From Salad to Tacos to Dessert and Tequila, El Agave Puts a Fun Twist on Mexican Food in San Diego
“Mexican food is far more varied than people think. It changes like dialects.” -Gael García Bernal
Let me start off by saying that I’m not afraid to refer to myself as a Mexican food snob, but can you honestly blame me? I spent my childhood in Tijuana eating freshly made tortillas, the best tacos you can possibly find, and some of the freshest seafood around. I was that kid that refused to eat from the kids menu because I just wanted to enjoy all the food that the adults were eating. And to be honest, I don’t recall seeing many kids menus when I lived in Mexico. I was seriously very spoiled living in Tijuana, but living in San Diego means that I can find everything that I want without the need to cross the border (although sometimes my body and mind craves a trip to Tijuana every once in awhile). That being said, I am extremely picky when it comes to eating Mexican food in San Diego (here are six aspects of the best Mexican food) but I just found El Agave Restaurant, a hidden gem tucked away in Old Town that really blew me away.
El Agave Restaurant is open daily from 11:00am-10:00pm, and is basically any tequila lovers dream come true. As soon as you walk in you’re greeted with an incredible array of tequilas. No seriously, you’ll see tequilas everywhere from the walls to the ceilings. There’s over 2000 different tequilas to try out and who knows how many tequila bottles that decorate the entire restaurant. It honestly looks like a museum because it is a tequila museum! You’ll find everything from limited edition bottles commemorating the Mexican National Football Team (because in Mexico we call it football, not soccer), bottles shaped like a cactus, and even some beautiful decorative bottles that look like handpainted Mexican tile.
So what makes this restaurant different from other Mexican restaurants in Old Town? That’s easy, it’s the menu. If you only have a quick 30 minutes for lunch, maybe try a few of these quick delicious restaurants, but if you’re looking for a fun spin on the Mexican food experience made by Mexicans, then El Agave Restaurant is definitely it. El Agave Restaurant claims that you’re in for a unique experience when you come to their restaurant, and I would certainly agree with that. I really enjoyed experiencing familiar ingredients and flavors presented in a very different and exciting way.
To start off we have a salad, simple enough right? No, this isn’t your regular run of the mill salad. The Ensalada del Huerto has baby mixed greens tossed with lightly fried red beets, fresh gold beets, pistachios, figs, cherry tomato, queso de cabra (goat cheese), and a light pomegranate dressing. The salad is absolutely perfect as a starter or as a light lunch option. And you might be thinking, are salads even considered Mexican? Well what if I tell you that the birthplace of the famous Caesar salad is in Tijuana, Mexico and not somewhere in Italy? Not many people know that fact, so you can feel free to quiz your friends about that. This salad contains many ingredients that I grew up eating fresh when I lived in Tijuana such as beets, figs, and pomegranates. The ingredients are distinctly Mexican, but the light pomegranate dressing is something that you don’t see too often in Mexico.
Another case of taking something familiar and turning it into something completely new and exciting is their Taco de Pulpo al Pastor. Tacos al Pastor were created in Central Mexico thanks to the influx of Lebanese immigrants into Mexico. Traditionally the pork is marinated in a combination of dried chiles, spices, and pineapple. The pork is assembled in a very similar manner to shawarma, so it will cook in a vertical rotisserie which is called el trompo (Spanish for whipping top, since it does resembles the toy). Once the pork has been cooked, it is sliced thinly using a large knife and served with chopped onions, cilantro, pineapple, and salsa.
Instead of offering the traditional Tacos al Pastor that many Mexicans know and love, El Agave Restaurant created a new version of it with grilled octopus. If you’ve had octopus before, then you know how tricky it is to cook. Sometimes octopus can come out too chewy or tough, but when I tried it at El Agave, the octopus was cooked to perfection. When done right octopus should taste similar to lobster, which in this case it did. The grilled octopus was marinated in achiote and it’s garnished with pineapple, red onion, beets, and a cilantro pesto. The combinations of flavors and textures is truly remarkable and something that I would highly recommend to you. To make things even better, all the tacos are made in homemade tortillas and I can definitely appreciate a place that makes their own tortillas.
And if you want to end your experience at El Agave Restaurant on a sweet note, then you better save some room for dessert. I grew up eating freshly made buñuelos that my grandma used to make, so I had high expectations for their buñuelos with ice cream and it did not disappoint. If you’re not familiar with Mexican buñuelos, they’re a deep-fried dough that’s covered with cinnamon and sugar. A lot of times it will be paired with piloncillo (sugar cane syrup), but in this case El Agave Restaurant paired the buñuelo with a vanilla bean ice cream. The two compliment each other so well, and it’s another fun take on something that I grew up with.
The last dessert I tried out was the Cajeta Flan which was absolutely divine! Take a traditional Mexican flan and add a dash of Cajeta (a Mexican syrup made out of caramelised goat’s milk) and you get a taste of heaven. It was so rich and smooth, just like caramel but adding the cajeta really made this a different experience.
Next time you’re strolling through Old Town, take a slight detour from the very touristy restaurants and head over to El Agave Restaurant for something completely new and exciting. Their lunch menu is definitely worth checking out and their dinner menu looked equally as amazing. Plus, if you’re into tequila then you’ll really enjoy their extensive menu.
As we would say in Mexico, provecho!
What’s your favorite Mexican dish? Let us know in the comments below!
Great Location and Something for Everyone, Ballast Point is My Favorite Brewery in San Diego
“Not all chemicals are bad. Without chemicals such as hydrogen and oxygen, for example, there would be no way to make water, a vital ingredient in beer.” -Dave Barry
It seems like every day there is a new brewery popping up in San Diego. The craft beer industry is booming here and our palettes are transforming everyday for all the new and amazing beers offered in our fine city. So how do you sort through all these new breweries? Do you favor the ones that have a big beer selection? Or the ones with lots of beer as well as food? How about the ones that are more of a beer and hangout place? A lot of it will depend on who you’re with and what kind of vibe you’re looking for, but I’ve found one that seems to cover a lot of bases. Here are three reasons Ballast Point is my favorite brewery in San Diego:
1. Location.Ballast Point has it all, and it’s right in the heart of Miramar. Miramar is hugely known for being a military base, and the original site of Top Gun (which Topgun the movie was later based off of.) You can regularly hear jets flying in and out of the base and they also have a lot of the aviation vessels on display. Each fall the base hosts the Miramar Air Show. (Check out details here.) Miramar is also in an industrial park area which is home to many businesses. As you can imagine, the area is quite diverse, which brings people from all over the city to this brewery.
2. Flexibility of Attraction. What makes this brewery unique? The fact that everyone wants to visit! You can bring your buddies for a tour (schedule a tour here) and some day drinking. You can bring your girls and hang out by the bar to meet some fellas. You can bring your family. You can meet up with a big group of friends. You can come here for date night. You can bring in your coworkers for a business dinner/meeting. Since it’s so close to base, there may be a whole group of men and women in the military hanging out and having a beer. This place is really special in that its vast property is able to accommodate indoor and outdoor seating for all different vibes from a big group dynamic, to the bar scene, and even a romantic ambiance. My friend toured Ballast Point a week ago and was surprised how much effort really goes into creating this product that everyone loves so much. On the tour they take you back behind the scenes to see the machines, processes, and hear a bit of the history behind the brewery. She said it was completely worth the tour, and may book a client party/tour there soon.
3. Options. I love how many options you get from this brewery. They make beers of all kinds from IPA’s, to Porters, to Lagers, to Ales, to seasonal brews and so much more. (Check out this page if you’re confused about all of the different kinds of beer.) This Miramar location of Ballast Point is the brewery’s main production facility. They offer quite a variety, so whether you’re a beer novice or a true craft lover, they’ll have something that’s just right for you. They also offer tasters, which is perfect for being non committal, haha! Or until you find the beer that’s just right for you! The servers there are a great source of information about the beers and can help steer you in the right direction. The food is delicious. During my multiple visits, I’ve had several flatbreads, the pretzels, fish tacos, and many more menu items. By far, my favorite has been the Smoked Salmon Flatbread. Smoked salmon and potatoes with fresh lemon and dill, you just can’t go wrong! They seem to have a rotating menu, so new good food is always popping up on their menu. The options here are truly endless.
Whether you’re stopping by for a drink with coworkers after work, looking to play some cornhole with the guys, or simply wanting to get cozy around the fire pit with your date, I’m sure you’ll have a great time at Ballast Point! Have you visited already?! What was your favorite beer? I would love to know!
Dolce at the Highlands Serves Delicious Cuisine, Great Wine and Artisan Cheeses
“There’s nothing more romantic than Italian food.” – Elisha Cuthbert
Dolce at the Highlands is a new “farm-to-table seasonal California/Italian” restaurant located within 5 minutes of any home in Pacific Highlands Ranch, a community in Carmel Valley, San Diego. Even though it on everyone’s “favorite” list around our neighborhood, I’m sure people come from all over San Diego to experience the atmosphere and cuisine! My family and I have been going to Dolce Pane & Vino in Rancho Santa Fe (their original restaurant) for the last two years, and we have loved every single visit. That restaurant was about 15 minutes from our home in “The Ranch” but now we are delighted to have this sister restaurant just two minutes from our new home! We stop in for lunch, drinks and dinner often, and each time it is a completely delightful experience! To make a reservation, call (858) 847-2740. Here are three great reasons to head on over to Dolce at the Highlands today:
Perfectly Close Location
Dolce at the Highlands is most definitely the new neighborhood hot spot for Pacific Highlands Ranch community members in my opinion. It is located just off Highway 56 and Carmel Valley Road in the Village at Pacific Highlands Ranch shopping center. This center, which includes Trader Joe’s and Starbucks, is a mixed use retail and lifestyle center that includes some terrific restaurants, Baked Bear (my son’s favorite store) and many cute boutique shops. This plaza also includes Crunch Fitness, which is always packed full of active people getting in a quick workout. The Village is a perfect place to come after work, or on the weekend with the kids, and Dolce at the Highlands is a great spot for a delicious meal. It is always busy with business men and women, casual girls nights out, family parties, and more! This California-Italian restaurant is a favorite place to eat of mine on week day or weekend evenings. It’s just so close to everything. Home, work, even the sea lions in La Jolla, you name it, it’s probably less than 20 minutes away from Dolce! Like I mentioned earlier, if you live in Rancho Santa Fe, you’re probably thinking it’s a bit too far, but always keep in mind that their sister restaurant, Dolce Pane & Vino is located on San Dieguito Road, and it’s as close as the nearest grocery store now a days. Both restaurants are incredible, and if you haven’t been there, I highly recommend trying one (or both) of them next time you’re looking for a place to eat nearby.
Quick, Delicious Bites
I cannot say enough about the food here at this restaurant! The dinner items such as the pizzas and pastas are to die for. (And moms-they have a kids menu, don’t fret!) My favorite dinner menu item is the House Made Black Pepper Pappardelle pasta. It is made with mascarpone cream, english peas and pea greens, prosciutto, and an egg on top! When you cut the egg open it drizzles down into the pasta dish and creates something out of this world. The dishes “from the sea” as I call them since I don’t eat too much of them, are very fresh and tasty, my fiancé says. The plating is precise and professional each and every time and the starters so good they could be eaten all by themselves! Definitely try the Heirloom Tomato salad, it is my absolute favorite thing on the appetizer menu, and it’s a full meal when paired with the daily soup! The bar menu here at Dolce at the Highlands includes everything you could possibly enjoy, not to mention they have a world-class wine list with over 200 selections, so you can always find a great bottle to pair with your meal. (Even the chicken wings at the bar with a margarita is a good combo, trust me!) All in all, the food here is high quality and the service is wonderful.
In a rush? Have no fear, “Dolce On The Go” is here! The formaggeria attached to the restaurant is open daily at 11:00am and has housemade pasta sauces, pesto sauces, sandwiches and other specialty food ready to grab and go! Next time you’re thinking of going to the corner store to grab a quick sandwich, head here instead! You won’t regret it. They also have a large selection of Artisan cheeses and imported salamis and prosciutto. The aroma of the formaggeria is delightful and makes you want to come back time after time to every cheese they have!
So let’s recap. Dolce at the Highlands is a convenient restaurant that serves delicious food and wine, and also has specialty foods to go! If you’re looking for somewhere to meet a client for a drink or quick lunch, look no further! They are open from 11am until 10pm and the bar is open until midnight. The signature cocktails are fun and fruity and I love the atmosphere of the entire restaurant. The flatbread pizzas are off the charts, and the Heirloom Tomato salad is by far one of my most favorite dishes! Is Dolce already one of your favorite restaurants? What is your favorite menu item?!
San Diego Sky Tours Provides Aerial Tours and Flight Adventures Above America’s Finest City
“To invent an airplane is nothing. To build one is something. But to fly is everything.” -Otto Lilienthal
San Diego Sky Tours provides a unique look to all there is to offer here in this incredible city. From slow relaxed flights to dog-fighting mid-air, San Diego Sky Tours offers fun for the whole family! Phil Kendro met me (and my 8 year old son) at Montgomery Field to talk about what his company does. Take a look at the video and then I’ll go over some highlights!:
Whether you’re in town for just the day and want to take in the whole city in 30 minutes, or you’re a local who wants to learn acrobatics in the sky, this company can provide you excitement! Phil Kendro has been flying since he was 17 years old, and is a 20 year veteran of the United States Marine Corps, where he flew the AV-8B Harrier II aircraft and was a Beechcraft T-34 flight instructor. He flew Cessna Citations here in San Diego along with another San Diego Sky Tours instructor. He has always loved aviation, and has found so much fun and entertainment in what he’s doing now, providing flying tours of San Diego and “sky combat” for thrill-seeking San Diegans.
Anyone from 10-100 years old is welcome aboard the 1970’s Great Lakes 2-T Biplane, seen behind me in the video. (There is also a six-passenger Cessna if you’d like to be fully enclosed.) As long as you can reach all of the controls, and understand the risks involved, you’re able to fly in the sky with the only FAA approved scenic formation flying tour company.
Flying tours of San Diego can be scheduled anytime throughout the week, and also on the weekend. Peak tour days are usually Friday-Sunday. You can book a tour on their website.
If you’re looking for a very mild ride, San Diego Sky Tours has a few options. Their most popular is the Socal Classic Tour, where they usually head out of Montgomery Field, pass over Lindberg Airport, fly down the bay, see Petco Park, Coronado (check out all of the fun things there are to do there on the ground), and fly past Point Loma, Mission Beach, the Mt. Soledad Memorial, and even more exciting spots! While you’re viewing these incredible places from the sky, your military trained tour guide will explain to you exactly what you’re seeing and ask how you’re doing. The sightseeing tours usually last 30-45 minutes, but you can order up a longer flight around town if you’d like. Those who enjoy a slow plane ride will like this option, as you get to see San Diego’s points of interest from a view you’ve probably never seen before! You can also reserve a champagne sunset tour, where you’ll fly over the skyline around the time the sun dips into the horizon. San Diego sunsets are some of the best in the world! They also provide whale watching tours, and air combat.
If you like to take a walk on the wild side, San Diego Sky Tours can handle this request with ease. Strap into the open cockpit, and make sure to bring a buddy with you. The two of you can dog-fight in the sky! Find out what it is like to experience a military battle while taking in the beauty of San Diego. With the Air Combat tours, Phil and his team will take you through a briefing to make sure you’re not doing anything too crazy, and that you can take on the mission. Once you accept the mission, you receive flight gear (and GoPros if you’d like!) and set out to “take down” your rival. The combat tours usually last 50-55 minutes, and are a ton of fun for those looking for a thrill.
Fun in the Sun
Overall, San Diego Sky Tours provides something here in town that no one else does, and if you’re up for a ride in the sky, it’s totally worth booking flying tours of San Diego for you and your friends! If you’re looking for something in the middle of the mild and wild, they do offer aerobatic flights where you can do some spins and flips, while feeling in control, and not having to worry about your target mission. This is an activity you can do with friends or family, so don’t miss out! The action and adventure is waiting, book a tour on their website this week. Have you ridden in a Biplane before? Let us know what you thought!!
Parc Bistro-Brasserie is San Diego’s newest eatery featuring French cuisine paired with coastal favorites in a fine dining atmosphere. Parc is located on 2760 Fifth St. in Banker’s Hill, San Diego, just minutes from Balboa Park and close to downtown. Dogs are welcome on their outdoor patio and they are currently open from 11:30am (10:30am on Saturdays and Sundays) until 10:00pm for brunch, lunch, happy hour, dinner, and private events. Parc is also participating in San Diego Restaurant Week this year, so make sure to stop by between September 25th and October 2nd! Watch this highlight video to find out more about Parc and what it provides the community from marketing director Anna McAlister.
Here are some key points to remember:
As soon as you step into Parc Bistro-Brasserie, you are captivated by the beautiful French decor and elegant touches. The brightly-colored bar lures you in with ease. The happy hour menu looks incredible and the small bites seem to fit San Diego well. Enjoy crispy potato gruyere cakes or mini croque monsieurs while chatting with your co-workers or clients. (See the full menu here.) Anna insists that if you come in for happy hour, you should meet the bartender Dusty. She is “feisty, but sweet” and will be sure to brighten your day. Heading to the bar at Parc is easy to do on a leisure afternoon for locals and visitors alike. The location makes it a breeze to stop by for an easy in-and-out meal on your lunch break or a bite to eat after work!
The private event space in the back of the restaurant is the perfect spot to hold your client appreciation party or personal birthday celebration. Whether it’s 20 or 90 people, head chef Donald Lockhart can not only handle it, he can deliver delicious bites for everyone in the party to enjoy. What an incredible highlight of this restaurant!
Chef Donald took us in the back for a VIP tour of the kitchen, and we noticed that one of the things he loves to do is innovate. He loves making new desserts, along with savory dishes for the restaurant to try. He is always open to adjusting his menu based on what customer’s are saying, but overall he feels that the French cuisine that Parc delivers is something that Banker’s Hill feels a bit empty without. To host an event, or for details on availability, services, and pricing, please contact Anna McAlister at email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
With gourmet dishes such as Duck Confit and Coq au Vin, Parc delights diners night after night. Owner Garo Minassian has opened several award-winning restaurants, but we think Parc really provides a special touch that San Diego’s dining environment has been in need of. Since the opening of the restaurant just a few weeks ago, locals and visitors have traveled from all areas of the city to taste the new dishes that are being sent out of this unique kitchen. After tasting the food here, we can see why!
Next time you’re up for trying a new restaurant, make sure to stop by Parc Bistro-Brasserie for a drink or dinner, and let us know how much you enjoyed it! We’d love to hear from you!
“Pizza makes me think that anything is possible.” -Henry Rollins
Pregnancy cravings are the real deal and when they hit it’s like the ONLY thing that consumes your mind until you taste whatever deliciousness you’re so intensely desiring. For me I don’t have too many weird ones like the peanut butter and pickle sandwiches or dirt from the garden. I have heard some women have these, how strange! But there have been a couple that just can’t pass without complete and utter glutton satisfaction! One of these flare ups is the cheesey – goey pizza from Filippi’s Pizza Grotto. This Southern California chain of Italian pizzas & eats has 14 locations ranging from Imperial Beach & Chula Vista all the way up to Norco & Temecula.
Filippi’s Pizza Grotto originally opened as a Cash & Carry back in 1950 in San Diego by a young married couple; Vincent originally from Italy & Madeleine originally from France. The couple migrated to America back in the 1920’s & this successful chain of family restaurants they started is still owned and run by family members across the southern most part of California.
My personal favorite location is mere minutes from my home in Mission Valley (The Mission Gorge restaurant). I recently met a girlfriend there for lunch and ordered my usual personal pan pizza with pepperonis and black olives. I usual get a large pizza for pick up but as we were dining in I got to enjoy their awesome lunch special – a personal pan pizza & salad for only $6.99 !
So what make’s Filippi’s Pizza Grotto pizza a cut above the rest? The thick deep dish crust to start, the fresh tomato sauce gives it a fresh flavor and the copious amounts of CHEEEEEEEESE is for sure what seals the deal of absolute pizza domination! Each time I have guests over who request pizza as a dinner treat I know exactly where to order from 🙂 But if pizza isn’t your favorite Italian dish you can enjoy a great variety of pasta dishes, sub sandwiches or salads. Although they do not deliver you are welcome to order in and pick up & for larger functions they do offer catering.
Other great options for pizza places in San Diego can be found all over. Some popular choices are Napoleone Pizza House in National City which is known for it’s classic Neapolitan – style pizza pies or Buona Forchetta in South Park which has an adorable outdoor patio and is also known for their wood fire oven bakes Neapolitan pizzas. If you’re located more north you can check out Blue Ribbon Pizzeria, a one of a kind menu by a four start chef who dedicated his craft to the art of pizza. Or pop into The Besta-Wan Pizza House which has been around nearly 50 years and is popular with surfers & locals alike! Both Blue Ribbon & Besta-Wan are in Encinitas.
And of course we can’t talk about pizza places without telling you the spot to hit up if you’re in the infamous “Little Italy” located downtown beautiful San Diego… Isola Pizza Bar where famous Italian chef Massimo Tenino creates magic with Neapolitan pies in his brick oven. So many options you simply cannot go wrong in this city when it comes to pizza! Have you been to Filippi’s Pizza Grotto? Tell us your experience!
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