910 Prospect Street, La Jolla
When I’m in La Jolla, most often to gawk at the seals or check out the latest installation at the Museum of Contemporary Art, my number one go-to spot for lunch is Nine-Ten, located at the historic Grande Colonial Hotel (which first opened in 1913).
The three-course lunch for $24 may cater to busy professionals, but when I find myself exploring La Jolla, I’m never in a hurry. The first thing I do is settle in with a glass of rosé. On my most recent visit, my sister Heather was with me, as we had spent the morning sea-horsing around at the Birch Aquarium.
We both began with a silky soup, which on this particular day was a red-pepper blend with pancetta.
For my main course, I got the Short Rib Panini, and skipped the fries in favor of a simple green salad, mostly because I’d had this sandwich before, and I knew the succulent beef braised in port wine, aged cheddar, and onion marmalade would more than satisfy my craving for richness. Plus, dessert had already been decided the moment we opted for the 3-course lunch. Unfortunately, the salad was not on par with the rest of our meal — it was one-dimensional, just greens and a flavorless vinaigrette. I would have appreciated a tomato, olive, or any other kind of addition.
Heather ordered the same thing David often does — the BBQ Pork Sandwich, a hickory-smoked pulled pork Kansas City-style concoction with crispy onions and poppy seed coleslaw on a housemade bun. I was happy when she deemed there to be too much pork for her bread-to-meat ratio, because I enjoyed the tender, sweet and savory balance of the scraps she shared with me. Oh, and I also might have stolen one or two, or five of those fries.
For dessert, I ordered the Half-Baked Chocolate Cake, which was pleasantly submerged in caramel sauce and topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Sure, some might say molten lava is so 2005, but I think there’s always a place on a dessert menu for a bit of gooey chocolate, whatever the year. And this version, with its hot center, salty caramel, and cold, creamy vanilla, is a lovely incarnation of the classic dish.
My sis ordered a deconstructed cheesecake, with the crust in the form of a cookie on top. It was flavorful for sure, but the cookie ended up being awkward to eat, and we agreed we would have preferred it maybe crumbled on top.
Overall, my lunches at Nine-Ten are always relaxing and pleasurable. And that’s enough to keep me looking for new reasons to day trip in La Jolla.