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Looking for Nashville, finding Common Stock

Lots of flavor on the menu of new Hillcrest restaurant

New business, new look at this familiar Hillcrest restaurant and bar location
New business, new look at this familiar Hillcrest restaurant and bar location

While I’ve been sitting here the past couple years trying to figure out which are my favorite tacos, the rest of the world has apparently become obsessed with Nashville hot chicken. The cayenne-spiced fried chicken has been the subject of food articles, web videos, and radio stories, tasty enough, it would seem, to inspire a cultish media following.

Place

Common Stock

3805 Fifth Ave, San Diego

As far as I’m concerned, the list of things that are awesome in this world includes fried chicken and spicy food, so I’ve been standing by, ready to jump on the bandwagon. When I spotted it on the menu of newish Hillcrest restaurant Common Stock, I abandoned my previous lunch plans and decided, today will be the day I try it.

Common Stock opened in the fall, taking over the space that used to be called Salt and Cleaver. I’m always sorry to see a good sausage maker go away, but judging by the high rate of restaurant turnover on this stretch of Fifth Avenue, this is one of the toughest blocks in town to do business, so I can’t claim surprise.

Common Stock's take on Nashville hot chicken

Brick walls and a large wraparound bar in the center of the room remain, but Common Stock has touched them up with a new color scheme to create a brighter atmosphere. While intentionally casual, there’s an inherent effort to be a little upscale, and I could say the same about the food.

On the left side of the menu, a burger, a few salads, and a fried chicken sandwich hover in the 10-dollar range. Items in the Supper section on the right cost around $20, including a Charleston-style pork filet and prime grade flat iron steak. My hot chicken went for $18: a couple of boneless chicken breasts with crispy fried batter tacky with hot sauce.

Here’s where the cult of Nashville hot chicken fiends could step in to compare it to the real Tennessee thing. I won’t argue the chicken people line up for at Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack, in Nashville, or even Howlin’ Ray's up in L.A., isn’t better, spicier, or more authentic.

However, Common Stock’s thing seems to be doing its own take on classic dishes. Its Caesar salad features Brussels sprouts, for example, and its coleslaw is dressed with buttermilk ranch. So, while topped by pickle slices, this hot chicken wasn’t served on the traditional slice of white bread. In terms of actual poultry, the naturally raised chicken used by Common Stock might have been a tad better quality.

It was far less spicy than I expected, meaning not super hot. However, in terms of seasoning, this chicken was absolutely loaded. Paprika, allspice, and sage added the huge flavor of the nicely fried filets. I was detecting a trend. Turns out buttermilk ranch brings a whole added wallop of flavor to coleslaw. The so-called umami fries offered a lot of seasoning. Rather than truffle oil, Common Stock uses porcini mushroom powder to impart a similar flavor without the accompanying greasiness.

Altogether, the meal gave my taste buds a serious workout, and dumb’s on me for not ordering a local craft beer to wash it down. Fortunately, all the flavor-forward combinations tasted good, and as the enthusiasm at work in this new restaurant’s kitchen develops a defter touch, I look forward to seeing how things go here.

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Stuck between two cuisines

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New business, new look at this familiar Hillcrest restaurant and bar location
New business, new look at this familiar Hillcrest restaurant and bar location

While I’ve been sitting here the past couple years trying to figure out which are my favorite tacos, the rest of the world has apparently become obsessed with Nashville hot chicken. The cayenne-spiced fried chicken has been the subject of food articles, web videos, and radio stories, tasty enough, it would seem, to inspire a cultish media following.

Place

Common Stock

3805 Fifth Ave, San Diego

As far as I’m concerned, the list of things that are awesome in this world includes fried chicken and spicy food, so I’ve been standing by, ready to jump on the bandwagon. When I spotted it on the menu of newish Hillcrest restaurant Common Stock, I abandoned my previous lunch plans and decided, today will be the day I try it.

Common Stock opened in the fall, taking over the space that used to be called Salt and Cleaver. I’m always sorry to see a good sausage maker go away, but judging by the high rate of restaurant turnover on this stretch of Fifth Avenue, this is one of the toughest blocks in town to do business, so I can’t claim surprise.

Common Stock's take on Nashville hot chicken

Brick walls and a large wraparound bar in the center of the room remain, but Common Stock has touched them up with a new color scheme to create a brighter atmosphere. While intentionally casual, there’s an inherent effort to be a little upscale, and I could say the same about the food.

On the left side of the menu, a burger, a few salads, and a fried chicken sandwich hover in the 10-dollar range. Items in the Supper section on the right cost around $20, including a Charleston-style pork filet and prime grade flat iron steak. My hot chicken went for $18: a couple of boneless chicken breasts with crispy fried batter tacky with hot sauce.

Here’s where the cult of Nashville hot chicken fiends could step in to compare it to the real Tennessee thing. I won’t argue the chicken people line up for at Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack, in Nashville, or even Howlin’ Ray's up in L.A., isn’t better, spicier, or more authentic.

However, Common Stock’s thing seems to be doing its own take on classic dishes. Its Caesar salad features Brussels sprouts, for example, and its coleslaw is dressed with buttermilk ranch. So, while topped by pickle slices, this hot chicken wasn’t served on the traditional slice of white bread. In terms of actual poultry, the naturally raised chicken used by Common Stock might have been a tad better quality.

It was far less spicy than I expected, meaning not super hot. However, in terms of seasoning, this chicken was absolutely loaded. Paprika, allspice, and sage added the huge flavor of the nicely fried filets. I was detecting a trend. Turns out buttermilk ranch brings a whole added wallop of flavor to coleslaw. The so-called umami fries offered a lot of seasoning. Rather than truffle oil, Common Stock uses porcini mushroom powder to impart a similar flavor without the accompanying greasiness.

Altogether, the meal gave my taste buds a serious workout, and dumb’s on me for not ordering a local craft beer to wash it down. Fortunately, all the flavor-forward combinations tasted good, and as the enthusiasm at work in this new restaurant’s kitchen develops a defter touch, I look forward to seeing how things go here.

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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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