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Dobson’s puts its soup in a song

“Come try our mussel bisque/ It’s our signature dish.”

Finishing touch: Pouring the sherry into the hot mussel bisque.
Finishing touch: Pouring the sherry into the hot mussel bisque.
Video:

TIN FORK: Dobson's Bar and Restaurant


It’s not often that a restaurant commissions a song in honor of itself. But Marcos Luciano, the Mexico City-born restaurateur who took over Dobson’s Bar and Restaurant from the man himself, Paul Dobson, decided the place’s 40th anniversary was an event worthy of a musical celebration. He played it for me during a recent happy hour visit: Come try our mussel bisque/It’s our signature dish/Over one million sold/It’ll touch you right down to your soul…At Dobson’s, we treat you just like gold.

Place

Dobson's

956 Broadway Circle, San Diego


A little cute, but it grows on you. Just like Dobson’s. It’s old-world but cool. No, wait — warm. Everything about the place is warm. This one Yelper I’m checking out, Ron W., nails it: “a two-story Shotgun Shack that has been Frenchified.” On the button, Ron! The space, long and narrow and divided by stairs, is “totally tricked out in Bistro Chic,” Ron writes, adding that it “looks more like a bistro than any bistro on Boulevard St. Germain in Paris.” It has the carved wood bar, the subway-tiled floor, the textured walls, and, well, the bistro feeling that Paul Dobson brought back with him from his time in France and Spain.

Marcos Luciano, owner of Dobson’s

It was 1983, and Dobson was determined to create a simpatico businessman’s lunch joint in the food desert that was Downtown. To provide something that this town’s political, business, and chattering classes sorely needed: a place to sit down and, well, chat. “You may notice,” says Marcos, “we have no TVs. This is a talking bar. So when you come here, you get a nice drink, and...you talk! You talk to people. And that’s what it’s all about. There’s not that many restaurants in downtown where you do that.” You also eat. Some might even argue that the real treasure Paul Dobson brought back from his bullfighting stints around Europe was recipes.

I meet up with Marcos the way you do at this place, simply because he’s nursing a drink where the bar J-tails to the right. He’s the owner now, but as he says, “it’s still the same” as when Dobson owned it. “It’s still Paul Dobson’s mussel bisque, Mediterranean mussels. We’re still with our beautiful menu. We’re very famous for the mussel bisque. As popular as always. The sourdough bread is still the same. Everything is the same.” And it looks like everybody wants it to stay that way: a kind of Movers and Shakers Central that neither moves nor shakes with the times. Not that it’s sleepy, mind you. Many’s the Friday I have come in and found the place rockin’ with way-articulate policy wonks, lubricated by likker, going at it over who said what that afternoon, or arguing some piece of legislation like this was the Supreme Court — if you were allowed to drink in the Supreme Court.

Diana with her French Onion Soup. Just to prove it’s not all about mussel bisque.

“As you can see,” says Marcos, “there are a lot of plaques on the walls, with the names of all the politicians you can imagine, from councilmembers to mayor.” I spot a plaque signed by Mayor Todd Gloria that starts, “Whereas Paul Dobson is a Distinguished Restaurateur…”

“But is it true,” I ask Marcos, “that you have sold over a million of those mussel bisques over the years? Really?”

“Really.”

So cool for So Cal. I’m part of that million. I’ve also had the steamed Mediterranean mussels, which I love basically because they come swimming in that deee-lish coconut curry, garlic, and white wine sauce. Here at the bar during happy hour (4-7pm), they’re $18, about the top price for HH. And of course, have to have snails. Escargots a la Bourguignonne, which I also love, go for $14. But hey hey! That million-seller mussel bisque en croute, with lobster and shrimp in puff pastry, is yours for just $10. And of course, that includes the long gloop of sherry they pour into the hole they make in the top of the croute when they bring it to the table. (The name “bisque”? Might come from “bis-cuit = twice-cooked.” Or maybe — jury’s still out — it refers to mussels from the famously stormy Bay of Biscay. “Croute”? Think “crust.”)

Actually, Happy Hour has quite a rich posse of not-quite-cheap, but still attractive dishes: Dobson’s Bar Room Burger on Brioche goes for $14; Brie en croute with dried fruits and roasted beet salad is $16; fish and chips, $15; honey sriracha chicken wings, $10; pizza, $14; octopus tostada, $16. Not the cheapest. But when I think about it, prices are zooming skywards in every restaurant in town, so maybe these are reasonable after all.

Sponsored
Sponsored

Paul Dobson was a bullfighter when he wasn’t a restaurateur. One of his art pieces.

But here’s the tricky bit: I’ve had to pop down to Kiwiland, so I call my friend Diana for state-side tasting assistance. “Lady Di! Feel like sampling some mussels in coconut curry at Dobson’s? I need someone to tell me if they are up to scratch. Can you help me out?”

Silence. Then: “If I can bring a visitor from Singapore,” she says. “Denis. International business. Very sophisticated foodie. Has eaten all over the world. Can you handle that? In town tonight. Have to entertain.” Meaning, is Dobson’s up to the challenge?

“Perfect!” I say. “Bring him on!”

Singapore visitor Denis Tse approves of his mussel bisque en croute.

Three hours later, my phone vibrates in my pocket. “Look at your messages!” Diana shouts down the line. “I’m taking video.” And now there’s a pic of this guy Denis, chomping into his mussel bisque’s feathery golden crust. For a moment he says nothing, and then he breaks out a big smile across his face “Very delicious!” he says into the phone.

“As good as Singapore?” asks Diana.

“As good,” he says.

“Rare praise,” says Diana. “But what’s that music?”

Marcos must have put the Dobson’s song back on behind her. It comes right through. Come try our mussel bisque/It’s our signature dish/Over one million sold/It’ll touch you right down to your soul… 

The Place: Dobson’s Bar and Restaurant, 956 Broadway Circle, downtown, 619-231-6771

Hours: 11.30am-3pm daily (lunch); 4pm-9.30pm Dinner; happy hour, 4-7pm, Monday to Saturday; Closed Sunday

Happy Hour Prices: Mediterranean mussels in coconut curry, garlic, white wine sauce, $18; escargots a la Bourguignonne, $14; mussel bisque en croute (with lobster, shrimp, puff pastry, cream sherry, $10; Dobson’s Bar Room Burger on Brioche, $14; Brie en croute with dried fruits and roasted beet salad, $16; fish and chips, $15; honey sriracha chicken wings, $10; bar pizza, $14; octopus tostada, $16

Buses: All downtown

Nearest Bus Stop: 3rd and Broadway

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Finishing touch: Pouring the sherry into the hot mussel bisque.
Finishing touch: Pouring the sherry into the hot mussel bisque.
Video:

TIN FORK: Dobson's Bar and Restaurant


It’s not often that a restaurant commissions a song in honor of itself. But Marcos Luciano, the Mexico City-born restaurateur who took over Dobson’s Bar and Restaurant from the man himself, Paul Dobson, decided the place’s 40th anniversary was an event worthy of a musical celebration. He played it for me during a recent happy hour visit: Come try our mussel bisque/It’s our signature dish/Over one million sold/It’ll touch you right down to your soul…At Dobson’s, we treat you just like gold.

Place

Dobson's

956 Broadway Circle, San Diego


A little cute, but it grows on you. Just like Dobson’s. It’s old-world but cool. No, wait — warm. Everything about the place is warm. This one Yelper I’m checking out, Ron W., nails it: “a two-story Shotgun Shack that has been Frenchified.” On the button, Ron! The space, long and narrow and divided by stairs, is “totally tricked out in Bistro Chic,” Ron writes, adding that it “looks more like a bistro than any bistro on Boulevard St. Germain in Paris.” It has the carved wood bar, the subway-tiled floor, the textured walls, and, well, the bistro feeling that Paul Dobson brought back with him from his time in France and Spain.

Marcos Luciano, owner of Dobson’s

It was 1983, and Dobson was determined to create a simpatico businessman’s lunch joint in the food desert that was Downtown. To provide something that this town’s political, business, and chattering classes sorely needed: a place to sit down and, well, chat. “You may notice,” says Marcos, “we have no TVs. This is a talking bar. So when you come here, you get a nice drink, and...you talk! You talk to people. And that’s what it’s all about. There’s not that many restaurants in downtown where you do that.” You also eat. Some might even argue that the real treasure Paul Dobson brought back from his bullfighting stints around Europe was recipes.

I meet up with Marcos the way you do at this place, simply because he’s nursing a drink where the bar J-tails to the right. He’s the owner now, but as he says, “it’s still the same” as when Dobson owned it. “It’s still Paul Dobson’s mussel bisque, Mediterranean mussels. We’re still with our beautiful menu. We’re very famous for the mussel bisque. As popular as always. The sourdough bread is still the same. Everything is the same.” And it looks like everybody wants it to stay that way: a kind of Movers and Shakers Central that neither moves nor shakes with the times. Not that it’s sleepy, mind you. Many’s the Friday I have come in and found the place rockin’ with way-articulate policy wonks, lubricated by likker, going at it over who said what that afternoon, or arguing some piece of legislation like this was the Supreme Court — if you were allowed to drink in the Supreme Court.

Diana with her French Onion Soup. Just to prove it’s not all about mussel bisque.

“As you can see,” says Marcos, “there are a lot of plaques on the walls, with the names of all the politicians you can imagine, from councilmembers to mayor.” I spot a plaque signed by Mayor Todd Gloria that starts, “Whereas Paul Dobson is a Distinguished Restaurateur…”

“But is it true,” I ask Marcos, “that you have sold over a million of those mussel bisques over the years? Really?”

“Really.”

So cool for So Cal. I’m part of that million. I’ve also had the steamed Mediterranean mussels, which I love basically because they come swimming in that deee-lish coconut curry, garlic, and white wine sauce. Here at the bar during happy hour (4-7pm), they’re $18, about the top price for HH. And of course, have to have snails. Escargots a la Bourguignonne, which I also love, go for $14. But hey hey! That million-seller mussel bisque en croute, with lobster and shrimp in puff pastry, is yours for just $10. And of course, that includes the long gloop of sherry they pour into the hole they make in the top of the croute when they bring it to the table. (The name “bisque”? Might come from “bis-cuit = twice-cooked.” Or maybe — jury’s still out — it refers to mussels from the famously stormy Bay of Biscay. “Croute”? Think “crust.”)

Actually, Happy Hour has quite a rich posse of not-quite-cheap, but still attractive dishes: Dobson’s Bar Room Burger on Brioche goes for $14; Brie en croute with dried fruits and roasted beet salad is $16; fish and chips, $15; honey sriracha chicken wings, $10; pizza, $14; octopus tostada, $16. Not the cheapest. But when I think about it, prices are zooming skywards in every restaurant in town, so maybe these are reasonable after all.

Sponsored
Sponsored

Paul Dobson was a bullfighter when he wasn’t a restaurateur. One of his art pieces.

But here’s the tricky bit: I’ve had to pop down to Kiwiland, so I call my friend Diana for state-side tasting assistance. “Lady Di! Feel like sampling some mussels in coconut curry at Dobson’s? I need someone to tell me if they are up to scratch. Can you help me out?”

Silence. Then: “If I can bring a visitor from Singapore,” she says. “Denis. International business. Very sophisticated foodie. Has eaten all over the world. Can you handle that? In town tonight. Have to entertain.” Meaning, is Dobson’s up to the challenge?

“Perfect!” I say. “Bring him on!”

Singapore visitor Denis Tse approves of his mussel bisque en croute.

Three hours later, my phone vibrates in my pocket. “Look at your messages!” Diana shouts down the line. “I’m taking video.” And now there’s a pic of this guy Denis, chomping into his mussel bisque’s feathery golden crust. For a moment he says nothing, and then he breaks out a big smile across his face “Very delicious!” he says into the phone.

“As good as Singapore?” asks Diana.

“As good,” he says.

“Rare praise,” says Diana. “But what’s that music?”

Marcos must have put the Dobson’s song back on behind her. It comes right through. Come try our mussel bisque/It’s our signature dish/Over one million sold/It’ll touch you right down to your soul… 

The Place: Dobson’s Bar and Restaurant, 956 Broadway Circle, downtown, 619-231-6771

Hours: 11.30am-3pm daily (lunch); 4pm-9.30pm Dinner; happy hour, 4-7pm, Monday to Saturday; Closed Sunday

Happy Hour Prices: Mediterranean mussels in coconut curry, garlic, white wine sauce, $18; escargots a la Bourguignonne, $14; mussel bisque en croute (with lobster, shrimp, puff pastry, cream sherry, $10; Dobson’s Bar Room Burger on Brioche, $14; Brie en croute with dried fruits and roasted beet salad, $16; fish and chips, $15; honey sriracha chicken wings, $10; bar pizza, $14; octopus tostada, $16

Buses: All downtown

Nearest Bus Stop: 3rd and Broadway

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