1805 Newton Ave.
San Diego, CA 92113
Today was a perfect example as to why I do not introduce myself while reviewing a restaurant until after I have completed the meal and paid the bill. I have heard about the “Blueprint Café” several times, and have tried to get there to check it out during the San Diego Free Press salute to Barrio Logan this month. Although I have made several arrangements to meet friends there one thing or another has made us change our plans.
Today was the lucky day when all of us were able to meet for lunch at 11:30 am. (All of us consisted of 4 contributors to the SDFP – Anna, Rich, Brent and myself. Brent also brought his adorable 2 year old son “Dino” with him.)
One of the uncomfortable moments for me was when I realized that the others knew the owner – Gayle Covner and one of her staff people – Letitia Rogers. In fact, Letitia has even written an article for the Free Press. I tried to stay out of their conversations and only uttered inane comments that didn’t mean much – like hair color, etc.
The “Blueprint” is almost at the end of Barrio Logan. Parking is horrible and the only available spot that Anna and Rich found was one hour parking along the side of the restaurant. They hoped that no one was ticketing the area, because we were there just a little bit longer than one hour. Some of you may remember the old “Guild” restaurant of a few years back, and “Blueprint” is housed in that old facility.
Gayle told us that her original restaurant was in East Village and she loved it there, but the city used an “eminent domain” clause and eventually the building was torn down. She looked for a new location for some time until finding this one. She would still like to move to the City Heights area – or something similar – if she could find an agreeable site. This would be an additional restaurant – she would not close down the current one.
We looked at the menu, which was very interesting. There is a “Daily Special” menu that changes every day. Today the special soup was Black Bean served with Sour Cream. Also offered was grilled Atlantic Salmon or Mahi Mahi, Grilled Center-cut Pork, Italian Meat and Cheese Sandwich, and Italian Salad Greens.
The special desserts were Pineapple Upside-down cake with berries, Blueberry Coffee Cake and Brownies. The Monday-Friday menu consisted of soup, Signature salad ($10.91), Classic Tuna Melt ($10.49), 440 Cal Plate ($9.10), 3 different kinds of hamburgers ($10.49) that came with one of the following sides – Fresh Slaw, Shoestring Fries, Spicy Potato Wedges or Sweet Potato Fries.
We were quickly told they were out of the Sweet Potato Fries. Our waitress was not as friendly as Gayle – sometimes bordering on “aloofness.” We wondered if we had offended her in some manner.
When asked for our drink order I asked if they had raspberry tea but was told they did not. I ordered regular ice tea which came in a 32 ounce carafe. The interesting thing about the tea was that it was not raspberry, but definitely flavored. When I asked the server what kind of tea it was she said, “ . . . I don’t know. A mixed tea of some kind.” Not a good answer as far as I am concerned.
There was no effort to ask anyone what kind it was and although it was very good, I like to know what I am ingesting. One more point of interest – you will not find Mexican food, per se, on the menu. With all of the Mexican restaurants in the area, Gayle wants to offer a different array of foods to eat.
We all wanted to try something different, but Rich was the only one that ordered off the Daily Special menu and the Grilled Pork Chop was so tender it melted in his mouth. We were told that it was marinated overnight and there was no question he would order it again. It came with homemade fresh crispy slaw and roasted red potatoes. We all sampled it and agreed it was delicious.
The rest of us ordered the #1 Hamburger – avocado, bacon, chipotle sauce, tomato and cheddar on a Kaiser bun. And, interestingly enough, none of us ordered it cooked the same way.
Brent had his medium well; Anna had hers medium rare; and I ordered mine medium. And each one was cooked just the way we ordered it. But, I ordered mine with shoestring potatoes and ALL of our orders had the same “spicy potato wedges” on the plate. They were ok – nothing special – but not what I had ordered.
I was disappointed in the final product, however. The bacon was crisp in the middle; practically raw on the outside. I know that the owner is a baker, but I thought the Kaiser roll was not fresh and tasteless; in fact, it was harder than it should have been. The avocado was a tiny amount of spread on one of the buns. Anna said to me after we were finished eating that she thought maybe they forgot to put the avocado on the hamburger. I assured her it was there – as a dab on the bun.
The entire burger was huge, but I did not think it was anything special and could not compare with Raglan in Ocean Beach and more expensive than Raglan’s lunch burger. Anna said that her hamburger was quite salty; mine was not bad, but I did not eat the bacon and she did. The bacon could have contributed to the saltiness.
Anna had difficulty deciding whether she wanted to order the “Signature Salad with grilled breast ($10.91) so in the end ordered both and we would all share it. It was a very interesting salad consisting of Grilled Spicy Chicken, Romaine, Sweet Onion, Pinons, Dried Cranberries, Grated White Cheese, Chili Lime “Caesar Style” dressing. It had quite a bite to it and may have been too spicy for some if it were served someplace other than the Barrio area.
Anna asked what the “heat” was and the answer was, “I can’t tell you.” Interesting answer, don’t you think? She couldn’t tell us because she didn’t know? She couldn’t tell us because it was a secret? Suffice it to say that it was spicier than I would have liked it. (And I like spicy.) And, once again, I like to know what I am eating and the answer bothered me.
When we arrived at the café, we were the first ones there. When we left there was not a vacant table and the noise was deafening. I was sitting opposite Rich and could barely hear him. I would hope that there would be some way to mute the noise to make it more comfortable for the other patrons.
I feel bad about this review because Gayle was outgoing and I know she really wants her customers to enjoy their meal and atmosphere. But Anna asked me if I would return to the restaurant and I have to say that I would not. Besides the difficulty parking; the noise level; and the reluctance to tell me what I am eating, I would rather go somewhere that is more conducive to relaxing while eating.
I thought that the price of the meal was higher than it should be for what I received. As Anna stated to me, “ . . . . sometimes the conversation is the high point of lunch.”
Anna Daniels says
Judi- my apologies for not introducing you and Rich to Letitia–my momma did indeed raise me better.
I would go back again to Blueprint and select from the specials of the day–the pork was so delicious and perfectly prepared. (I wish I had ordered the mahi mahi, which was listed as another special.) I would also order the signature salad as an entree. The portion was generous and the taste was distinctive.
Thanks, Anna. In a way I am glad that you did not introduce me to Letitia because it gave me an opportunity to be more objective in my review. I wasn’t faced with “not wanting to hurt anyone’s feelings.”
The problem, as I see it, was that when you go back, the daily specials may not include the pork or mahi mahi again. When looking at making a recommendation, I think it is important that the regular menu be one that is consistently good and subject to repeat orders. Based on the hamburgers we all ordered – except for Rich – they were “ok” – not anything special, and nothing I would order again knowing that there are other restaurants around that serve the same or better tasting burger. I am glad that Rich ordered the pork, because it was truly succulent – but what if it is not there the next time? Help me remember this – did our waitress ever come back and ask us how we liked our meal? I don’t remember her doing so, and, I think if she did, I would have pointed out that I ordered shoe string potatoes but didn’t get them. And for clarification purposes: I am not saying that the meal was not good. It was ok. I just would not go back for the same food items again.
Dorothy Lee says
Judi, Concerning the lack of parking, I’m surprised that the building owners, Dale and Mark Steele, who lease the space to Covner, don’t offer Blueprint’s customers free parking over on 1735 National. Dale Steele leases that space for the SD Public Market, and there are two parking lots with plenty of parking. It’s only a very short walk away from Blueprint. Mark Steele has his architectural firm in the same building as Blueprint (thus the catchy restaurant name!).