Banker's Hill Bar and Restaurant

>> Sunday, December 9, 2012

Date of Dining: 11/25/2012
Price: $10-13 appetizers, $15-20 entrees
Location: 2202 4th Ave, San Diego, CA 92101

The Quick Bit:

+ high quality local food at more reasonable prices
+ good portion size
+ among the best desserts I've had at any restaurant
Δ it was difficult to carry a conversation due to the acoustics
Δ unnaturally dark room

About three years ago, James Beard finalist Chef Carl Shroeder opened Banker's Hill Bar and Restaurant to expand his culinary empire out of Del Mar. The concept of the restaurant was that it should serve as an everyday neighborhood restaurant where people can go to enjoy some drinks and get some good food at affordable prices. I actually visited Banker's Hill about a month into its opening and enjoyed the food, but thought the portions were too small to follow up the "affordable prices."
Within the ensuing three years, Chef Shroeder was a finalist for the James Beard Award and has made some changes as owner of  Banker's Hill while still remaining head chef of Market Restaurant and Bar. Chef Ted Smith heads the kitchen of Banker's Hill. Prior to Banker's Hill, Chef Smith served under Chef Shroeder at Market. Meanwhile, at Banker's Hill, Chef Smith has carried out Shroeder's culinary vision.
The #5
As Banker's Hill also serves as a local watering hole, it is vital that the drinks are good. The #5 was a spin off of a mojito infused with cucumber. I really enjoyed the freshness from the drink and it served as an excellent palate cleanser in between courses. I did feel that the cocktails were a bit expensive as they seemed to retain the Del Mar pricing.

First Course:

coriander spiced albacore tuna tartare - sesame seed crackers, serrano chili vinaigrette, lemon aioli
The quality of the albacore was top notch, and the quality of the fish really shone through in this dish. The serrano vinaigrette was had a nice touch of heat to really liven the dish. The sesame crackers worked out really well as they contributed a hit of umami to unify the flavors within the dish. While I did enjoy the coriander, I did feel that it was a bit strong for a more delicate fish such as albacore. However, it did not take away from the overall enjoyment of the dish.
roasted beet salad - citrus vinaigrette, shaved fennel, marcona almonds, caprasan goat cheese
The beet salad was extremely refreshing and extremely satisfying. The beets were cooked to perfection, while the almonds added a crunch, the goat cheese added a savory flavor, and the fennel brought in much needed freshness. The entire dish was extremely well rounded and enjoyable in every way. While it was "just" a beet salad, this particular salad was executed to perfection.


bone in pork chop - brussels sprouts, sweet potato, homemade apple sauce, maitake mushrooms
For the entree, we decided to share the pork chop; we were lucky we made this decision as the chop was enormous. While the pork was cooked a little more than I like (we weren't asked about temperature), it still retained a a nice moisture. The pork itself was really well cooked, and the combination of pork and mushrooms was extremely satisfying as it had a great umami flavor. I also enjoyed the sweet potatoes to go with the pork. Unfortunately, the apple sauce and brussels sprouts did not work as well - the apple sauce was a little too sweet and overwhelmed the pork (this is usually why you need to cook the apples with the pork), while the brussels sprouts were too salty. Fortunately these elements were easy to separate and the dish was saved.


seasonal fruit crostata - pear crostata, ice cream
For dessert, we enjoyed the seasonal fruit crostata made of pears. The crostata was baked fresh and was extremely enjoyable. Further, the ice cream was of top quality and the hot and cold contrast of the hot tart to the ice cream made for a satisfying conclusion to the meal. For a mere $7, this dessert was a real home run in price to deliciousness ratio.


Chef Carl Shroeder excels at executing his dishes to perfection. For a neighborhood restaurant such as Market, this is the perfect formula to success. Since my previous visit, the portion sizes have increased dramatically to justify the prices and serve as an every day stop. I was extremely happy with the mostly well-executed food, and would recommend Banker's Hill to anyone looking for a casual low-key, but delicious meal. While the prices are still a bit beyond "every day" they are reasonable for the quality of food that is served.
For executing the vision of the restaurant so well, Banker's Hill Bar and Restaurant gets a megabyte award.


Slater's 50/50 (San Diego)

>> Sunday, December 2, 2012

Date of Dining: 12/1/2012
Price: $5 per appetizer, $9-18 per burger
Location: 2750 Dewey Rd, San Diego, CA 92106

The Quick Bit

+ selection of over 100 beers
+ comfortable relaxed atmosphere
+ responsive and high quality service
Δ some technical execution issues
Δ no reservations accepted, so wait times up to 2 hours on busy nights

After opening in Orange County in 2009, Slater's 50-50 has quickly expanded its Southern California empire to San Diego. Slater's 50-50 burger containing 50 percent beef and 50 percent bacon was named Orange County's best burger of 2010 by OC Weekly, which gave the restaurant momentum to open in San Diego. The accolades have continued to pour in from San Diego, being named Best Burger 2012 by San Diego Magazine and Fox 5 News. 
Slater's 50/50 was founded by owner Scott Slater and Executive Chef Brad Lyons - both alums of San Diego State University. Although they started Slater's in Orange County, the location in San Diego was inevitable as each desired to return to their hometown. Chef Lyons started in the culinary industry at the age of 16 and trained at Le Cordon Bleu in Los Angeles. The 50/50 burger was his creation.


pick 2 - beer battered onion rings, sweet potato fries
The appetizers contain a standard assortment of 6 appetizers that can be ordered alone or combined into a larger plate. We settled with just two of the fried items. To spice up the selections, special sauces are included with the order; we received a bacon ketchup and a pumpkin sauce. I found the pumpkin sauce to go well with both fried selections, but especially liked the combination with the onion rings because the added sweetness enhanced the onions to be similar to vidalia onions. I also liked the combination of the sweet potato fries with the bacon ketchup as the savory bacon flavor in the ketchup complemented the natural sweetness of the sweet potato.
Also included with each table was a condiment tray that had an interesting item:
Although named as bacon salt, I felt that there wasn't too much bacon in the salt. There was enough to add a little bit of flavor, but the color likely included some smoked paprika in the mix.


When one orders a burger that is not off the standard menu, there is a paper menu to make several selections such as size of patty, type of bun, and toppings. (This process is very similar to The Counter) At the end of the burger design process, one is asked to name their burger creation.
When the burger is brought to the table, they contain a knife stabbed through the center as pictured below
2/3 lb beef (med rare), honey wheat bun, cucumber, tomato, grilled onions, swiss, green peppers,
fried egg, baconnaise
Unfortunately the first burger I ordered medium rare suffered from some execution issues:
"medium rare" burger
I thought this was closer to a high medium as most of the pink was gone (and all the juices were gone).
real medium rare burger
After a quick refire, I got the burger juicy just as I expected. While the patty was not grass fed, I felt that there was some nice beef flavors in the mix as I didn't think it had ever been frozen. I enjoyed the over easy egg yolk that ran in to mix with the beef juices as well.
2/3 lb 50/50 burger (medium), alfalfa sprouts, mixed greens, smoked gouda, tomato, corn and black beans
We also tried a 50/50 burger whose lowest cooking temperature was medium
"medium" 50/50 burger
While this burger seemed cooked to medium well, we weren't sure if the 50/50 burger was supposed to have any color so we didn't send it back. The burger did have a distinct bacon flavor throughout the patty, but we weren't necessarily sure that it was a good thing. After sampling the medium rare patty versus the 50/50, most of us preferred the juiciness of the beef patty. The 50/50 burger was surprisingly low on fat, which was really missed.


With San Diego's appetite for all varieties of burgers, Slater's 50/50 fits right at home. Slater's adds some innovative ideas such as the 50/50 burger as well as special "burgers of the month" that utilize the Le Cordon Bleu training of Chef Brad Lyons. Perhaps the best quality of Slater's is its diverse selection of over 100 craft beers. While Slater's 50/50 may not have the best burger in San Diego by my opinion, it was certainly a fun and enjoyable experience despite the one hour wait for seating.


About This Blog

gastro bits is a blog that juxtaposes the geeky with the foodie; it is an attempt to be educational about food, yet entertaining at the same time.
None of the reviews are meant to dissuade you from trying anything by yourself, but simply to provide information for you to make a more informed choice.
If any special treatment is provided to the blogger, full disclosure is presented at the beginning of the post.

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