San Diego: All you Can Eat Petco Park, Wayfare Public Beer Brunch, Puesto

Sunday morning in San Diego began with a venture to Waypoint Pubic in North Park, for what promised to be a great brunch, but also, a spectacular line-up of beer pairings with which to wash it down. Waypoint was just shy of open when we arrived, leaving us a moment to scout the neighborhood for a quick snack. http://www.waypointpublic.com/

Down the block and across the street, Saguaro’s beckoned, a little box of a Mexican restaurant with a drive through http://saguarosmexicanfood.com/

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Saguaro’s invoked fond memories of Los Betos in Tucson, my college era go to for sloppy Mexican http://www.yelp.com/biz/los-betos-tucson-2 (still there and presumably still fabulous). Saguaro’s is much more than a taqueria; their menu runs the gamut of all things hearty and Mexican, from saucy combo plates and street tacos to rolled, fried tacos, tortas, tostadas, and menudo

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They also serve an all day breakfast, leaving little to no room for argument against eating there, ever

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Our pick, a platter of magnificently tangy pastor tacos, piled high with rich meat and bright green mounds of lettuce, cilantro, and green onion, wrapped in a couple of slightly charred tortillas.

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Over at Waypoint Public, breakfast service was underway in the airy, open walled space

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The décor, a mixture of rustic and slick, indoor and outdoor

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With a nice long bar outfitted with bright blue stools, plenty of local beer on tap, and a trio of televisions

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Waypoint’s beverage menu focuses on the craft beers that SD so handily cranks out; at brunch, that means morning beer cocktails; some, more traditional; michelada and bloody beer, others, less common, like the beermosa, lemon/lager mixture, or the MaitaIPA. We played it safe with our tender morning bellies, ordering a mixture of bloody’s and micheladas to compliment our spread, a five plater including chicken & a biscuit

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A hash, pork butt I believe, topped with golden orange fried eggs and a cream sauce,

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An order of brioche french toast with blueberries, strawberries, mascarpone, and a spiced maple reduction

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And a bacon, lettuce, fried green tomato and avocado sandwich, (photographed only in this group shot, far right)

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Brunch was well executed and satisfying, not mind-blowing; the hash and french toast emerged as crowd favorites, served to us by one ridiculously attentive and friendly server. Most importantly, this service pug. You know, providing service.

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Nothing to see here people…

Over at Petco park, we were deposited on the train station, car park side of the stadium, where people tailgated in designated lots.

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On the complete opposite side of the park lurks the Gaslamp district; if you’ve never been to San Diego, just know that if someone tells you to go there, that should be your cue to never take food or travel advice from them ever, EVER, again. The Gaslamp is the cheesiest of tourist traps, a solid four square blocks or so of menus on music stands outside of warehouse-y restaurants and huge night clubs/bars in which college students get blacked out and date rape. When I think of the gaslamp, I think sticky. As in, my shoes stick to the floors there, as they did at this Hooters where we stopped to revel in the concept of a Hooters.

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Hey, at least the water cups are giant and the beer is cheap.

Inside Petco park, the walk to our seats took us along an open air, mostly uncovered promenade that wraps the perimeter of the park, giving it an entirely summery feel, which as Giants fans who are subject to the wrath of Karl the Fog at any given moment, was a delightful revelation. Green ivy columns hung from walkways above; a far cry from the grey concrete hallways that line AT&T or the Colleseum.

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In our hands, we held tickets to the previously mythical but now totally real ALL-YOU-CAN-EAT SEATS. All. You. Can. Eat. Seats. Also, they were $42 each, which is just NUTS, and, they weren’t nosebleeds; right field, second tier.

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All-you-can-eat has its own little entrance, with a dedicated pair of ushers, there to verify that the pay-as-you-go guys do not infiltrate the scene. Behind the velvet rope (OK, it was elastic) this:

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At our gluttonous disposal…hot dogs (topping choices=onions, relish, jalapeno’s, mustard, ketchup, tapatio), popcorn, peanuts, and two fridges full of bottled water and sodas. This is round one or perhaps five, there were so many, it’s a blur; hotdog with mustard and jalapeno’s, hot dog with mustard, jalapeno’s and relish, hot dog with mustard, jalapeno’s, relish, onions, and tapatio, hotdog with mustard and onions, I had all that and some repeats, to be sure. Note our bright pink VIP fat person bands.

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Coming from a land of $10.50 bud light in a soul sucking aluminum bottle, the beer situation at Petco shocked and awed me. Here, not far from the AYCE seats, like a mirage appearing in the not-that-intense San Diego heat? A craft beer stand. A craft beer stand charging REASONABLE PRICES. I just…high fives everybody, high fives.

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I know we had all-you-can-eat seats. In fact, I will never forget. However, we did also need to sample what is, perhaps, the parks most famous offering, Phil’s BBQ. Also, it was sort of impossible not to get drawn in by the smell of the smokers, chugging the alluring scent of meaty campfire smell into the air. Phil’s cranks out a nice, smoky, not overly sauced brisket, inside a soft, sweet bun.

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Petco was impressive. The fans were nice, the food was good (and plentiful), the beer was even better, the atmosphere, pure baseball Americana. On our way out, we passed a grassy centerfield area (ticketed) were folks can throw down a blanket, watch the game, and let kids run around. Great ballpark.

Outside, the Gaslamp was in full on molten lava cheese flow. Opting for the path of least resistance, we went into some Irish named atrocity of a bar to have a pop and wait out the crowd. During that time, we had one unfortunate order of floppy, flabby, luke warm wings

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Along with one equally night sweat inducing order of taquitos

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Perhaps the one bright spot in the Gaslamp’s dark sea of “romantic alfresco dining” is Stone Brewing Taproom, located just on the edge of the ballpark http://www.stonebrewing.com/visit/default.asp#taproom

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It’s just a tasting room/bar, but any respite from the nonsense going on outside was more than welcome. For dinner we made the half mile trek to Puesto, a Rick Bayless type of Mexican place that just received a “best of SD” award from San Diego magazine. http://www.eatpuesto.com/

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Puesto serves an upscale version of Mexican street food atop rustic looking plate ware, alongside some really zingy margaritas, all within a slightly fancy space housed within a fussy-ish strip mall. They offer four versions of guacamole; guac with parmesan, lime and orange and cilantro, guac with lump crab meat, guac with pomegranate, mango and candied nuts, and finally, your basic mixture of avocado, onion, lime and cilantro. We chose to keep it simple and go traditional

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Then added a refreshing and citrusy bright order of ceviche

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As well as my favorite dish of the evening, a deliciously vegetal blend of zucchini, onion, corn, tomato, and pickled jalapeno topped with a luscious, cooling, dollop of crema

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Puesto’s menu lists no less than eleven taco options, three of which are veggie, two, fish; with the option to “mix and match” three of them for $13. We were a group of seven, which meant we required five full on taco platters; succulent lamb barbacoa, juicy carnitas, pineapple rich pastor, some sort of fried cheese guy, and, I believe, an order of fish.

And then, we all fell out. Every, single, full and fat one of us.

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