You’re paying for the view
I’m crazily tempted. Me, eating at the Del? Idea has “disaster” written all over it. Except they’ve just opened their completely revamped sun deck. Plus I have two beautiful women with me, expecting me to play the bon vivant. What’s a feller to do?
1500 Orange Avenue, San Diego
We jump up the stairs to the deck that overlooks the Pacific. New glass breeze protectors surround you. We collapse into way-large chairs, and a sofa around a fire pit. Very cool. A new island bar sparkles at the southern end.
Tina’s a classy, half-French American who used to go to a school for girls in Paris. (Hey! Just like Madeline, the fictional kids’ heroine!)
We look down. Feels like we’re floating over the beach below. Kids, dogs, families, diving pelicans, even a capsized yacht wallowing bottom-up in the waters off the beach. Ocean’s luminous blue. Sun’s at its last orange moment behind Point Loma.
“I’m thinking margarita,” says Annie.
My California mezze plate: whipped goat cheese, lemon hummus, falafel add flavors.
“Ooh yes,” says Tina. “Look. They have an 1888 margarita pitcher. Only $48.”
What? I swallow hard. But before I can say anything, the server, Brett, is scribbling down “1888.”
“Why 1888?” asks Annie.
“That was when the hotel was built,” Brett says. “And for you, sir?”
“Uh, beer. Stone Delicious.”
Even that’s eleven bucks. But after the margarita, it feels cheap at the price.
The Sun Deck menu is broken down into starters, salads, and bowls, “handhelds” such as burgers, then entrees and desserts. Prices? From $15, for Farmers Market Greens, to $29 for a steak. Heck, even a plate of roasted cauliflower goes for $18.
Things look a little rosier once the ladies start taking merry glugs from their pitcherload of margarita, and I take a long cool slurp of Stone Delicious. I decide what the heck. Just go with the flow. Starve next week! Starters are mostly around $20. And they do look delicious. The seared tuna tostada has sliced blackened tuna, aioli, vinaigrette, seaweed, salmon roe, and crunchy tortilla. Costs $21. Shrimp and avocado is pretty much that plus tomatoes and peas, for $22. The California mezze plate is basically raw veggies, hummus, goat cheese, falafel, pita bread ($22). So far, it all looks fine, but I don’t see nuttin’ that’s gonna grab your taste buds and yell wake up!
At least the ladies ain’t touching the three entrees (flat iron steak, $29, grilled catch of the day, $26, chicken breast, $25). Or handhelds like the Del Double Cheeseburger ($24).
Brett pours some of the $48 margarita pitcherload.
But now I look, the prices aren’t all that different from, say, the starters or salads.
“I’m thinking octopus,” says Annie. I see the “charred octopus” has fennel, that anise-flavored herb that they use in absinthe.
“This is Spanish-style,” says Brett, “with Spanish chorizo.”
“Och, aye!” says Annie.
“Is the noodle bowl spicy?” asks Tina.
“A little bit,” Brett says. “Soba — buckwheat — noodles, but nothing to worry about.”
“I can take any you don’t want,” I say to Tina.
“Ignore him!” says Annie
So Tina goes for that.
Me, I’m just looking for quantity.
“Gimme the California mezze plate,” I say. We’re talking veggies, hummus, whipped goat cheese, falafel. Dip city!
Brett heads off. And I get instant buyer’s regret. The burger! It’s only two bucks more than the mezze. Or Farmers Market Greens: They’re $7 cheaper at $15 for a lot of the same raw veggies.
Still, right now, the sun is saying his farewell behind Tina, and when Brett brings it all, the dishes are bathed in a golden light that makes everything look like a million bucks. My mezze veggies and pita bread are great for dipping in the whipped goat cheese, the creamy green spinach falafel, and specially the nicely tart edamame lemon hummus. Also nice touch: orange-juice-soaked olives.
Tina says her chicken thigh and soba noodles are fine, but forgettable. I offer to help her out again. She starts hauling her plate towards herself.
“Och, leave her food alone!” says Annie.
Best in class - charred octopus. Chorizo kicks it into first place.
Anna Pavlova dessert. Ropes of lemony meringue, holding strawbs, $15.
“Alright,” I say. “Yours, on the other hand, no guarantees.” Because even though her octopus sends that burned, slightly fishy flavor up your nostrils, when she mixes it with the magic of the fennel purée, and with the chorizo chunks in sherry vinaigrette, the savory aromas waft straight to your soul. And the curved rows of seared suckers make it look uber-sexy.
“Look at those suckers!” I say enviously.
“There’s one born every day,” says Annie.
“If I can help,” I say. She ignores me for ten minutes, and then slides the plate across. I take one taste and... oh Mama. Umami! I’d forgotten about Spanish chorizo. Not ground spiced pork a la Mexicana, but long-cured hard sausage chopped into chunks. Really. What a flavor combo!
With the strings of lights turning on, and the sky turning purple, gotta admit, this is the spot to be.
I’m just getting dreamy with it all when Brett drops the check. Ayeee! I stifle a yelp with my fist. Talking $131.46. Plus thirty-buck tip, $161.46. I search for good news in all this. I mean, take out the mega-margarita and we’re talking say forty bucks each. Not so-oo bad. Ok. Bad, but I still have this insane desire to come back anyway, just to enjoy one whole plate of that chorizo octopus for myself.
Brett says the new sun deck is still a work in progress. “We have two more restaurants to launch up here,” he says. “But this soft opening helps us work out the kinks. Like the social distancing thing.”
We get up to leave.
“That was great!” says Tina. She and Annie waltz off arm in arm. “Let’s do this again! Hey, maybe lose the hungry friend next time?”
- The Place: Sun Deck at the Hotel Del, 1500 Orange Avenue, Coronado, 1.800.HOTEL.DEL
- Hours: 11:30am-7:30pm, daily; till 8:30pm Friday, Saturday
- Prices: Farmers Market Greens, $15; flat iron steak, $29; fire-roasted cauliflower, $18; seared tuna tostada (with seaweed, salmon roe, crunchy tortilla), $21; shrimp and avocado, $22; California mezze plate (with hummus, goat cheese, spinach falafel, pita bread), $22; grilled catch of the day, $26; chicken breast, $25; Del Double Cheeseburger, fries, $24; whipped blood orange cheesecake, $13
- Buses: 901, 904
- Nearest Bus Stops: Orange Avenue and Churchill Place (southbound); Orange Avenue at Adella Avenue (northbound)