5987 El Cajon Blvd
San Diego, CA 92115
By Judi Curry
Some time ago, I remember going to San Diego Desserts to talk to the owners about allowing some of my culinary arts students from San Diego Job Corps to do an internship with them. The bakery had been recommended highly by my two culinary arts chefs, and we thought it would be a wonderful experience for the students. Shortly after meeting with the owners, I left San Diego for a position at Penobscot Job Corps in Maine and do not know if our students had the intern experience there or not.
Much later, around 2008 or so, I heard that people could eat their desserts in the restaurant, and it was obvious that it was no longer just a wholesale bakery. Later on I heard that food had been added to the menu, and then wine, and beer, etc.
Recently, a friend and I purchased tickets to the Moxie theater just down the street from the bistro, and it gave me a perfect opportunity to drop in and have dinner before the opening curtain.
Doing restaurant reviews is an interesting phenomenon. Some people agree with what I write; some people hate me and my reviews. One of the people I frequently did reviews with refused to do another one with me if I stated anything negative about the server and/or service. He felt that I should find something nice to say or not say anything at all. Some of you have expressed the same thought.
As I thought about the comment, I felt to not say anything was a disservice to you, the consumer, and also to the restaurant. If things are wrong they should be corrected. To allow things to continue as they are, in spite of everyone loving the place, is, in my mind, wrong. So … even though the place was packed; even though someone came up to me at the theater and told me how wonderful their meal was, this is the review as I perceived the evening.
The Moxie event was their annual fund raiser, with a theme of “Bedtime with Moxie.” Those of us that would be in attendance were asked to wear pajamas, or bedroom attire. My friend and I had a struggle with that, since neither of us own a pair of pajamas. The festivities were not to start until 8 p,m, so that meant that we should grab a bite to eat before going to the theater.
Moxie sent out a note suggesting that we eat at the Bistro 60, and they would not be surprised to see a group of people coming into the restaurant wearing bedroom attire. I called the bistro the night before and made reservations for two of us, and let them know what we would be wearing. (Quite honestly, I had no idea what we would be wearing!) When asked if I wanted inside or outside, I asked if there were space heaters outside. I was told there was and also that outside was the best choice as there was live music in the patio. I gave him my name; made reservations for 6:30 p.m. the following evening.
We arrived at the restaurant after driving around for 10 minutes trying to find a parking place only to park across the street from the restaurant. After crossing El Cajon Blvd. in my night shirt and robe, I gave the owner my name and he tried to seat us at the first table by the door. It was a high table and this 5’3” old lady has trouble climbing up on a stool that is 4 feet off the ground.
I told him we had reservations for outside, and he said “who took them?” Hell, how would I know? The reservation was there, and he said he could seat us in the patio. I could tell that my friend was not too pleased – probably with me more than the situation (shades of the other friend that I don’t see any more). We were seated outside, as far from the musicians as possible, which was good because I later found out that my friend didn’t like the music during dinner. Remember, this was not a romantic date – merely two friends going out.
At the risk of offending my friend that didn’t think I should say negative things about the service, I can’t help but say that our waitress was not the best we have ever have. For example, on their very extensive wine and beer menu were two draft beers. One was identified, but the other was listed as “seasonal,” When he asked the waitress what the seasonal beer was, she didn’t know, and didn’t appear to know whom to ask to find out. My friend finally suggested that she ask another waiter to see if he knew. He did and an order was placed ($7.00).
Another thing occurred that had us shaking our heads: When given the wine list, he asked if beer was served also. She said yes. On the menu were “specialty” drinks, and they included tequila. I asked her if they served hard liquor too, and she said yes. It would have been nice if she had told us that there was a full bar besides the beer and wine.
I ordered a regular margarita ($6.00). The one listed on the menu was made with orange juice. I told her I didn’t want that one – just a regular one. But…I got the one with orange juice. The best I can say about it was that it was lacking flavor, tequila, and taste. While we waited to order, we were served a nice selection of bread and butter.
My friend ordered a wedge salad – baby iceberg lettuce, bacon, tomatoes, red onion and blue cheese ($10). The lettuce was crisp, the bacon and tomatoes fresh. He thought that the blue cheese dressing was a little bland, but when I tasted it I thought it was all right and detected a bit of a kick to it.
He also ordered two grilled fish tacos on corn tortillas with cabbage, tomato and avocado ($7). It did not have any salsa with it when it was served. There were black beans on the plate, however, and two of the narrowest pieces of fish I have ever seen. He said it tasted very fishy, a sign that it either had been frozen, or it was old.
Now here’s the other problem. It was fully nine minutes before my order of pepperoni flat bread was served to me. When it came, my friend was finished with his dinner, even though he ate very slowly, because if he had waited his meal would have been cold. The flat bread ($9) was delicious — Sadie Rose crust topped with tomato sauce, Monterey Jack, cheddar and parmesan cheeses, served hot and steaming, but it was served so late that I only had an opportunity to eat two pieces because of the starting time at Moxie. My friend said that it was the best part of the meal and I wasn’t sure if he meant that we had to leave or that the flat bread was good. (It was the flat bread.)
It is true that the restaurant was full, although when we left there were 5 empty tables in the patio, where, by the way, the space heaters had not been turned on. But there were families with children in there, and we only saw two other parties that were dressed in their bedroom clothes. It was a Friday night; a night that one would expect to be busy.
Our total bill was $41.28 without the tip — not overly expensive, but not inexpensive either. But would we go back again? In spite of other people giving it a good review, I would have to pass. From the moment I was questioned about who took my reservation to the time that I finally received my order, it was an agitating evening.
Judi, of course service and front of the house staff are part of the review of any restaurant. Absolutely fair game. The host or hostess, the server, and the bus person all contribute to the dining experience whether that be a positive or negative event. It is indeed subjective, however no less subjective than whether or not one thinks the salad might be overdressed, but nevertheless a part of the package of eating out. To leave out the service and staff in a review would be unfair to anyone who might or might not be interested in eating at the establishment being reviewed. It is also helpful to management to know whether or not their team did a good or not so swell job on the particular occasion of the review. It’s a reporter’s job to give us the facts, and you do just that in a very colorful way. Cheers!
(Your dinner guest on this particular evening sounds just slightly less controlling than the one that disappeared.)
And, the bartender is part of the deal too!