June 17, 2007

Taste of Gaslamp [San Diego]

Taste of Gaslamp is an marketing stunt that allows restaurants in the Gaslamp to showcase their foods and drinks for your dining entertainment. The two-day food extravaganza takes place in early summer and features 25+ restaurants on each of the days. The idea is to get you on your feet to explore what each of the restaurants have to offer in terms of cuisine, ambiance, and service. I have been to a few Taste ofs and can gurantee you that the Gaslamp District's is one of the best. Tickets are only $25 and sell out in advance online, so make sure to get your's early!

In the span of 3.5 hours, you are expected not only to walk the 3x9 block area, but to also eat 25 lunches, visit the beer garden for mojitos and brews, stand in line at the more popular restaurants, and take your restroom breaks in between. It's a prety gargantuan task, but we managed to hit 19 of the 29 spots on our map.

The restaurants really go all out to make your experience worth while, though some are better than others. The owners treat the event as if there's something at stake and if a restaurant can get that excited over serving you glorified buffet-style foods, at least you know that their hearts are in it. There are some other restaurants that actually go the extra mile and deliver smaller portions straight from the kitchen.

Some of the restaurant offerings were very sophisticated and exceeded our expectations. Crab mac&cheese, shrimp cocktails, lamb chops with beet salad, upside down pineapple cake, and melon salad with rock shrimp were among some of the more interesting things we tried.

More than anything else, you really get a feel for the restaurants' personalities, both in the decor and in the staff members. We liked the roof-top cabanas at ultrahip Stingaree, the lobster tank claw game at Rockin' Baja Lobster, the earthy pod-seating at Austrailian Bondi, the nose-ring wearing Easter Island statue at Mister Tiki, and the political cartoons at Palm.

From left to right: Rockin' Baja Lobster, Chive, Chianti Restaurant

From left to right: Stingaree, Mister Tiki, Bondi

Our favorite of the bunch was Dussini's with its duck empanadas and lobster mac&cheese. They also had a $1 blaco Sangria that had a nice prosecco in it for the warm day. Although I tend to steer away from megalithic commercial buildings, the three-story Dussini's was very functional. I could definitely see myself on the top-floor lounge shooting some pool and throwing back sangrias after dinner.

It was a perfect day and though we spent four hours in traffic, I have now visited 60% of the Gaslamp Districts restaurants and bars and can now come armed with an agenda the next time I hit up San Diego.

PS. If you ever see this woman and she tries to tell you that the line starts on the other side of the tent, ignore her ulterior motives and stand firm. I hope she gets what's coming to her.

Taste of Gaslamp
Annually in early summer
Gaslamp District, San Diego

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