didn't have to be carried up the ramp from the kitchen. Cooking equipment better suited for a restaurant than the market's prepared foods prep was on its way, which will give the cooks more latitude in creating a targeted menu for this particular venue.

Nevertheless, the food was terrific. Carolyn ordered a number of dishes for us.

The first that came up with Anishka's Beet Salad. Okay, I don't eat beets, but the salad was gorgeous and I was delighted that glistening red beets were limited to large slices on the plate, topped by the mix of arugula, grilled corn, and feta cheese--tossed in a tangy cilantro vinaigrette with sriracha sauce. I could enjoy just the salad and it was bright and perfect for that sunny spring afternoon.

Next up came a large serving plate filled with orange balsamic roasted Brussels sprouts, bedded in large red cabbage leaves. I adored these. You could just taste the citrus coming through the perfectly crispy sweet sprouts. But, get this, the Brussels sprouts were paired with a helping of whole grain mustard for dipping. That would never have occurred to me, yet it truly works and is something I'll be doing in the future when I make it myself. Loved this dish!

Then we were hit by a big--really big--burger. This was the University Burger & Fries. And there was the Pesto Tomato Flatbread.

The burger is served on a fluffy Sadie Rose bun. The top bun was laden with lettuce, tomato, a chunky slice of red onion, and what seemed to be a whole avocado, sliced. The bottom bun was invisible, covered by the medium rare whole beef patty (from Homegrown Meats), cheddar cheese, and two mammoth slices of crispy bacon. Decadent enough, but matched by the pile of crispy fries and a little bowl of Kickin' Ketchup (made in Orange County and sold at the store). The slice of pickle? Well, they can do better. Just open up a jar of Bubbies kosher pickles, please.

Okay, image trying to take the top bun and its toppers and flipping it over to create the burger. Then eating it. So delicious yet so fraught with danger. My suggestion? Sliders. Three types: beef, lamb, and pork. Perfect one-handed food for when you're also cradling an ale. And, I hear, they do intend to scale down some of the menu items to make them a little easier to eat. But, this still was a great burger.

The flatbread, also, was terrific. With a flatbread you obviously run the risk of juices above creating  soggy bread. But they know what they're doing here.

Those juicy tomato slices sat on a nest of house-made pesto and somehow their juices didn't leak through to the bread. The whole thing was smothered with mozzarella and parmesan cheeses--so it was a great melding of salty, sweet, aromatic, chewy, and crispy. (It even reheated well the next day when I ate the leftovers.)

The 7th Ave Pub clearly benefits from the variety of food and ingredients available to it from Whole Foods below, so you can also order sushi, a cheese board, tacos, soups, sandwiches, and dessert. There are vegetarian and vegan options for several dishes, too.

As I noted, though, the menu will be changing. That's something I can't wait to check out the next time I'm there.

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