As annoying as the term "foodie" is, the true foodie movement would rather not be a niche subculture. If we all just embraced good ingredients, good eating and, as a result, good health, we'd all be foodies. The eager and enthusiastic foodies who run The Curious Fork in Solana Beach are attempting to spread some of that passion for joyful and healthful eating to the masses.
The Curious Fork (512 Via de la Valle, Suite 102) is a café, shop and cooking school all rolled into one. Oftentimes, when places try to do too much, they never manage to succeed at anything. I hope that's not the case with The Curious Fork, because the endeavor has an eager charm and an enthusiasm behind the mission that makes you root for its success.
I had no idea walking into The Curious Fork that everything made there is gluten-free. After the fact, I can see where I was missing it a bit, but the lack of it didn't diminish my overall enjoyment of the food.
The lunch menu is your basic salads, sandwiches and pizzas, but with an elevated sense of taste beyond just your average crank-'em-out lunch counters. The most humble of sandwiches—plain old turkey—gets a toothsome twist with a chewy and smoky charred baguette squishing together beautiful slices of turkey (no watery, pressed lunch meat here), tons of avocado and a light swipe of aioli. Nobody's changing the world with a turkey sandwich, but for an easily ignored standard, the Fork's version is proud to be simple yet outstanding with its assemblage of quality ingredients.
The pulled-pork sandwich, dressed with a sweet, hoisin-based sauce, was juicy and substantive without tasting like an overloaded pile of goo. The lack of gluten in the bun was both refreshing and a bit of a logistical problem. Without tons of bread to chew on, the sandwich had a lighter feel that allowed the pork (laden with lots of delightfully crispy end pieces) to shine. However, after just a few bites, the bottom layer of bread gave out and split in half, creating a bit of a mess, albeit a delicious one.
It's clear that The Curious Fork is still finding its footing; I tried ordering both the soup of the day (smoked tomato basil) and the hummus trio as light snacks to start my lunch. The incredibly kind staff informed me that a previous night's catering gig had wiped them out, so they were missing both options. That's a big pet peeve of mine as a diner, but I give points for how quickly they worked to create a tasty starter for me: a simple Caprese salad with thick slices of mozzarella; deep, maroon slices of heirloom tomatoes; and a sweet and generous drizzle of balsamic reduction.
And if you're coffee-obsessed, get excited, because The Curious Fork carries Brooklyn and Bay Area superstar Blue Bottle Coffee for your gourmet caffeine fix.
If you're a fan of the ponies at Del Mar, consider The Curious Fork as your sweet alternative to lousy concessions.