George's at the Cove1250 Prospect St.La Jolla858-454-4244www.georgesatthecove.com
George's at the Cove is named for its owner, George Hauer, but chef Trey Foshee's name is the one synonymous with the restaurant and its locally driven menu. Foshee has long been one of North County's Chino Farm's greatest supporters and still drives to the family-run farm to pick up the restaurant's produce. Though these vegetables are showcased in most dishes, George's is also one of the few fine-dining restaurants offering a distinct and varied vegetarian menu, and choices can easily be made vegan.
Foshee's cooking shines especially bright in his seafood dishes, where his passion and interest in sustainable-fishing practices and our local ocean catch is taste-apparent. Ten years ago, when he became the executive chef at George's, he was one of the first to put San Diego-harvested sea urchins on a menu that wasn't sushi-oriented. In fact, a long-ago Food Network segment showing Foshee on a La Jolla beach, putting cilantro-flecked lobes of sea urchin onto just-grilled bread, was so insanely appetizing that I've been doing the same ever since.
He also encouraged his seafood suppliers to market sardines, used more commonly as bait fish, and George's is now one of the only restaurants, in addition to North Park's Sea Rocket Bistro, to feature these local fish regularly on the menu.
The downstairs dining room, George's California Modern, which, true to its name, got a major modern makeover a few years ago, is where Foshee focuses most of his efforts, though frequent fancy dinners there are out of my range. But the beauty of George's is that they have other spaces where you can appreciate the restaurant's location and cuisine. Their multilevel set-up, which the recently closed Jack's La Jolla attempted to emulate, has the rooftop Ocean Terrace, with its casual and affordable bistro food, and a mid-level bar that also serves a more accessible menu.
There are certain expectations that visitors from far-away places expect from Southern California, and George's Ocean Terrace seems to fulfill the wants of most of the own-of-town guests I've taken there. We might take both for granted, but for some folks, sunshine is rare and the ocean is an arresting sight. George's open-air patio is shaded but boasts some sunny spots, especially along the edge, where the panoramic view of the water and sand of La Jolla Cove below is best beheld.
George's famous fish tacos, marinated and grilled fresh fish—on this day, local albacore—are good, though more embellished than the ones from my favorite seafood taco stand. In addition to the standard shredded cabbage, they're topped with guacamole, mango salsa and jalapeño-lime crème fraiche. Local halibut gets chopped and mixed with cucumbers, avocado, tomatoes and onions for a refreshing ceviche. And tons of Manila clams, so many that they could charge $24 instead of $14 for the plate, are piled on top of perfectly al dente spaghetti, tossed with a roasted tomato and white-wine sauce that's loaded with soft, nutty slices of toasted garlic.
George's bars—there's one per dining level—infuses vodka with seasonal fruit and incorporates the fruit with other spirits into innovative drinks like the Bee Sting, made with kumquats, ginger and lemongrass, or the California Caipirinha, which mixes tons of fresh lemon and lime wedges with cachaca, ginger ale, basil and cracked pepper.And if your guests aren't seafood fans, George's does other things well, too. The signature soup, a creamy base with smoked chicken, broccoli and black beans, is popular, and the burger, Niman Ranch beef on a buttery bun with blue cheese, onion marmalade and hand-cut fries, is a new favorite. They even make the crème brulée, a somewhat played-out dessert, seem like a taste and texture revelation.Write to email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org. Would you like your online comment to be considered for publication in our print edition? Include your true full name and neighborhood of residence.