7387 Girard Ave.
"I had made a lot of Chargers [cookies] and then it rained and rained and rained and rained and people weren't coming," lamented François Goedhuys, creator and proprietor of La Jolla's Girard Gourmet. Fortunately, come noon, Chargers owner Alex Spanos' wife Susie "came in and bought everything."
François is renowned for his custom cookies depicting things like the Children's Pool seals, Finding Nemo's titular fish, a variety of dogs, wildflowers and pretty much anything else people ask for-including the Brooklyn Bridge and Dr. Seuss characters.
"There are various mousse cakes we make, but part of the appeal for people is the decorations," explains Diana, François' wife. "We do a lot of cakes for special occasions, and François will use his cookies to decorate them. Like Saturday was a 5-year-old girl's birthday, so he made a princess and he made a castle-all out of cookies."
Occupying a tiny slot on La Jolla's Girard Avenue, Girard Gourmet has been producing some of the best take-out comfort food in San Diego for the past 18 and a half years. Specialties include beef burgundy, lamb stew, roast chicken with vegetables and duck a l'orange, plus a variety of house-made quiches, soups, deli salads, bread, muffins and desserts.
Trained as a pastry chef in his native Belgium starting at age 14, François applies those techniques to American classics, like supremely light and airy cheesecakes in unusual flavors such as apple caramel. François' knack for experimentation produces new desserts all the time. "We came up with a cranberry orange cake this Christmas season," said François, "and that's a keeper, so we're going to keep on doing that."
It's hard to recommend any one thing from Girard Gourmet-everything is so good-but there are some true standouts, such as the potato salad, rich with hard-boiled eggs and seasoned with dill. It's hard to do justice to it with words, but it's some of the best potato salad I've eaten, and it makes an excellent accompaniment to any of Girard Gourmet's sandwiches.
The sandwiches are prepared on the house-made breads, including eight-grain and Italian varieties, and are available with a wide array of ingredients: top-notch roast beef, hard salami, thin sheets of roasted eggplant, roasted red bell peppers, avocados, chicken salad and curried chicken salad.
If hot stuff is what you're looking for, the beef burgundy and lamb stew are both great and available in whatever to-go quantity you wish. Simply reheat them in your oven or on the stovetop, and serve with some of the aforementioned bread for a simple and delicious rustic meal. If you want some side dishes to accompany the stews, Girard Gourmet also offers oven-roasted vegetables that are buttery and delicious, as well as incredible potato pancakes that are huge and well-seasoned with onion and black pepper.
Girard Gourmet's prices are surprisingly reasonable given the La Jolla address-most dishes cost around $6, with soups cheaper still. Served with a generous hunk of bread, the soups make for an economical light lunch. Any of the dishes can also be prepared to eat on the premises, where you can dine in the cozy dining area in back.