Quantcast
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

Behind the $15 lunch

North Park's Encontro serves steak from Cardiff

Cardiff Crack Sando, with marinated tri-tip, and a side of potato chips
Cardiff Crack Sando, with marinated tri-tip, and a side of potato chips

I’ve gotten used to paying 15 dollars for lunch. I remember days that would seem outlandish, but these days I’m unfazed by $15, when that charge includes tax and tip. That’s usually for a sandwich and a side, whether it’s a burger and fries or fried chicken sandwich with a side salad. But lately, I’m seeing that $15 number appear on menus, meaning the actual cost of lunch veers closer to $18. Consider me fazed.

Place

Encontro North Park

3001 University Avenue, San Diego

There are obvious culprits. Rising real estate costs. Rising cost of goods. A raised minimum wage that applies to all employees regardless whether they receive tips. Some restaurants stage a protest of this last one, by adding a service surcharge to each bill, so that customers know just how pissed off the restaurateur is about the rising costs of doing business in California.

On a busy corner in North Park

I’m not convinced that’s the best way to impress customers, but I suppose the alternative is the $15 sandwich and potatoes.

That 15 bucks may be enough to chase away customers, which is a shame when it comes to a place like Encontro North Park. When the place opened nearly three years ago, I was impressed by its beer list, less so by its food. I was served basic ingredients, with so-so presentation, and was tempted to write the place off.

But Encontro has a marvelous location, on the southeast corner of the neighborhood hub, University and 30th Street. It’s got outward-facing counter seating so you may choose to sit and watch North Park street life, and again, the beer list was solid. So I’ve gone back a few times, and I’m glad I did. The food has gotten better.

And most of its sandwiches don’t cost $15 — yet. They mostly go for $13 or $14. But the menu’s featured sandwich, the best I’ve tried so far, at least justifies the cost. The Cardiff Crack Sando gets its name from the Burgundy-pepper-marinated tri-tip at Cardiff-by-the-Sea mainstay, Seaside Market. Encontro is the only other place to serve this Cardiff Crack tri-tip.

Dressed with goat cheese, pickled red onions, and oven-roasted tomatoes, there’s loads of flavor squeezed between the two halves of ciabatta roll, but it’s the beef that makes it a winner. It’s served standard with house-made potato chips, and their fresh crispiness made me glad I didn’t upgrade to French fries for an extra buck (or truffle fries for two).

It’s not huge, and a $15 chicken sandwich of this size might have irked me, but factoring in its prime location, it’s tough for me to gripe about this much for a steak sandwich in North Park. I’m sure others will disagree; I remember when $8 lunch was a luxury, and I’m sure there are plenty among us who can recall paying five bucks prior to tip. All the more reason to vote in every election.

That said, I balked at ordering a pint of beer for eight dollars. That's just untenable, Encontro. We beer drinkers have got to draw the line somewhere!

Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all

Previous article

Ma’s House Chinese Halal: genuine Uyghur food

“Muslim people love lamb, and always with cumin.”
Cardiff Crack Sando, with marinated tri-tip, and a side of potato chips
Cardiff Crack Sando, with marinated tri-tip, and a side of potato chips

I’ve gotten used to paying 15 dollars for lunch. I remember days that would seem outlandish, but these days I’m unfazed by $15, when that charge includes tax and tip. That’s usually for a sandwich and a side, whether it’s a burger and fries or fried chicken sandwich with a side salad. But lately, I’m seeing that $15 number appear on menus, meaning the actual cost of lunch veers closer to $18. Consider me fazed.

Place

Encontro North Park

3001 University Avenue, San Diego

There are obvious culprits. Rising real estate costs. Rising cost of goods. A raised minimum wage that applies to all employees regardless whether they receive tips. Some restaurants stage a protest of this last one, by adding a service surcharge to each bill, so that customers know just how pissed off the restaurateur is about the rising costs of doing business in California.

On a busy corner in North Park

I’m not convinced that’s the best way to impress customers, but I suppose the alternative is the $15 sandwich and potatoes.

That 15 bucks may be enough to chase away customers, which is a shame when it comes to a place like Encontro North Park. When the place opened nearly three years ago, I was impressed by its beer list, less so by its food. I was served basic ingredients, with so-so presentation, and was tempted to write the place off.

But Encontro has a marvelous location, on the southeast corner of the neighborhood hub, University and 30th Street. It’s got outward-facing counter seating so you may choose to sit and watch North Park street life, and again, the beer list was solid. So I’ve gone back a few times, and I’m glad I did. The food has gotten better.

And most of its sandwiches don’t cost $15 — yet. They mostly go for $13 or $14. But the menu’s featured sandwich, the best I’ve tried so far, at least justifies the cost. The Cardiff Crack Sando gets its name from the Burgundy-pepper-marinated tri-tip at Cardiff-by-the-Sea mainstay, Seaside Market. Encontro is the only other place to serve this Cardiff Crack tri-tip.

Dressed with goat cheese, pickled red onions, and oven-roasted tomatoes, there’s loads of flavor squeezed between the two halves of ciabatta roll, but it’s the beef that makes it a winner. It’s served standard with house-made potato chips, and their fresh crispiness made me glad I didn’t upgrade to French fries for an extra buck (or truffle fries for two).

It’s not huge, and a $15 chicken sandwich of this size might have irked me, but factoring in its prime location, it’s tough for me to gripe about this much for a steak sandwich in North Park. I’m sure others will disagree; I remember when $8 lunch was a luxury, and I’m sure there are plenty among us who can recall paying five bucks prior to tip. All the more reason to vote in every election.

That said, I balked at ordering a pint of beer for eight dollars. That's just untenable, Encontro. We beer drinkers have got to draw the line somewhere!

Sponsored
Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all
Previous article

Korean War survivors, Hotel Del expels Prince Edward, Spanish Civil War vets, escape from Vietnam, tortured by Japanese

San Diego as vortex of world events
Next Article

Mainly Mozart does drive-up at Del Mar Fairgrounds

Fiddle music, Billy Joel, and Purcell trumpet sonata
Comments
0

Be the first to leave a comment.

Sign in to comment

Sign in

Art Reviews — W.S. Di Piero's eye on exhibits Ask a Hipster — Advice you didn't know you needed Best Buys — San Diego shopping Big Screen — Movie commentary Blurt — Music's inside track Booze News — San Diego spirits City Lights — News and politics Classical Music — Immortal beauty Classifieds — Free and easy Cover Stories — Front-page features Excerpts — Literary and spiritual excerpts Famous Former Neighbors — Next-door celebs Feast! — Food & drink reviews Feature Stories — Local news & stories From the Archives — Spotlight on the past Golden Dreams — Talk of the town Here's the Deal — Chad Deal's watering holes Just Announced — The scoop on shows Letters — Our inbox [email protected] — Local movie buffs share favorites Movie Reviews — Our critics' picks and pans Musician Interviews — Up close with local artists Neighborhood News from Stringers — Hyperlocal news News Ticker — News & politics Obermeyer — San Diego politics illustrated Of Note — Concert picks Out & About — What's Happening Overheard in San Diego — Eavesdropping illustrated Poetry — The old and the new Pour Over — Grab a cup Reader Travel — Travel section built by travelers Reading — The hunt for intellectuals Roam-O-Rama — SoCal's best hiking/biking trails San Diego Beer — Inside San Diego suds SD on the QT — Almost factual news Set 'em Up Joe — Bartenders' drink recipes Sheep and Goats — Places of worship Special Issues — The best of Sports — Athletics without gush Street Style — San Diego streets have style Suit Up — Fashion tips for dudes Theater Reviews — Local productions Theater antireviews — Narrow your search Tin Fork — Silver spoon alternative Under the Radar — Matt Potter's undercover work Unforgettable — Long-ago San Diego Unreal Estate — San Diego's priciest pads Waterfront — All things ocean Your Week — Daily event picks
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
Close