The surfing art on the walls is by San Diego artist Jesse Miller.
4614 Mission Boulevard, San Diego
Whew. Walking, walking... North up Mission Boulevard. I’m in P.B. Looking for breakfast, dammit.
Okay, so it’s lunchtime. Need a place that doesn’t cut off at 11:00 a.m.
I come up on this guy in a black T-shirt, standing in a doorway, taking five. A big sign’s painted on the window beside him: “Sweet & Savory Café. Ridiculously tasty sandwiches and salads.”
The guy’s name is Michael, and this is his place.
On the red-and-yellow-striped awning, I see two magic words: “Breakfast.” “Lunch.”
“Still doing breakfast?” I ask.
Sweet & Savory’s owner/chef Michael Karijanian
“All day,” Michael says.
There’s something familiar…oh, wait.
“Didn’t this used to be Belgian Frie, with the double-fried fries and the 15 sauces and the cone cups in metal holders?” I ask.
“Yes, until two and a half years ago,” he says. “That’s when I moved in.”
Lord. Has it been that long? But now that I look more closely, someone’s definitely hit the refresh button and wielded a paint brush. Inside, the left wall is red, the rest of the place mostly white. Varnished skirting boards, new tile floor, padded-seat wicker chairs. It’s bright, fresh, and there’s some good surf art on the walls by a lifeguard/artist named Jesse Miller. “No Woman, No Cry” is playing on the sound system, and a HyBike hybrid electric bike leans against one wall. A scrawled sign warns: “Reserved Parking for Sweet & Savory’s delivery bike. That’s right!!! Delivery!!!”
A minute later, I’m sitting at a table near a bunch of gals. They’re talking excitedly about settling into a new apartment in PB. I say hi as they get up to leave — close quarters here. Then I figure I may as well ask what they had.
“The Brie,” says a gal named Caroline. “You’ve gotta have it.”
“The Thanksgiving,” says Chelsea, who’s right behind her. “Cranberry. It was beautiful.”
I check the menu hung behind the counter. The Brie’s a turkey sandwich with Granny Smith apple slices, brie cheese, and cranberry sauce. Goes for $7. The Thanksgiving is also turkey, but with veggie stuffing, mixed greens, muenster cheese, and cranberry, $6.50.
Mmm…both sound original, and tasty. But the next sandwich really catches my eye.
The “Tri-Tip” sandwich, with coffee-rubbed tri tip and smoked gouda cheese, $7
“The Tri-Tip. Coffee [and] spice-rubbed tri-tip topped with juicy roma tomatoes, mixed greens, smoked gouda cheese, and our roasted garlic mayo, $7.”
Coffee-and-spice-rubbed beef? That’s new. Want to try that…but, breakfast! That’s why I’m here, right?
The Grayce is two eggs, two bacon or sausage, and toast for $4.50. The Alle is three eggs, three bacon or sausage, and “our famous breakfast potatoes.” That costs $7.
Then there’s the Mikey: two eggs, two pancakes, and some of that coffee-and-spice-rubbed tri tip, also $7.
Under “omelets,” the Point Loma has linguiça sausage (to honor the Point Loma Portuguese fishing community, I bet — linguiça’s a Portuguese sausage), red onion, spinach, and manchego cheese for $6.50.
In a way I wish I’d had that — for one thing, the sausage sounds interesting —but in the end, I go for the P.B., ’cause it promises those chunks of coffee-rubbed tri-tip, plus bacon “and our three-cheese blend.” And breakfast potatoes. Seven bucks.
Except…they have pancakes. I’d kill for a pancake with some nice maple syrup.
Michael, behind the counter now, takes pity. Agrees to give me half potatoes, half pancake. What a gent.
But you know what? Even though I enjoy the omelet, bulging like a seine net with stuff tucked inside, it’s the taties that are the tastiest. Really herby.
“Cumin, thyme, salt, and pepper. That’s all I put on ’em,” Michael says.
My breakfast — an omelet with chunks of coffee-rubbed tri tip, bacon, three cheeses, potatoes,
and a pancake ($7)
In the end, I have to do my favorite thing: mix those potatoes in with the pancake syrup.
Now that I think about it, that’s the name of the place, right? Sweet & Savory.
“My grandmother’s Armenian,” Michael says. “She puts lots of fruit and nuts into dishes.”
I ask who Grayce and Alle and Mikey are — from the breakfast dishes.
“Oh, Mikey’s me, Alle is my wife, and Grayce is our daughter,” Michael says. “Grayce was born soon after we took over this place. She had her playpen right here. She’s grown up in this place. Everybody knows her.”
He says he and Alle both went to the Art Institute culinary school in Mission Valley. “Alle graduated. I left after a semester.”
Instead, he found a cheap spot in Clairemont and started a catering business. Still runs it. While we’re talking, he tosses a dozen slices of dipped bread onto the hot plate to make french toast. “It’s going to be stuffed with citrus-and-herb-encrusted salmon, for a party tonight.”
Michael says he’s always experimenting. “I played around with rubbing the tri-tip with spices and coffee grounds. Dry rub, instead of marinating. I thought it was pretty interesting. So we tried it as a special. People kept asking for it. Now it’s our most popular sandwich.”
The breakfast was good, but I want to try the tri-tip in sandwich form. I decide to get one to split with Carla. Just before he wraps it, Michael sticks a chocolate-chip cookie on top. “I always pack a little surprise,” he says.
And really, the best part of the meal is sharing this sandwich with the lovely Carla.
At first, it just tastes like, well, beef. But then Carla shakes a bit of salt and pepper and — bingo! — it wakes up the whole coffee taste. Delish.
“Tender?” says Carla. “That meat melts!” She’s right. “Coffee?” she asks, as we finish up.
“Uh, thanks,” I say, “but I do believe I’m coffee’d out.” ■
The Place: Sweet & Savory Cafe, 4614 Mission Boulevard, Pacific Beach, 858-490-9140
Type of Food: Breakfast/lunch, sandwiches/salads
Prices: The Grayce breakfast (two eggs, two bacon or sausage, toast), $4.50; The Alle, three eggs, three bacon or sausage, breakfast potatoes, $7; The Mikey: two eggs, two pancakes, tri tip, $7; Point Loma omelet (with linguiça sausage, spinach, manchego cheese), $6.50; The Brie (turkey sandwich with Granny Smith apples, brie cheese, cranberry sauce), $7; The Tri-Tip, with coffee-and-spice-rubbed tri-tip, smoked gouda cheese, $7
Hours: 8.00 a.m.–3:00 p.m. daily
Nearest Bus Stop: Mission Boulevard at Felspar