Quite a filling meal...
  • Quite a filling meal...
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Grant Grill

326 Broadway, Downtown San Diego

I swear. If I see the word "curated" one more time I'm gonna scream. "Curated," "hand-crafted" "flights" of booze, food, you name it... the hand-ringing pretentiousness has swept like a virus through the menus of da world.

This time I'm sitting at the bar of the Grant Grill, here among the massive columns and wood-paneled walls and the baby grand pianos of the U.S. Grant Hotel, reading the "hand-written" menu about the history of the famous watering hole.

Lobby next to Grant Grill

Lobby next to Grant Grill

"Through this journal we present what is the latest chapter in a curated experience that spans over ten decades."

Uh, curated experience?

I'm hoping they'll curate some deals I can afford here. Even the appetizers ("small plates") go from like $14 to $18. (Okay, they have one at $8. Truffle fries.) Because this is the land of expense-account Johnnies. On my right I've got a bunch of doctors at a convention on heart health and weight loss, by the sound of it. And on my left, a clutch of reps from eHarmony.

Free nuts start the night

Free nuts start the night

But the good news is yes. They do have a happy hour (Sundays to Thursdays, 4:00 to 7:00 p.m.). And it's on now. Deal is half price on each of the six small-plate items.

They have fried calamari ($14), charcuterie plate ($18), Niman Ranch beef sliders ($18), crispy duck egg ($14), grilled flatbread with chicken and goat cheese ($14), and the eight-buck truffle fries.

So right now, cut all those prices in half. Good deal. Sliders are the kind of obvious ones. But...what was that about "crispy duck egg"? Bruce, the very suave barman, says not that many people choose this one. "It's a pity, because it has carnaroli rice, charred onions, pancetta and bouillon. So it's tasty. And when you get it, you break open the egg and its yolk oozes over everything. It's quite a performance."

Crispy duck egg

Crispy duck egg

Huh. And all that for $7.50, happy hour price.

'Course I have to get him to remind me what'd a heck "pancetta" is — Italian bacon, turns out — but then I decide to go for it.

And boy, it's a heckuva dish. Bruce brings it, and yes, looks a Iittle small, like a crater lake that's shrunk down into the crater.

But turns out there's plenty. The crispy duck egg sits on this creamy moat that's bobbing with raisins and pancetta, and when you puncture it, golden lava oozes out all over. So cool, and so-o tasty.

But the kicker comes when I ask if they have any bread to help mop everything up. The gal from the kitchen says it could take a couple of minutes, but when she returns she has this magnificent round focaccia bread in its own metal pan. The bread's cut into six steaming hot wedges, and it comes with a nice big chunk of unsalted butter. "We bake it every morning," she says.

And it's free, but you have to ask for it.

Bottom line: now we're talking a pretty decent, belly-bulging meal. All for $7.50.

And at the mighty Grant Grill, where this town's power brokers go to make deals.

Okay, I didn't make a deal, but I sure got one.

Yes, I paid another $6 for a Green Flash Double Stout. But I waddle outta here fat and happy.

Back to nuts and twigs tomorrow. Perhaps they'll have a curated flight of hand-crafted salads at lunchtime.

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