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Location is not the problem

Too much flavor at Garlic Shack

One bite was enough.
One bite was enough.
Place

Garlic Shack

549 25th Street, San Diego

There used to be a place called Urban Chicken here that focused on naturally raised rotisserie hens served with a couple of nice sauces. Pretty good, but it didn’t last long. After it closed something called Sonny’s BBQ moved in and worried more about its Yelp rating than the product. Gone fast.

For a while now the corner restaurant at 25th and Market has been called Garlic Shack. Part of the fast-casual trend it seems. They serve a combo of noodle soups, hot sandwiches, burgers, and sausages, often with smoked meats and/or Korean influence. And even as I write that, all of those things sound good. I never go a week without eating at least one of those things. But I’m starting to think that corner location is cursed.

The corner location gives it visibility, but that hasn’t worked out for anyone yet.

The tough decision on my first visit: Korean beef sandwich or one of the steamed burgers? I haven’t come across many steamed burgers in my life, and these hormone-free Kobe style patties tempted me. But the sandwich is served cheesesteak style with melted provolone over smoked beef, so I tried that.

Or, half of that. The smoke flavor got buried under too much sweetness, so despite the best efforts of the Serrano peppers and spicy pickles, I stopped eating after the first half.

I avoided the place for a little while. But I got to thinking, That was just one sandwich. The burgers probably wouldn’t taste overly sweet. And the ramen noodle soup made with beef-bone broth couldn’t miss, right?

It missed. The smoked-beef chunks were overcooked into a tough chew. The noodles had the zig-zag wave of instant ramen. And the broth had a pungent tang I associate with organ meats, compounded by heavy garlic and heavy smoke. Kind of like taking a sip out of a liquid-smoke bottle.

By the second bite it was too much, and I put down my chopsticks. I let it sit and wondered what went wrong. Large scribbled messages on the casual restaurant’s walls say things such as “Garlic proven 100 times more effective than antibiotics.” So maybe these are medicinal recipes?

I took another bite, thinking I could maybe sneak up on the heavy-handed flavor profile and appreciate it better. But I could not. I gave it another few tastes, but like that sandwich I left it far from finished.

I see more people in Garlic Shack than at either of its predecessors, so perhaps it’s poised to break the curse. It’s got a unique craft beer taplist and looks like a nice alternative to taco shops for Sherman Heights. And maybe those burgers are steamed to perfection. But I won’t be ordering another meal at this location.

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One bite was enough.
One bite was enough.
Place

Garlic Shack

549 25th Street, San Diego

There used to be a place called Urban Chicken here that focused on naturally raised rotisserie hens served with a couple of nice sauces. Pretty good, but it didn’t last long. After it closed something called Sonny’s BBQ moved in and worried more about its Yelp rating than the product. Gone fast.

For a while now the corner restaurant at 25th and Market has been called Garlic Shack. Part of the fast-casual trend it seems. They serve a combo of noodle soups, hot sandwiches, burgers, and sausages, often with smoked meats and/or Korean influence. And even as I write that, all of those things sound good. I never go a week without eating at least one of those things. But I’m starting to think that corner location is cursed.

The corner location gives it visibility, but that hasn’t worked out for anyone yet.

The tough decision on my first visit: Korean beef sandwich or one of the steamed burgers? I haven’t come across many steamed burgers in my life, and these hormone-free Kobe style patties tempted me. But the sandwich is served cheesesteak style with melted provolone over smoked beef, so I tried that.

Or, half of that. The smoke flavor got buried under too much sweetness, so despite the best efforts of the Serrano peppers and spicy pickles, I stopped eating after the first half.

I avoided the place for a little while. But I got to thinking, That was just one sandwich. The burgers probably wouldn’t taste overly sweet. And the ramen noodle soup made with beef-bone broth couldn’t miss, right?

It missed. The smoked-beef chunks were overcooked into a tough chew. The noodles had the zig-zag wave of instant ramen. And the broth had a pungent tang I associate with organ meats, compounded by heavy garlic and heavy smoke. Kind of like taking a sip out of a liquid-smoke bottle.

By the second bite it was too much, and I put down my chopsticks. I let it sit and wondered what went wrong. Large scribbled messages on the casual restaurant’s walls say things such as “Garlic proven 100 times more effective than antibiotics.” So maybe these are medicinal recipes?

I took another bite, thinking I could maybe sneak up on the heavy-handed flavor profile and appreciate it better. But I could not. I gave it another few tastes, but like that sandwich I left it far from finished.

I see more people in Garlic Shack than at either of its predecessors, so perhaps it’s poised to break the curse. It’s got a unique craft beer taplist and looks like a nice alternative to taco shops for Sherman Heights. And maybe those burgers are steamed to perfection. But I won’t be ordering another meal at this location.

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Comments
5

Why so many shacks?

Carnitas Snack Shack

Crack Shack

Garlic Shack

Radio Shack

May 3, 2016

Carnitas Snack Shack has good reason to use the name, as it's a tiny kitchen (formerly a walk-up taco place).

May 3, 2016

After Urban Chicken it was Sherman's Shack. Another shack.

May 3, 2016

That's right! All within the past 5 years. Sherman's may have been the quickest to fold. I tried to eat there but it was always closed when I showed up.

May 4, 2016

There's also Joe's Crab Shack.

May 4, 2016

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4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
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