Open for mere weeks, Sublime Ale House in San Marcos is already a worthy place for food and beer deep in North County. Though it doesn't brew its own beer, SAH has an impressive list of local stars as well as top-notch domestic and international choices on tap and in bottles. I was there for the food, but, while visiting after our “birthing prep” class, my husband was most definitely there for the beer. (This week's class featured the horrific “what it looks like as the baby comes out” video. Shudder.)
The warm and bright dining room is open without feeling cavernous. The wooden beams supporting the ceiling lend a gorgeous rustic feel, and the zebra wood tables keep the natural theme going with a modern look. The whole place has a yeasty, warm smell, like freshly tapped kegs and rising pizza dough, and, indeed, one chunk of the menu is dedicated to quirky pies.
These pizzas have a “poolish” crust, meaning they're made with a baker's yeast, allowing for a nice elasticity of dough, as well as a more nuanced flavor. I opted for the signature Sublime pizza, with roasted rosemary chicken, mushrooms, bacon, cheddar cheese and béchamel in lieu of red sauce. There's a bit of truffle oil that's barely noticeable on the pizza itself, but boy did it make my car stinky during its ride home in a doggy bag. More of my thoughts on truffle oil in a moment.
I have lamented the bonkers one-upmanship of the macaroni-and-cheese wars in local restaurants. The race to see who can cram the unhealthiest combination of ingredients into the cheesy noodles strikes me as tiresome. However, I have to give props to Sublime Ale House for committing to the insanity and embracing it whole hog, with an entire portion of their menu dedicated to all sorts of variations on the theme. From jalapeños to pulled pork to Gorgonzola, there's something new for anyone to try in their favorite comfort classic. I tried mine with the pork and caramelized onions and enjoyed the crispy top crust of cheese as well as the overall flavor. The noodles weren't overdone, and the pork gave it a bit more substance.
Maybe I was over eating truffle oil after nibbling the pizza, or maybe I'm over the oil entirely, but I could have done without that extra drizzle in my mac and cheese. Truffle oil (really, a sad shadow of the real thing) is losing its novelty as it now shows up on every menu and every kind of food, from risotto to popcorn.
But enough about fungus. Let's talk meat. The burgers at Sublime Ale House are impressive. I'm not a purist when it comes to burgers or sandwiches. I like piles of nonsense stacked between two slices of bread—the more outrageous the better. A happy medium between classic and crazy on the SAH burger menu is the Slap Yo' Mama, a thick, velvety patty of beef topped with oozing brie, caramelized onions the color of chestnuts and a bacon jam that, when combined with the onions, gives the burger a deliciously sweet profile. The bun is moist and soft but stands up to the various juices of cow and onion without becoming soggy or disintegrating in your hand.
We were ebulliently greeted and seated by a delightful man in a cardigan and also chatted with the owner, James Limjoco, whose twinkly and warm personality made us feel welcome and enthusiastic about supporting this second location in the Sublime family. You should, too.