Friday, July 10, 2009
Hash House San Diego
As luck (and two quite fortuitously-timed closings) would have it, the July 4th weekend found me in the loving (and misguidingly infuilential) care of a few of my very dear friends from law school on the sunny shores of San Diego (where, let me tell you, it is shockingly cold - why your friend proudly responds to your inquiry about needing a jacket with a resounding - read: borderline mocking - "no, but they're cute so you can bring one" - don't listen to her. Pack a sweater). (How many parentheticals can I use in one sentence (apparently many).)
It was an amazing weekend full of nostalgia, reminiscing about old memories, and of course, of creating new ones.
As my friend Jess and I stood on a corner in downtown San Diego near the end of a very long night, trying to scrounge together plans for a Sunday brunch, my friend Mackenna (she of "jackets are unnecessary but cute" fame), in all of her shoeless genius, requested that we go somewhere where she'd be served pancakes the size of manhole covers. Jess, not one to disappoint, knew of just the place. We were to brunch at the Hash House in the Hillcrest nightborhood of San Diego on Sunday.
And was brunch ever in order. We had celebrated America's founding precisely the way our forefathers had envisioned - playing drinking games around a jacuzzi on the beach during the day, throwing back countless shots of cheap whiskey - like the true pat-riots we are - throughout the night. And so, like any and all good Americans, we awoke on July 5th in desperate need of butter-laden biscuits, cured pork products, and - of course- manhole-sized pancakes.
We had been told tales of the Hash House, and the portions with which we were to be met, by Scott and Julia, our ever-gracious hosts, and proceeded to vastly over-order nonetheless. On July 4th weekend, what better way to celebrate America than with excessive overconsumption and mindless waste? It is, after all, the American way. We were only fulfilling our pat-riotic duties.
The Hash House does the American way in an unquestionably unapologetic manner - it's the American way done the American way.
The brunch menu, while large, was not overwhelmingly so, though when each menu option sounds as appetizing as these all did, the decision of what to eat is far from an easy one. We had agreed before our arrival that a pancake for the table was a must, since we are all of the mindset that no one ever really wants more than a couple of bites of a pancake, and actually ordering them as your meal always seems like a great idea, but will, without fail, leave you disappointed, bored and hungry for something savory about a seventh of the way through.
[When looking at these pictures, please keep in mind that these are not normally-sized plates. They are, in fact, the largest things you have ever seen in your life. I believe it was Scott who, more accurately than I could ever have known at the time, described them as "troughs." The pancake below may not look that large atop that plate, but it should be noted that the plate was, no joke, at least 20 inches in diameter. The plate alone must have weighed 13 pounds, as I struggled to lift it to hand it back to the waitress after dumping my leftovers into a to-go box. Now, I try to avoid hyperbole, and while I often succeed, there are no doubt times where I over-exaggerate. Believe me, this is NOT one of those times.]
The pancake options were varied, but we ultimately settled on the strawberry frosted flake and banana brown sugar. The pancakes, despite being manhole-sized (the picture above really does not do these pancakes justice, the thing was, seriously, the size of a hubcap) were actually incredibly soft, fluffy and remarkably light. I tend to fund that fluffiness and size are inversely correlated when it comes to pancakes, as they get bigger, they tend to get tough and gummy and unevenly cooked (I call it the Pancake Paradox). These, however, were perfect. The frosted flakes provided a great textural contrast amidst the fluff. I could have used a few more strawberries, as they were only sparsely dotting the surface, and the pancake would have benefitted from the added fresh sweetness.
I found the banana brown sugar pancake to be the better of the two. The bananas were strategically placed throughout the pancake in large, lengthwise slices, and the brown sugar did wonderful things in the batter - caramelized to the point of crunchiness in some places, gooey and syrupy in others. It was a truly excellent pancake.
The rest of the dishes were pretty good as well. I ordered one of the specials, a blue crab crab cake, which came with with two eggs, mashed potatoes (which find their way onto nearly every dish; seriously - you order eggs benedict, be prepared for eggs atop a split biscuit atop a pile of mashed potatoes, which have been ingeniously placed on the griddle, given them a wonderful golden brown hue and areas of awesome potato crispiness) and chili mayo. After seeing numerous plates pass by our table, each with legitimate puddles of sauce, I requested the chili mayo on the side. Thank the lord I did - while I may have turned a corner with mayo, this was beyond egregious - do you see that souffle-sized ramekin full of chili mayo?!? If my crab cake had come drenched in that entire 3/4 of a cup of chili mayo, it might have gotten ugly. Mayo, i love you, i really do, but even you have to admit that is just a silly amount of mayonnaise. Thankfully, I was able to dip my crab cakes in the mayo, applying a more modest amount and allowing the flavor of the crab to come through, instead of being totally lost beneath a blanket of spicy goop. The eggs, which I requested poached, were unfortunately overcooked, and did not provide me the opportunity to coat the crabcakes with an additional layer of unctuous cholesterol-laden deliciousness. Regardless, it was a highly enjoyable meal.
The biscuit that accompanied the dish (with the rosemary "tree" in it) was a light, fluffy, buttery number. On each table at the Hash House is a jar of homemade jam, with huge pieces of strawberries and peaches floating throughout. The jam is perfectly sweet - not overly so - and the fruit still mercifully intact, having macerated ever-so-slightly, such that you're actually biting into a piece of fruit, allowing you to feel (ever-so-slightly) virtuous for eating something that is (or was, at one point) moderately healthy. Of course, butter was a great option as well, as it always is.
The other dishes that found their way to our table were universally well-received. Emily's cobb salad was a towering behemoth of a dish that was full of huge strips of bacon (no bits here), amazing amounts of avocado, blue cheese, and all the other things that make cobb salads so wonderful. It was topped with barbecue sauce and a dressing that Emily was still raving about hours, nay, days later, trying to figure out what was in the mystical concoction that made it so magical.
Julia ordered the sage fried chicken benedict, which came with spinach, bacon, tomato, griddled mozzarella, chipotle cream and scrambled eggs, all, of course, placed gloriously atop a heap of mashed potatoes. I didn't have a chance to taste this, but I didn't need to in order to know that it was delicious. And enough to feed the entire nation of Rhodesia.
The orders were rounded out with a couple of hashes, one of which was the day's special and featured hunks of buffalo, another with roasted chicken. All looked delicious, but I was too stuffed to stick my fork in anyone's plate but my own.
While the Hash House was not outright cheap for breakfast, it's hard to complain when you're given enough to feed yourself for three meals. And when the food is actually good, too, it's a good deal indeed.
Hash House a go go
3628 Fifth Ave
San Diego, CA 92103
Apparently there is also a location in Las Vegas (who knew?):
6800 West Sahara Ave
Las Vegas NV 89146