It's quite easy to fall into a routine, going back to those places that have proven to be "tried and true" or convenient. This year, I'm trying to make it a point to revisit some of those places that had kind of slipped from my mind for one reason or another. Here are two places that I last visited in....are you ready? 2006......man, I've put a whole lot of miles on the odometer since then. What were you doing in 2006?
Da Nang Food to Go:
It's easy for this place to just kind of slip your mind. Located in a teeny spot next to a 7-11 and a jewelry store on El Cajon Boulevard, it's one of those blink and you'll be past it kind of places. Add to that the fact that there now only seem to be five parking stalls(down from 7) now available.......
The place looks just about the same as our visit back in 2006. Same wood siding, same tables, same chairs.....
Menu prices seem to have gone up about a buck....not bad really.
The food is based on Central Vietnamese specialities; Bun Bo Hue, Banh Beo, Banh Bot Loc, that kind of thing. Feeling kind of hungry I started with some Banh Bot Loc ($4); which I thought were pretty good all those years ago.
These were huge by Banh Bot Loc standards and the tapioca flour based wrappers were way too gummy for my taste. There was a nice piece of shrimp inside, but these dumplings were just too much wrapper.
Of course I had to try the Bun Bo Hue ($5.95), which arrived appropriately steaming hot.
Strange, but I noticed that the usual pork hock was MIA in this bowl. The noodles were pleasantly slippery and firm, and the herbs, sprouts, and vegetables were fresh, though it was mostly bean sprouts, lettuce, and cabbage.
The soup seemed a bit odd to me; it was very sweet and lacking in spice. The thick cut meats were in attendance, but there was nary a piece of tendon to be found...... I wonder if they "gringo-ized" this? I still enjoyed the Gio Lua here, the nice peppery flavor and meatyness makes it one of my favorite versions.
I do want to try other items on the menu, if I can remember to return. Funny thing, I mentioned this place to MrQ.....even though he grew up near by, he hadn't a clue this place existed. Da Nang Food to Go is funny in that way I guess.
Da Nang Food to Go (aka Quan an Da Nang)
4745 El Cajon Blvd
San Diego, CA 92115
Pho Viet Cali:
*** Pho Viet Cali has closed
Here's another place that I visited back in 2006. I really didn't care for the Pho, but I was on the West side of Mira Mesa Boulevard, so I thought why not?
Pho Viet Cali has remained in my memory because it was the first place where I saw Pho for over six bucks....a threshold that's long been passed by most places. So now a $6.95 bowl of pho doesn't faze me.
I got the #4 - Well Done Steak, Flank, Brisket, Tendon, and Tripe.
Man, other than the noodles....and the soup being hot, this was pretty bad. The soup was on the unpleasant side, bitter, and quickly gave me the MS heebie-geebies.....I've got a decent tolerance of the stuff, but this was too much. I recall the bowls having a good amount of meat, but things have apparently changed.
I guess the tripe and tendon were out sick on this day and the flank had that stale "ice-box" flavor that made it inedible.
Instead of going through this in excruciating detail....I think I'll stop here. I'm sure you get the picture, right?
Pho Viet Cali
6755 Mira Mesa Blvd. #113
San Diego, CA 92121
I'm hoping for better luck next time......