tropical fruit paradise / mission gorge – san diego, ca

I buy lots of group deals from Groupon, LivingSocial, Amazon Local and places like that. Lately I’ve felt like a lot of the places I’ve been to have been just kind of “meh” and not really impressive with their food or service, so when I finally went in to use one of my coupons to a little place called Tropical Fruit Paradise, I really wasn’t expecting very much. I read a couple of Yelp reviews saying they had good torta sandwiches and that was enough to get me to shell out money to buy two coupons – and as it turns out, this was a really excellent idea.

Let’s say that my first visit was the “scouting trip”. I went here alone for lunch one Saturday afternoon while Jake had to work for a bit. My Amazon Local deal covered $10 – just enough to get me one torta sandwich and one strawberry agua fresca. I had to pay tax and for my bag of chips, all in all a steal.

[steak torta sandwich – includes mayo, lettuce, tomatoes, onions, jalapenos, and sliced avocado with a side of salsa – $6.99]

I ordered just a plain old steak torta, just wanting to try something “basic” and simple here for my scouting mission. I must say I was pleasantly surprised. The steak was well seasoned and marinated – cooked perfectly as well. It was juicy and cooked to medium and stacked high with lots of fresh veggies – red onion, tomatoes, green leaf lettuce and slices of perfectly ripe avocado.

The bread on the torta is also really nice – the bread is fluffy with a nice chew and is grilled on the inside. I could tell it was grilled on a stove to toast since the top of the was still fairly soft but had a really nice crunch from the grilling.

Since it’s a pretty large sandwich, I only ate half and brought the rest home to Jake. He ended up gobbling the sandwich in no time and thought – even cold – that it was one of the best torta sandwiches he’s ever had. I think I might have been onto something here.

[agua frescas – strawberry flavored – $2.49, large]

Ever since I got one of these at Frutilandia oh so many moons ago, I’ve loved them. I order them pretty much wherever we go – but I always get the same flavor! I can’t seem to branch out and try a new flavor, sticking with my standby strawberry favorite. The version here at Tropical Fruit Paradise seems a little creamier than other versions I’ve had a little less sweet – but still quite delicious in my book. I ordered one of these on both of my visits to Tropical Fruit Paradise. I can’t manage to tear myself away from them.

Must… have…strawberry water… arrrrgh!

[tostielote – tostitos, nacho cheese and corn – $3.99]

From here on out we’re using iPhone photos since I actually left my camera at home on our second visit. Lordy. Jake ordered this – it sounded totally weird to me, but since he was paying for it, I wasn’t going to complain.

I ate my words shortly after though since I did actually kind of like it. These are served right inside of a bag of salsa flavored Tostitos chips and topped off with nacho cheese, jalapenos and corn. Nacho cheese and corn?! Was this invented on purpose? I can’t see how that’s possible. I honestly believe someone had an open can of corn that got accidentally dumped in some nacho cheese and no one noticed until they started eating it and then decided it was good. I would never put “nacho cheese” and “corn” together otherwise. But for some reason it’s tasty? Even as I ate it I was in disbelief. Still kinda am.

[cubana torta – milaneza, chicken, ham, chorizo, egg, american egg, jack cheese + veggies – $7.69]

Jake and T shared this Cubana Torta – this thing is packed with goodies! Milaneza (which, in this case, it a thinly sliced breaded steak cutlet), chicken, ham, chorizo and an egg… with two kinds of cheese! This is definitely a rich sandwich with all of those layers packed into one sandwich – but you’re still able to wrap your whole mouth around the sucker since everything is thin enough to still make it a decent side.

I did have one little bit and the chorizo seemed to be the most dominant flavor since it had a little bit of a spicy kick to it. I thought the egg made it “too much” – but Jake totally loved this sandwich. We had this last weekend and just last night he told me he had been thinking about this sandwich for three days! I hope I don’t lose out to a sandwich! Continue reading “tropical fruit paradise / mission gorge – san diego, ca”

beach bowls, kona pies and girly drinks at islands restaurant

I’ve been to Islands quite a few times. Those skin-on french fries they are are highly addicting. But they’ve got other stuff, too! You know burgers, whatever. And sandwiches! And tacos! And also new things, like paradise mai tai’s and chicken beach bowls.

I’ve sure you’ve been here before, too. Let’s keep this short and sweet, yes? (See emphasis on the sweet at the end…)

[Maker’s Wedge and Paradise’s Mai Tai]

Jake and I both opted to try one of their new drinks – I chose the Maker’s Wedge (right – maker’s mark, ginger liqueur, pine juice, lime and agave nectar) and he went for the Paradise’s Mai Tai (which had Bacardi rum, Myer’s Rum, lime juice with a tropical mix). There was also a drink with Jagermeister… but yeah, no, thanks. Not going there.

Someone other than our server took our orders, so the most amusing part was when our server put the mai tai in front of me and the whiskey drink in from of him.

Heh heh heh.

I teased him about his girlier drink while we waited on food to arrive.

[Islands Beach Bowl with grilled chicken]

Island’s newest Beach Bowl is chock full of veggies with your choice of either grilled chicken or mahi mahi and includes fresh grilled pineapple, red bell peppers, snow peas, water chestnuts, red onion, broccoli & diced scallions in a hoisin sauce and all of that served over brown rice. This bowl screams “I’m good for you and low in calories” (just under 576 calories) and you might just want to opt for this one after viewing the calorie intake of the burgers on their menu.

Continue reading “beach bowls, kona pies and girly drinks at islands restaurant”

lotus cafe and juice bar / hillcrest – san diego, ca

Lotus Cafe and Juice Bar is a local restaurant with two locations in Hillcrest and Encinitas. They serve fresh, healthy, natural food and have a lot of dietary options for people who have gluten restrictions, are vegetarian or vegan. Many items can be made vegan and there are a few meaty dishes for those who prefer a bit more protein with their meal.

[Lotus Cafe and Juice Bar Menu]

[Menu Key – The menu is marked with various symbols indicating what the different options are. ]

When I found out I was being invited here and looked at the menu, I decided that I would bring Stacey along with me on this outing as she’s the closest to a vegetarian friend that I have, without actually being vegetarian. What can I say? The girl really likes her salads but can’t bear to give up bacon (bacon smells really good, you must admit).

[Hummus & Pita Bread – spread made of ground garbanzo, sesame seeds, olive oil, lemon & garlic, served with wedges of whole wheat pita bread]

We started off with an appetizer of hummus after we spent an obscenely long amount of time trying to figure out exactly what we wanted. The hummus comes in a big scoop. It’s very solid so not as creamy as other hummus that I’ve had, but the flavor of garlic and lemon shines through and gives this a nice texture and flavor. It comes with a mess of carrots and sprouts along with whole wheat pita bread for spreading and eating.

[Lotus Caesar Salad – Mixed organic greens with tomato, avocado, croutons, Parmesan cheese and vegetarian Caesar dressing]

We also shared this very large Lotus Caesar Salad between the two of us (half salad is also available). This comes with a vegetarian Caesar dressing on the side. The Caesar still has all of the flavor and kick of a regular Caesar so you’re not missing out when you get this. The tomatoes were so fresh and bright and the Parmesan shavings added a nice salty flavor to the salad. Half of a perfectly ripe avocado is placed on top for you to devour (which we did). So refreshing and crisp – the addition of the avocado here really made this shine for me.

[Stuffed Veggie Quesadilla – Whole wheat chapati stuffed with sauteed veggies and cheese, topped with guacamole, salsa and sour cream]

Stacey was between two items for quite some time but finally decided on this Stuffed Veggie Quesadilla. This one can be made vegan, if you so desire. It’s stuffed with with sauteed veggies – including big chunks of broccoli (something we both found really weird at first but it tasted so good that we decided it was a brilliant idea). The veggies are still a bit crisp with a little bite for extra texture. Covered in delicious cheese and topped with a spot of guacamole and sour cream, this is a very delicious and healthy version of a quesadilla.

Continue reading “lotus cafe and juice bar / hillcrest – san diego, ca”