To feed your body and soul in San Diego and all over the world

Review

Dede’s Teajuice City

Another institution that has been in San Diego for years, but I never made it to since I don’t have the right group of people to go with.  However, when a group of friends whom I met during my previous job at the client wanted to go get lunch.  The opportunity came up and I suggested Dede’s Teajuice City!

The restaurant is small, but still a decent size yet it is in one of the many super small strip mall all over Kearny Mesa.  At this point, I think I’m just used to it that I don’t even complain about it anymore.  Anyway, I was there specifically for some delicious food and I was not going to be denied of it!

Special Cooked Baby Rib

Dede’s Special Cooked Baby Ribs were good, but I wish there was more meat!  I’m not one to eat off the bone and when I do, I expect there to be meat!  Lots and lots of meat!

Cumin Flavored Lamb

The Cumin Lamb that my friends told me was delicious.  It smelled great!  If it really tastes as good as it smelled, then I wish I did eat lamb….*sigh*

Sichuan Eggplant

The Spicy Sichuan Eggplant a dish that I’m just so familiar with and it does makes me think of home. I can’t ever reject eggplant, mmmm….purple….spicy purple!

Deep Fried Fish w/ Dry Red Pepper

The dish that I really wanted to have that day was the Boiled Fish Hot Pot.  Basically fried fish fillets with tons of peppers and potatoes.  I have an obsession for spicy foods and there is no end to it and this little pot is like gold for me.  Spicy, but still flavorful and the fish with its crispy outer layer and moist, tender flesh interior….mmm, perfection!

We had several other dishes to go along side with our main stars, but as they were coming out with one dish after another, we kept eating.  The full meal included:

Dan Dan Noodles, which were enjoyed by the whole table.  It’s spicy here too and I have no complaints about that!  Dan Dan Noodles was one of those dishes that I learned to fall in love with as I grew older, whereas it was a favorite of my Dad’s.

We also had an order of pan fried dumplings (it was pork filled) and scallion pancakes because hey! Why the freak not?!  We were all grown adults with adult appetites!  LET US FEAST!

…..and somewhere in the middle of feasting, I had to take an aerial shot of our table:

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I am quite proud of our ability to consume and I think we could do better next time by ordering more food.  I love Dede’s since it’s the food that I’m most familiar with and feel at home with.   Definitely returning to Dede’s for more meals!

Dede’s Teajuice City
4647 Convoy St
San Diego, CA 92111


Devilicious

Oh food trucks…how I love thee.  Let me count the ways that I love you:

Your food is cooked fresh to order.

You provide me good food without any unnecessary frills.

Most of the time you have me eating with my hands.

You satisfy my hunger and my soul.

Oh food trucks…thank you for completing my eating life in San Diego.

The food truck mania is not just some passing phase people.  It is a staple that San Diego has been long behind on and over the last 5 years, that side of the business has significantly grown.  One of the oldest food trucks in San Diego who also participated in the Food Network Great Food Truck Race – Devlicious, has been serving our great town for awhile now.  Their signature item is the Lobster Grilled Cheese sandwich.  So when a coworker and I found them parked just outside our office, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to try it for myself:

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The lobster grilled cheese comes with a side salad with balsamic vinegar.  The sandwich itself: butter poached lobster with melted jack and cheddar cheese and caramelized onions on sourdough.

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It is a rich and delicious sandwich. The cheese melted perfectly, nestling in the sweet onions and lobster itself all on two pieces of crispy, fresh bread.  I think if it was any other side, it would have been just too much for me to handle, but because it was a salad, it helped bring down the richness.  As for the lobster you may be wondering – fresh, soft, sweet, and was not overshadowed in the least.  And they gave you a good amount of lobster for the price of $12.

People may think this is “outrageously” expensive, yet a restaurant would have charged you $16-$18, and some places could get away with even charging up to $20 for this exact sandwich portion. Think about it people, how much would it cost you at a restaurant? These trucks have to not only pay for the food supply itself, but even with their bare minimum operations, there are still costs to run a food truck.  Have you not seen the show itself?  You need to charge every dish to cover your cost of food, overhead (eg. wages, truck maintenance), and still make a profit from every sale.

So come on San Diego!  Go out there and support your local food trucks!!!  There’s a great website that shows you all the food truck gatherings throughout San Diego called Curbside Bites and their calendar lists out everything.  Granted, always check with the truck’s twitter or webpage for any updates on their locations.

Devilicious

Throughout San Diego County (and sometimes beyond)


D Bar

My first time at D Bar was with two lovely ladies from my old job – KF and LT, when LT who had left SD several years back, was coming back to visit.  I had to catch up with two wonderful and extremely driven ladies.  We had a great afternoon catching up and just seeing what everyone was up to since we were all tied up in life itself.  That day, we had sampled several dishes to just get an idea of what D Bar could do – just desserts or food as well?

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On the left hand side, from top to bottom:

Crue Fries – their signature starter of garlic parmesan fries (perfectly fried), mac sauce, melted cheddar jack, bacon, ranch, and chives.  This appetizer is salty but so addictive!

Naan-Burguesa – kobe burger, grilled naan, black bean hummus, chipotle mayo, havarti, avocado, and a side of chips.  Since I don’t eat beef, KF and LT both were a little underwhelm by this  burger.  In part, the use of a grilled naan didn’t hold everything together so when you bit down, everything tends to slide out.

Tahini Grilled Salmon – on a bed of mixed greens, grilled baby bok choy, tossed in a ginger soy vinaigrette, and topped with toasted almond and edamame.  This salad was again only ok and slightly underwhelming.

Now the real reason why we were here: desserts!

Molten Cake Thingy That Everyone Has – just the name itself made us want to order it.  Plus the three of us have had really good molten cake thingies before, so we had to try it and see where D Bar’s stacked up.  Their version is comes with raspberry compote and Sicilian pistachio ice cream, but we wanted to try their salted caramel ice cream and so we requested the swap.  Well we can say that their cake thingy was quite good.  Was it the best?  We were all hard press to jump up and exclaim this was the best version we’ve had to-date, but it is a darn good contender!

Ch Ch Ch Churros! – Made. To. Order.  Those are the three words that almost always ensures that you are going to have a great churro.  And boy, D Bar knows their churros alright! It was the best freaking plate of churros ever!!! And it comes with a little dish of melted dark chocolate for dipping which was more for scooping out and eating straight.

On my second visit with two other wonder ladies – LA and JW, I knew there were two items I couldn’t go without: crue fries and churros.  Except this time, it was for dinner so ordered more items to try in hopes that it would turn out better, but first…some drinks!

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Normally, I don’t drink so I wouldn’t be posting about drinks, but my gals do and one drink intrigued us all – the Fresca Picante (martini glass one).  This was a strawberry jalapeno infused tequila with agave and lime.  I had taken a sip and the jalapeno is this after kick that happens a few seconds after drinking.  It was such an interesting taste and experience that it had all three of us just inspecting it as we waited for food.

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Oh these wonderful babies again…come to mama! NOM NOM NOM!!!

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Bacon Mac & Cheese – because we were all feeling like mac n’ cheese.  Don’t question us! We wanted this ooey, gooey bowl of melted goodness.  It’s a four cheese mac, with bacon and cheese nips and panko crumb top.  It was as decadent as it sounded, but good for sharing!

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Lobster Risotto – grilled lobster tail with rosemary butter, served with roasted poblano risotto and broccolini and pea tendrils.  The lobster was sweet and tender and I could have eaten several more of that tail!  So good…

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And since we were ordering so many rich dishes, I felt we needed at least one salad to help balance it out a little.  The Grilled Caesar salad, drizzled with balsamic glaze  and topped with shaved parm, it help give us that fresh crunch we needed.

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Oh the desserts…delicious, delicious desserts…I pretty much dictated this order:

Chocolate Souffle – 65% chocolate souffle, nutella filled beignets with chocolate sauce, and praline ice cream.  The souffle was not as airy as I’ve had in some places, but still delicious and fluffy.  The beignets were too thick and not fluffy enough.  Beignets are suppose to be little pockets of fried heaven (as I have experienced before in NOLA), so I was a little sadden to eat these little guys here.  As for the chocolate, we learned from our waiter that they “pay more for the chocolate per pound than we do for the steak”.  Now that’s something to be proud of! If I do say so myself!

And those churros, I ordered it knowing what I would get, but my friends were both skeptical.  I told them that I swear by them and upon their first bites, I just ruined their ideas of churros forever.  LA was just peeved at me for making her taste a damn good churro and now other churros will never be the same.  Job. Well. Done.

D Bar as a whole, I love – from the food, atmosphere, venue and the people working there.  It’s a great place to gather, enjoy a few dishes and drinks.  Although I did not have pictures of my take out desserts from D Bar, I did try their macarons and chocolates.  The macarons were much too dry!  I was quite disappointed, but at least their chocolates were superb!  I really hope the restaurant will continue to do well, so that I may keep coming back and try everything on the menu (but always with the churros).

D Bar
3930 Fifth Ave
San Diego, CA 92103


Bali Thai Cafe (via Eat24)

Lately I’ve been ordering takeout via online websites.  At first this was purely because I wanted to try it out, but then when the site starts sending me electronic coupons too, that would usually do it for me.  It was because of Eat24 that I finally tried a restaurant that has been on my go-to list forever, but never made it because it was just out of the way.  Considering it’s one of two places that I know of in San Diego that serves some Malaysian dishes, I don’t know why it took me so long to try Bali Thai.  With that said, after the first successful order via Eat24, Bali Thai Cafe has been my go-to-to-go spot for specifically, their Malaysian dishes!

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The spread for…well myself!!  CP was going out with his family that evening and I was by myself for dinner, so instead of cooking (which I have been doing a lot of), I ordered my favorite dishes:

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This is an order of the Mie Goreng, an Indonesian/Malay dish of thin egg noodles stir fried with fried tofu, onion, carrots, cabbage, bean sprouts in a sweet soy sauce.  The dish is popular in Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore, so it’s not a surprise that it tastes something like a cross between Chinese chow mein and Japanese yakisoba.  Yet the taste is its own and not like either of the two.  Maybe that’s why I can’t get enough of it?

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The Nasi Goreng Bali Thai combo: quarter of the Ayum Bumbu Bali, two satay skewers (I guess this puts the “Thai” into the combo?), nasi goreng, and a fried egg.

The Ayum Bumbu Bali is a grilled, Balinese chili marinated chicken.  It’s sweet and spicy and they serve it with another heaping of chili on top.  From searching for how one would make this dish, it seems the chili seasoning is a mixture of ginger, red pepper, nutmeg, cloves, garlic, and shrimp paste.  The flavors are just explosive in comparison to the chicken skewers and that much more tender and juicy.  I would have gladly given up those skewers for some more of that chili paste and slather it all over myself (or toast).

The combo also comes with the Nasi Goreng, which is basically the fried rice version of the Mie Goreng.  Fried rice with onions in a sweet soy sauce and topped with a fried egg.  Actually, the last time I just ordered Nasi Goreng, they had scrambled the egg into the fried rice, versus topping it off with a friend egg like this.  Honestly, I prefer it to be this way and even though I understand why they wouldn’t serve the egg runny, I sorely wished they did.  Note to myself: ask them to make it a sunny side up egg for my Nasi Goreng next time.

All the dishes at Bali Thai Cafe are extremely affordable and tasty.  Considering I’ve never been to Malaysia or Indonesia yet, I’ve had my taste of the cuisine here in San Diego (the other venue I will post later on), New York, and in Florida (yes…that was an odd one but still good).  It just reinforces my love for cuisines that will use a heavy hand on spices to cook up wonderful dishes.

And remember kids: just say ‘NO’ to bland food!

Bali Thai Cafe
407 Camino Del Rio S
San Diego, CA 92108


Ssam Bar (Momofuku)

As far as I’m concerned, NYC is pretty much my home away from home when it comes to woes of my stomach.  This city always offers us so much and even after a hard hit to the locals here the past week and still in a tough spot for many.

Despite all the mounting reasons why it would be better for a postponement of a department training, we continued.  To make the best I could for my time in the city, I still tried to give my business to the proprietors of the city.  This evening, a group of 8 hungry, hungry hippos (yes, it’s a MEGA version of the game) made its way down to East Village for Ssam Bar.

The last time I was at this Momofuku establishment was back in March, but it left a specific memory for myself – we need more people to eat!  Last time, it was only my friend KF and myself.  We did our fair share of sampling David Chang’s signature dishes, plus staff favorites.  This time, we had more than enough mouths to sample even more!

shanghai noodle – chanterelles, hearts of palm, trout roe

This was a cold, small dish of noodles that was dressed in what seemed like some sort of sesame sauce.  The roe added the little salt and the hearts of palm seem to freshen up my bite.  It was good, but not stellar.

crispy pig ear ssäm – yuzu kosho, umezuki, thai basil

Wow….the pig ear was fried super crispy and seasoned so well that I thought I was eating chips!  If you weren’t told you were eating pig ears, you could easily pass this for fried jerky.  Yums!

honeycrisp apple kimchi – maple labne, jowl bacon, arugula

This pretty much explains itself: kimchi-ed apples with bacon and arugula.  This is served with a maple yogurt that cuts the pickled apples.  The reason I ordered this dish for the table was because I remember this dish being the big surprise from my first visit.  It was unexpected in how much I liked it!

steamed buns – pork belly, hoisin, cucumbers, scallions

bbq bun – crispy pork belly, coleslaw, smoked mayo

lobster sandwich – sour cream crisps, iceberg lettuce

Yes…we had a LOT of the bun appetizers (actually we ordered all of them).  Everyone was floored at how good the steamed and bbq buns were.  Seems like the consensus at the table was that the bbq buns were the favorite of them all.  I personally had a gripe this time about the steam buns – the bread itself was too dry and just made me sad!  The buns used for the bbq version were nice and soft and fluffy.  Why?!?!  As for the lobster roll…it’s nothing special at all.  I would suggest skipping this one and go else where if the craving is lobster roll.

roasted quail – pineapple, spaghetti squash, vadouvan

I didn’t get to try the quail itself, but my colleagues seem to really like it.  One even said, “I wasn’t expecting anything and it is better than I thought it would be.”  I did try the spaghetti squash that was coated with what tasted like curry and it was good.

 

spicy pork sausage & rice cakes – chinese broccoli, sichuan peppercorn

This was the dish that I would say, should be the signature entree of the restaurant.  It was just as good as the first time – spicy, tangy, savory, cripsy, chewy, meaty, crunchy.  There is no way I was going to split one order with 7 other people, so I insisted on ordering 2 of them!  Everyone was loving this dish as well and diving into them.

charred spanish octopus – pine nuts, celery, black olive

O.M.G…this dish was MY highlight of the evening.  During my first visit, KF and I saw people ordering the octopus and it looked soooo good.  That’s why this time, I was determined to get it!!  Gee willikers batman! That is a darn good plate of octopus!! I mean…it was cooked perfectly that this was one of two times I’ve ever had octopus in my life when it was NOT chewy (like rubber). One thing I did have an issue with this was that it was overly salted.  Other than that, give. me. MOAR!!!!

After two visits during different times of the year, I found Ssam Bar to be addicting and consistent (more or less….fix that dry bun issue!).  The staff is attentive but not overly bearing and even took the time to talk to one of our colleagues because she wanted to modify an overly strong drink.  Would I be back?  Heck. YES.

Ssam Bar | momofuku
207 Second Avenue
New York, NY 10003


My Ramen Obsession

As far as I can remember, I have loved all kinds of noodles.  It was a staple in my childhood diet especially when the only food I ate fell in the carbohydrates category, chicken, turkey, pork, and fruit.  To say the least my diet was very imbalanced would be an understatement.  Despite the fact that I have since expanded my eating horizon quite significantly, the foundation of my food love has never really changed all that much.

I love food that is flavorful – duh…I mean who likes bland food???  For instance: I have always loved tofu, but trying to eat it in its natural form without any sauces or spices, I cannot stomach it.  And despite the fact that I had try the little to no carb diet back in college, that didn’t last very long for me as the thought of bread, noodles, rice, pasta haunted me day and night.  Giving up my foundation was literally driving me insane!

Fast forward to today: I am eating carbs again and I love it!  However, I am more discerning about my choices in the various carbohydrate options.  One of the things that I never really thought much about was ramen.  Growing up in North Carolina, ramen meant Top Ramen or Instant Cup Noodles.  Even when I finally moved back to San Diego with my family, ramen had only expanded as far as the options that were given prepackaged with the fried and dried noodles.

Then my first experience with having ramen that was NOT from a package was at Tajima about 5-6 years ago?  Back then, that was the benchmark of delicious ramen for me.  That is until I tried my bowl of ramen while vacationing in Honolulu back in the Spring of 2011, then the mind blowing bowl from Hide-chan in New York during the Fall of the same year.  What I have known as “ramen” was forever changed since then.

So the most recent adventures into the ramen world while in San Diego included three of the “newer” additions to our wonderful city: Hinotez, Ramen Yamadaya, and Rakiraki.

Shall we begin going down the rabbit hole?

Hinotez

This restaurant came in after the old Honey Bee Café left their spot several years ago.  Sandwiched between auto shops, across from the rows of dealerships, and it’s next door neighbor (same building) is a bar, it isn’t exactly broadcasting itself in the best light.

That was why I was so surprised when I first stepped in that it was completely redone and looked the part of a ramen house.  Ok…good start!  A look at the menu and you know they are trying to just run a no frills shop and that’s just the way I like it.  The choices are limited and simple: ramen (limited choices), a few entrees from the kitchen, and then the short yakitori list.  The reason I came in was for their ramen, but I can’t go without at least trying their chicken thigh yakitori.  Here is the breakdown of Hinotez:

I have been back several times and although it never felt like we were intentionally being ignored or neglected, they seem to conveniently forget a part of the order the last three visits.  And each time, they apologize profusely and depending on the time and mood and fullness, I’ll either have them still put the order through or just have it skipped.

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A good broth is hard to find and time consuming to make.  That’s why I have to look at a restaurant lovingly when they do a good broth for me.  Hinotez’ tonkotsu broth is milky, thick, and flavorful.  It is on the saltier side, which makes it hard for me to finish the WHOLE bowl’s broth (though I do make a nice dent to it).  As for the noodles, it can vary from being slight overcooked to almost just right.

In addition to the ramen, we also ordered steamed gyozas and they were only ok.  Nothing to rave about nor complain about.  Just kind of “meh” (hence why there has never been a picture of it) and not worth your stomach space – skip it!

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As for the chicken thigh yakitori, that came with two skewers, I love!  The chicken was juicy and seasoned with only salt and that was all that it needed.  However, on my last visit, they didn’t quite grill it to that perfect caramelization on the outside that I loved the first two times.

Overall Verdict?…I hope that Hinotez will have more yakitori choices down the road, but this place has potential.  There are some things that need to be worked out such as consistency in cooking, but they have the flavors that can keep me coming back for more.

Ramen Yamadaya

Located in the same strip mall where Little Sheep Mongolian Hot Pot resides, this little (emphasis on little) shop is unassuming.  Yet it is Los Angeles chain that has graced our town (why can’t more of this happen????) and I was very excited to go try it one evening with my mom and younger sister.

Ramen Yamadaya has a small indoor seating area, with bar seating right in front of the open kitchen where you can watch the guys prepare your ramen.  There is also an outdoor patio area that has some limited seating as well.  Even though the place has been open just a little over two months, the word is out that Yamadaya is here.  Is it good you ask?  Well if you’re a chain with six locations in southern California, I would imagine they have the art of ramen down to the ‘T’.

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See those glops of fat floating at the surface?…Yea that’s what you look for when you’re getting yourself prep and hyped up for a delicious tonkotsu broth experience.  Just like Hinotez, these guys have the broth’s consistency down – thick and rich with porky goodness that coats your mouth and all the way down your throat before settling happily in your stomach.  Yea…this was freaking good.  Best part?  It was NOT over salted and thus…I only put down my spoon because I was going to be scraping the bottom.

When it was done, I had to dig myself out of that fatty, rich goodness to remember more about the rest of the bowl.  Noodles?  Yes, there was noodles and I had order extra just because I could see their portions run small.  They were cooked just right and even though I am not a slow eater (by nature), by the time I took my last bite, that was when the noodles felt a little “softer”.  Not bad Yamadaya…not bad at all (gawds I want myself a bowl now…*gurgling*).

The service was bare-bones – two front of the house servers on a Friday night with three or four guys working the kitchen (cooking, cleaning, etc).  Hence you may have a little more problems getting their attention when you really want something.  However, I’m all for helping myself to things when the restaurant’s small and short on staff.  For this bowl, I’m willing to sacrifice a waiter’s attention as long as he brings me my order.

Rakiraki

Actually…I didn’t make it to Rakiraki as intended, but hopefully by next week!


Philly Frank’s in San Marcos

Ok, so I don’t normally track up to the San Marcos area for food.  Or at all since it is never “on my way” to anything!  However, my coworker introduced me to a place up in San Marcos about three weeks ago and my world has been forever changed.  (And the realization dawned on me that San Marcos is actually NOT that far away from our office in Rancho Bernardo!)

CB started talking about getting Philly cheesesteaks one day and that got me really hungry.  Then he proceeded to tell me the name of the restaurant – Philly Frank’s.  Of course, the moment he gave me the name of the restaurant, I went hunting for the place online to see if it was worth my saliva (because I was drooling already at the thought of it).  Upon browsing through Yelp’s comments, reviews, and the pictures, I was completely sold!

Since I don’t eat beef, the only “Philly cheesesteak” that I’m familiar with is of the chicken variety.  There were good reviews for Philly Frank’s chicken variety and hence, there was an immediate need to make a lunch trip up.  Fortunately, for us, the managers were all gone for training during the week and so, it was time to schedule a “long” lunch!

There were four of us who made the trip that one fateful afternoon – CB (the culprit), PY, XP, and myself.  Between the four of us, we ordered the following: Cheese Steak, The Works (with peppers, mushrooms, and onions) – Beef  (3), and The Work (with everything) – Chicken, two orders of seasoned fries and an order of the onion rings.

Up close shot of my chicken philly

Needless to say, we had a LOT of food for the four of us that afternoon.  We thought that we could tackle it without any problems-no that is actually a lie.  Once we saw everything in front of us, we knew it would be a challenge that we had willingly accepted!

Unfortunately, I forgot to take an aerial shot of the table, but trust me, put all those sandwiches together and our sides and you’ll get the idea.  And by the end, I ended up eating more than 80% of the fries, some of the onion rings, and half of my sandwich.  There were definitely some food coma issues for the four of us upon our return to the office.  Was it all worth it?  HECK YES!!!!

It was so worthwhile, that CB and I made another trip last week with three other coworkers – MW, MB and RC.  They too understood why we would risk falling asleep during work hours for this sandwich!  Results were just the same as the first time – lots of food, happy eaters, and very tired workers.

Though the sad ending for our second trip, my leftover half of the sandwich was accidently left at the office fridge.  It was over the weekend, but there were no notices that the fridge was going to be cleaned out, which is done every now and then.  I come back to work on Monday morning, and was going to put my side salad I brought from home to eat with the sandwich, only to find my sandwich was GONE.  Seriously, I don’t get people who take other people’s food!  Sadly, that meant that I didn’t have the protein I needed for lunch that day and was starving soon after lunch.

This just means that I need to make another trip up to Philly Frank’s so I can have my other half of the sandwich!

Philly Frank’s
151 South Rancho Santa Fe Road
San Marcos, CA 92069