Pomegranate sidewalk seating, a great place for evenings spent in conversation
When I first started going to North Park’s resident Georgian-Russian restaurant, Pomegranate, it took cash only. That eventually changed, but by time the place took credit cards again, I was established in the habit of bringing cash for my orders of beef stroganoff, Cornish hen, and shashlik, a.k.a. Russian barbecue.
2312 El Cajon Boulevard, San Diego
I was also in the habit of bringing a Sharpie. One of the many charms of Pomegranate is the writing on the wall. While the restaurant has shuffled locations within its strip of El Cajon Boulevard, it’s retained a policy of encouraging guests to scrawl messages on its walls. Writing missives to the restaurant and future diners is a hallowed tradition among Pomegranate fans, and reading them helps pass the often long, yet always-worth-it wait for food to come out of the kitchen.
In concession to the realities of a pandemic, diners no longer sit among foodie graffiti, and Pomegranate’s dining rooms sit empty. However, the sidewalk outside fills up pretty quickly, its outdoor seating stretching out to the front of divy Gilly’s Bar next door, which, following a brief June return, appears to be closed once again due to the pandemic.
The writing on the wall at Pomegranate
It’s a comfortable set-up, with flower boxes beside each table, and social distancing affording space for diners to continue practicing the art of conversation over drinks and between courses. In keeping with its food and atmosphere, Pomegranate has always had a way of bring out great discussions. That’s not something a restaurant can plan for or engineer with interior design, it’s just part of a place’s spirit.
That said, there’s something to be said about spending the end of a long weekend, relaxing at home over a comforting plate of stuffed cabbage and cheesy potato dumplings. Like just about every single restaurant you know and love, Pomegranate would struggle to stay open on its limited outdoor dining capacity. It has to supplement that with take-out and, yes, delivery. Pomegranate has officially given in to the third-party delivery system.
A comforting stuffed cabbage, golubtsi
I opted for take-out, but I did use a third party website to place and pay for my order, so I could enjoy a contact-free pick-up. Seeing the place, with its empty rooms and every inch scribbled upon walls definitely hit me with a pang of nostalgia for the age of dining out. That feels like years ago now — hard to believe it’s barely been five months!
Fortunately, fine food is a good treatment for wistfulness. I found solace within the seasoned ground beef within, and the creamy tomato sauce without, my golubtsi (cabbage rolls, $19), and comfort from the caramelized onions atop my vareniki dumplings ($9.50) to the puree of potato and cheese they contained.
Vareniki, potato cheese dumplings, topped with caramelized onions
When indoor dining resumes — or, more likely, when I’m ready to feel safe dining indoors again — I’ll be sure to have cash when I go back to Pomegranate. I’ll for sure bring that sharpie, and will almost certainly write something to the effect of: “Thanks for still being here.”