It's no secret that Hotel Circle isn't the most distinctive place in town to enjoy a bite to eat.
But venturing deeper into the core of this concrete jungle loop - namely, at the gargantuan Town and Country Resort & Convention Center - you'll discover the inner, meaty beauty of a place called Charlie's, a divey sports bar that's in the process of getting a new 'do, starting with its menu of gourmet barbecue items that'll leave you in a food coma.
Before you roll your eyes, no, the menu doesn't refer to anything as gourmet. Instead, it's the total, refreshing opposite, remiss of any "craft," "from scratch," or "sustainable" buzz words.
Nothing about this menu will tell you that its coleslaw is a game changer; instead, naturally sweet, shredded organic vegetables that comprise the fluffy salad - tossed in a zesty ranch-like sauce - taste so good, you'll finish it believing that all other cabbage slaw must've been dropped on its head.
Tearing into the brisket reveals that it's special, too. Thick slices of tender meat are accented by an herb packed, crusty dry rub, and its layer of jam-like, beefy fat that melts into every bite means someone in the house knows how to work a smoker.
The perfect pairing is just a squirt of the tabletop "tangy" sauce, one of three made in-house. Everything on the brisket plate - from the slice of white bread to the pickles, and baked white beans in a bright tomato, sherry vinegar sauce, not the typical cloying molasses version - is made with your utmost pleasure in mind.
Gourmet barbecue is what happens when a chef like Paul McCabe gets hired to take over culinary operations at a resort as it kicks off an $85 million renovation project.
McCabe, who's most known for his long run at L'Auberge Del Mar's touted Kitchen 1540, is not only responsible for the improvements at Charlie's, but will oversee the not-yet-built, 23,000-square-foot culinary complex at the resort, overlooking its new Vegas-style, mega pool. For McCabe, chef de cuisine Matt Hobbs and pastry chef Jack Fisher, the tasty improvements at the Town and Country Resort have only just begun.
Yeah, you have to venture into the depths of Hotel Circle to get it, but that's part of the fun, because who does that? Locals aren't the ones eating here, though they should be, with validated, pull-right-up parking, thin crowds and food that's based on tasting good, not some gimmick.
Besides the brisket plate at Charlie's, be sure to order:
Chicken wings. Brined bird gets smoked for three hours with walnut before a brief (but important) meeting with the fryer to crisp up those skins. So tender, they fall off the bone at first bite.
Pecan tart. A wonderfully nostalgic breakfast meets dessert experience with Fisher's dense, buttery pastry filled with sticky, candied nuts, a citrusy sweet reduction and big, rich scoops of maple ice cream melting throughout.
And don't miss
Barbeque is having a moment in San Diego, trailing tacos, ramen and fried chicken as yet another emerging food craze.
Adding to the meat fest is Grand Ole BBQ y Asado, which you cannot miss thanks to its 20-foot smoker and best form of advertising displayed suggestively on its cute corner lot in North Park .
From central Texas-style 'cue, including peppery pork spare ribs and thick slabs of smoked turkey, to Sunday's Argentine grill day, proteins are aplenty at this already popular outdoor and carry out eatery. Meat is priced by the pound, so even if you just want to swoop up some sandwich supplies for the week, this is the new place to do it.
Don't miss the still pink, thinly sliced tri-tip, served with a side of chimichurri, and be sure to take advantage of the BYOB perks here with Thorn Street Brewing just a couple of doors down. For menu updates and a breakdown of special holiday hours, "like" Grand Ole BBQ y Asado on Facebook. 3302 32nd St., North Park. (619) 213-3765