As a frequent visitor to Sublime Alehouse in San Marcos, I was thrilled for the arrival of their sister restaurant, Sublime Tavern, in Del Mar. Now, even more San Diegans will be able to try their signature Mac ‘N Cheese that won me over from the very first bite of Gruyere goodness.
I was invited to check out the new spot where Tommy V’s and Market used to be. It’s definitely a destination location, being right across from the polo fields, but parking is reasonable, the wine-list is extensive, the atmosphere is light and casual, and the menu is full of comfort foods that will leave your stomach full and happy.
As I mentioned before, I am a huge fan of the Mac N’ Cheese and think every single one of you would appreciate the pulled pork and caramelized onions in the Rapture. Be sure to ask for a side of barbeque sauce. It’s a perfect addition. That being said, I have to admit that that is the only dish on the menu that I would ever order. It’s why I came. It’s what I crave.
This time I got a much more thorough experience. It started off with a huge basket of Truffle Fries with four different aioli’s. The fries are tossed in truffle oil, Parmesan cheese, and parsley. They were scrumptious alone, but I had fun trying to figure out which aioli was my favorite. I think I ended up picking the garlic aioli….no, no, the sun-dried tomato aoili. I don’t know. I loved them all.
Next to the table was the Watermelon & Wild Arugula Salad, which scared me initially. I’m not a fan of arugula or watermelon, but the combination was quite surprising and it actually worked. The sweetness of the watermelon cut down the bitterness of the arugula, and the combination of feta, tomato, cucumber, and a sweet basil vinaigrette made for a perfectly refreshing salad on a hot summer afternoon.
Hold on to your seats, there are two more dishes!
The Get Figgy Wit’ it Pizza is not something I would think to order, but it quickly became a new option for me when I come into Sublime (either one!). The olive oil and garlic base is topped with figs, prosciutto, arugula (again, I didn’t mind), Parmesan cheese, and a balsamic glaze drizzle.
By the time the Sublime Mac N’ Cheese was brought to the table my stomach was adequately satiated. Luckily, I just needed a bite to be reminded of why I believe they are the masters of this comfort food here in San Diego.
If you haven’t made it to the Del Mar location of Sublime Tavern, try it out. It’s a great spot for lunch, dinner, happy hour, or even to watch a game.
For more pictures of the experience, check out our album.
By Audra Leigh
In 1955, former bookkeeper, Tom Ham, had proven success in the restaurant world by bringing San Diego its very first “Polynesian Paradise”. It brought life to Shelter Island for locals of Point Loma and became a must-go to spot for visitors. It wasn’t until 1971 that his real dream came true when he added his second location on the scenic San Diego Bay. He passed on just two years later, and for the last 40 years, his family has lived on to tell his tale with the same two iconic San Diego locations, Bali Hai and Tom Ham’s Lighthouse. I was lucky enough to visit both venues recently to get to know the family, the chefs, and try out some of their signature dishes.
With so many choices, it can be extremely difficult to experience all that San Diego has to offer. That is why I’m not surprised that it took me quite a number of years to come across Tom Ham’s Lighthouse on Harbor Island. However, after dining there, I am perplexed about why I had never heard of this historic venue that has been around since 1971 that has captured the hearts and appetites of many locals and visitors alike.
When I mentioned this to Andy, the General Manager, as well as Tom Ham’s grandson, it didn’t seem to surprise him. Their iconic sister restaurant, Bali Hai, has taken a lot of the glory in the past years, but now that is all about to change.
After a major remodel that closed the restaurant for over 5 months, Tom Ham’s Lighthouse is officially the place to come for the best view while dining in downtown San Diego. Grab a table on the patio or perhaps a seat at the bar…even if you’re in the dining room, you will get the same view of our beautiful skyline. The muted décor highlights the nature that surrounds you at all times and allows you to focus on the brilliantly prepared dishes that arrive in front of you.
Executive Chef Lance Repp has spent years perfecting his culinary skills to bring the diners a menu that features edible masterpieces that is both visually appealing and wildly innovative. His love for creating these dishes is what made him the perfect choice for the new era at Tom Ham’s.
Walking into Tom Ham’s, you will truly feel that you are now part of something special. The family has surrounded themselves and their guests with small and large remembrances of San Diego past and present and artifacts that Mr. Ham had picked up along the way: the old and new maps of San Diego, the Boston bell, and the secret stained glass windows that spell out Tom Ham, a tribute to the man who started it all.
It made such an impact on me to learn the history of the restaurant, the family that owns and runs it, the appreciation they have for each and every employee, and the immense gratitude they have for their fans and loyal customers. It shows in every table setting, every prepared dish, and in every person that works for this incredible family. You won’t find this level of customer service without a strong backbone. From what I learned from an incredibly proud son, “We all have Mom to thank for that.”
Fresco won me over right from the start with ample parking in the adjacent lot. Talk about a good first impression! I am the worst parallel parker ever, so I was a bit worried about where I might park, and was greatly relieved to see the parking lot. Usually, downtown restaurants have valet parking (which I am too frugal to pay for), but rarely do they offer easy, close parking in their own lot–a huge plus.
As I headed into the restaurant, I noticed the delightful patio, where I’m sure it would be wonderful to spend warmer evenings, and I think I spotted a small fire pit too, which seems quite inviting. The restaurant itself has a warm and inviting feel, perfectly decorated with a classy Italian decor. No Olive Garden chain-feel here, as Fresco feels much more like a genuine eatery one would find in a small Italian town.
I recommend Fresco as a great place for a date (even an early one, as you could walk to Coldstone a few doors down) or to meet friends in the evening after work.
The hosts placed us at our own large table in the bar area, so I did not really see the main dining room, but it looked great from my one quick glance. The quiet bar area enabled us chatty ladies to freely catch up with each other. We basically had the whole room to ourselves, which was a wise choice to give us space as well as prevent our escalating volume from disrupting others who were likely looking for something a bit more calm & romantic.
Not long after we sat down, we were given a breadbasket with a variety of bread and accompanied by impeccably fresh tomato sauce. Both the focaccia bread and sauce were flavorful and delicious–I ate too much! Some at the table commented that there was no olive oil on the table for dipping sauce, but I bet it could have been provided upon request.
As appetizers, we had the Caprese salad, Calamaretti Dolmati (fried calamari), and an Antipasto platter. The mozzarella on the Caprese was delicious, but the tangy, tasty vinaigrette on the salad in the middle of the platter totally won me over.
The calamari was fried to perfection with larger pieces than at most restaurants. I’d never tried an antipasto platter before, but it appeared to have great selections. There was a slightly shaky moment at our end of the table when a few guests had trouble seeing the menu in the dark, and a Lemondrop drink from the bar didn’t taste quite right. However, the server promptly and politely rectified the drink problem, and the candles on the table helped to brighten up the menu. Problem solved!
Our main course took a while to be served, however I enjoyed the chance to chat up with friends and get to know new acquaintances. The ambiance was conducive to socializing and I appreciated that our table set-up and the quiet setting enabled us to have great conversations. The music provided a nice background and contributed to the excellent ambiance. The wait staff was very efficient and helpful, without being overly intrusive. I noticed that when our main course was served, the server brought extra silverware to the table in case we needed it. She impressed me by thinking ahead. The traditional Italian items on the menu appeared to please all of us.
I ordered the unpronounceable Pizza Capricciosa, which had generous helpings of mozzarella cheese, artichoke hearts, olives, and mushrooms. The pizza sauce was the same as the deliciously fresh dipping sauce, which accompanied the bread basket. Not only did I get to enjoy the pizza for dinner, but I got to enjoy it for lunch the next day as well. I must say that as someone who orders pizza at nearly every restaurant I go to, this pizza was amazingly delicious, and much better than I’ve had at other local Carlsbad Italian places. The ladies on each side of me ordered the traditional “Spaghetti & Meatballs,” which they both declared to be delicious.
Other selections included gnocci and a generous helping of risotto. I heard only raves about the food and the restaurant as a whole, with nary a complaint. We didn’t try the desserts, as the generous portions provided nearly everyone with “to go containers”, but maybe next time! Even after we finished our meals and paid, I didn’t feel like we were being rushed out; I liked being able to linger and continue enjoying the fun company. The prices were reasonable, the ambiance delightful, and the food delicious–what more could I ask for?
Overall, Fresco impressed me and I will definitely plan a return visit soon, as well as recommend it to others.