One of my top bucket list restaurants has been Searsucker, located in the San Diego Gaslamp district. Searsucker serves modern American fare and noted by Time Magazine, Open Table and Gayot as one of their top restaurants. But does Searsucker live up to the media hype? Lets find out.
Searsucker is owned by celebrity Chef Brian Malarkey, who was featured on Top Chef and The Taste. Searsucker is one of many restaurants opened by Malarkey, whose restaurant fiefdom is growing past San Diego and into Santa Monica, Austin, and Las Vegas.
This past weekend I made a trip to San Diego to visit my brother and to check out the San Diego dining scene. Searsucker was my top priority. In my early 20’s, my priority would have been a quick hit of Taco Bell then trolling the meat market bars, like Whiskey Girl, for eligible trading partners.
In my 30’s, priorities have changed to a more well-rounded fun of wine, gastronomic debauchery and then the bars. The Gaslamp scene was popping the night we visited and Searsucker was fully committed with reservations and the bar was packed.
Location and Ambiance
Searsucker sits in the heart of San Diego’s Gaslamp district, at the corner of 5th and Market. The 7,000 square foot restaurant has a very open floor plan. It has an open performance kitchen and no separation between the dining room and bar. There is a hip and positive energy in the restaurant.
With that said, this open floor plan also makes the ambiance very loud. It is impossible to have a quite conversation with your tablemates. In addition, tables are packed in tight, I was practically a 3rd wheel at the adjacent table’s anniversary dinner. If you want a quite dinner experience, I recommend you pick an earlier reservation time.
The restaurant has a laid back feel and uses salvage artifacts, ropes, brick, rustic lighting, and exposed beams. The mood is San Diego casual, although you are reminded that you are in a fine dining restaurant each time you look at the menu prices and delighted by the diligent table service.
Menu and what we ordered
The menu is separated into key sections of Bites, Smalls, Greens, Ocean, Ranch and Farm. The main courses are large, but pretty much served a la carte, aside from a modest side garnishment. A side dish or small plate is recommended unless you are dropping weight to fit into that bikini.
Although this “snack” is listed on the menu for $3, it is provided complimentary to the table. These are essentially airy bread puffs that are lightly studded with cheddar cheese. I ate most of cheese puffs to the anger of my wife and brother…opps. Hey, they were really good and they were too busy talking . 😉
Shrimp “Spicy” + Bacon Grits (small plate dish)
Shrimp and grits is an overplayed trend; although, Searsucker differentiates itself from similar dishes on the market. The grits were loose in texture and infused / topped with a “spicy” sauce. The bacon in the grits provided a pleasant textural and flavor contrast.
The sauce leaned much more towards spice then heat, providing a peppery and smoky flavor through the palate. The medium sized shrimp added a sweet protein contrast to the smoky spiced sauce and grits. $15
Ono is a mild, flakey and delicate white fish that is one of the best white canvases for a chef to show off their skills. The Searsucker preparation rubbed the fish with chipotle powder and was pan roasted, most likely with butter.
It is served with a dollop of melted blue cheese on top and tiled on a pile of “piperada”, which is a relish of plum tomatoes, corn, capers, and peppers.
The plate is decorated with balsamic and cilantro. Overall this is a well prepared dish, although I would have left hungry if this is what I ordered. If you get this dish, be sure to order sides or snacks. $31
The chicken is was soft and moist and tasted like it was sous vided and pan roasted in a butter sauce. The thigh and breast portion of the chicken is served with baby carrots, romanesco florets, and is smothered in chicken pan jues.
The chicken also had a mysterious drizzle of green tangy sauce that was not identified on the menu or the waiter. I felt that the portion was generous and flavor soaked in eat bite. This dish is worth ordering. $26
I did not want to order this dish. My first choice sold out early in the night and the duck ran out right after I ordered it :(. I ordered the Pork But, after I asked our waiter for his “death row” meal choice. He also said that the Chef will often make this for himself.
Like I have said in previous posts, I hate ordering braised meats like short ribs or pork but, unless the restaurant makes it remarkably well. I ordered it anyways, based on the recommendations.
The pork but is slow roasted, judging by the fall apart texture of the meat, it tasted like it had been slow roasted for 12+ hours. The texture, color, and flavor reminded me of corned beef. The flavor is slightly tangy and a full umph of umami.
The pork but is served in a puddle of bacon emulsion, bacon bits, whiskey apples, and a delicious slightly tangy cream sauce. The dish is topped with radish and micro-cilantro.
Although I loved this dish, I would not order it again. Why? This dish tasted amazing, but there are so many other items on the menu that I would rather try. Additionally, it did not blow my mind or take me to a dark place like a Breaking Bad binger. With that said, if you like braised meats or short ribs, this dish is a must try. $24
These potatoes are super creamy and much looser than your standard American mashed potatoes, they are more like an Irish Colconnan. If butter is like sex, then this dish would be an orgy. No amount of butter was not spared in the making of this dish.
The butter potato was soft, creamy, and slightly loose in texture. The flavor is rich and an absolutely, the butter potato is a must order side. $7
Jalapeno-Chorizo “Corn of the cob”
This dish was fantastic and very roughly reminds you of elote. I was expecting this dish to be spicy, although the heat level was mild to medium. The chorizo and jalapeno were submissive to the natural corn flavor and acted as multipliers rather than central flavor. Either butter or melted hard cheese, perhaps both, covered the corn and made the corn very pleasant to eat. $7
My Final Thoughts
Searsucker lived up to the hype and I was extremely pleased by the food, service, and overall experience. The food quality, recipes, and presentation are worth the fine dining price of the meal. Searsucker is a hip and trendy restaurant provides a fun experience and delicious dishes.
The menu regularly rotates, based on what is in season, so if you visit Searsucker in a couple month, you might see different dishes on the menu. If you are a San Diego resident, consider yourself lucky for having this restaurant in your neighborhood. If you are from Orange County, the IE, or Los Angeles then Tom’s Foodie Blog recommends this restaurant during your next visit.
- Searsucker Address: 611 5th Avenue, San Diego, CA 92101 (in the Gaslamp District)
- Website: www.searsucker.com
- Phone:(619) 233-7327
Searsucker (San Diego)