Matthew Lickona 7 a.m., April 24
Truluck’s, just off the I-5 at La Jolla Village Drive, routinely tops various local polls for service, seafood, wine list and happy hour specials. Part of a Texas-based chain, and located at the Hyatt Regency at Aventine, it’s popular with expense account wielding road warriors and well-to-do tourists. It’s way above my budget, unless I can get a deal.
Although Truluck’s specialty is crab and lobster, you won’t be given a bib to wear. Dark and clubby, the Stone Crab Lounge area maximizes space with a long, beautifully lit marble divider, where we had a perfect view of people chowing down on gigantic market price king crab legs and stone crab claws in the dining room.
On our side of the tracks, however, there were half price cocktails, half price off the lounge menu, and 25% off all bottles of wine from 4:30 to 7:00pm daily and all night Sunday. That deal goes for any drink, not just those listed on the menu.
My usual cocktail is a martini, a real one, with gin, vermouth and olives, and there’s not much to talk about with that one. I decided to try the La Jolla Voodoo, Bombay Sapphire with muddled blackberries, ginger, lime and a splash of soda. I liked it more than I was expecting, it was strong, tart and refreshing. John got a Pinot Noir from Aquinas that was a step up from the usual house Pinot, very black cherry up front with a bit of oak.
The food menu had several promising choices, but we settled on Baja Ceviche, Crab Cake Sliders, Blue Cheese Potato Chips, Mini Bacon Cheeseburgers and a couple of cupcakes, Carrot Cake and Chocolate Malt (which we ended up taking home).
There was the minor problem with the taking of photos. It’s dark enough in Truluck’s to require a flash, but it felt really intrusive to take fifteen food pictures. I only took one of all the food and drinks, sans cupcakes, and hoped for the best.
I enjoyed everything in front of me. The ceviche was fresh and light, diced shrimp and fish, crisp cucumber and onion, tart lime, sweet mango, and a bit of creamy smooth avocado. The chips were a big, messy, satisfying calorie bomb – house made potato chips, showered with bacon chunks, blue cheese dressing and crumbles, scallions, and a healthy shot of siracha. There were nice lumps of blue crab backfin meat in the crabcake sliders, and just enough mayo to bind it together between a pillowy little roll. The fat mini burgers were seared outside and just medium rare inside, melty cheddar and a thick piece of bacon on top.
Cupcakes for breakfast are just fine by me, especially with an espresso. The carrot cake had appropriate moistness, topped by good cream cheese frosting and bits of praline, but the chocolate malt was even better, a strong malty flavor came through in the frosting, and the cake was tender, rich and a bit gooey. They might have been better right when they were served, but they were still mighty fine.
A few of things to keep in mind: it gets crowded, and there’s no good waiting area for bar tables, the live music is a bit odd (although the guy was great on “Me and Mrs. Jones”), and if you use the self park option, get your ticket validated at the restaurant (good for up to three hours when you order food).
Truluck’s is located at 8990 University Center Lane San Diego, CA 92122.