"A lot of what we do is to try and break up the stereotypes about PB," said Benjamin Nicholls, explaining the motivation behind the Pacific Beach Restaurant Walk. Nicholls is the executive director of the Pacific Beach business association's Discover Pacific Beach. "Sometimes you reinforce the stereotypes, but sometimes [people] say, "Wow, that's a restaurant I'd never expect to find in Pacific Beach,' and that's really our goal," he said.
Pacific Beach hosts two "restaurant walks" every year, where, for $15, you can sample dishes from participating restaurants throughout the course of one evening. Coastal restaurants can participate in the spring walk, and central Pacific Beach eateries can take part in the fall event. Last week's walk featured more than 20 restaurants ranging in cuisine from spicy Thai food to salty bar snacks.
Discover Pacific Beach isn't interested in cherry picking which restaurants participate, Nicholls said. The organization handles the promotion, "and once they're in your door, you do promotion to show what you have." Clearly, some participants take the event more seriously than others.
Here then are the unofficial winners (and losers) from this year's Coastal Restaurant Walk:
Best Foot Forward Award-Thai Village. This small eatery scored big points for offering several delicious dishes for sampling, including a yellow curry, Panang curry, sticky rice and mango and an awesome appetizer they call Finger Shrimp-shrimp and spices rolled up in a long, conical spring-roll wrapper and fried crisp. The enthusiastic proprietor greeted all comers with exhaustive explanations of the dishes.
I Got Plenty O' Nuttin Award-PB Bar & Grill. Voted Best Singles Bar, according to the text stamped on my wrist when entering, PB Bar & Grill seemed to present a large assortment of choices, but none were very appealing at close range-"kind of like their clientele," quipped a friend of mine. That the few things I sampled were mediocre wasn't stopping people from loading up their plates.
Best Up-Sell Award-Joe's Crab Shack. The warm crab dip was very tasty-creamy and rich, with lots of crab flavor. The chips served on the side were also good, though salty. No doubt this combination resulted in a lot of beer being sold to thirsty walkers.
Huevos Grandes Award-Pangaea Outpost. Pangaea Outpost isn't a restaurant at all, but a home-furnishings shop akin to Pier One or Cost Plus, stocked to the rafters with baubles, tchotchkes and knick-knacks from around the globe. I asked why they were participating and was told they were serving coffee in the back, supplied by Zanzibar across the street.
Feedbag Award-Fillipi's Pizza Grotto. While some places offered small nibbles of their dishes, Fillipi's offered pizza, lasagna, chicken marsala and Italian sausage with peppers, in portions much too large for an event like this. I'm glad this was one of our last stops.
What Were They Thinking? Award-Hennessey's Tavern. Nobody would ever confuse Hennessey's with fine dining, but, still, one would expect something more than lukewarm Buffalo wings and cold corned-beef sandwiches. The beef on the sandwiches was tasty, but the bread was rather dry, and I didn't particularly feel like dressing it with the provided packets of yellow mustard.
The Pacific Beach Restaurant Walk is a lot of fun, and definitely something I'd do again. A lot of the restaurants really did put some effort into their offerings, and I came away with probably three or four places I'll definitely be going back to. The next restaurant walk is scheduled for September-check the website for updates.