The Patio: outdoor dining magic
by David Rottenberg
Published - 02/28/13 - 02:01 PM | 22049 views | 0 0 comments | 409 409 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The Patio’s cheese plate.
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There is magic to outdoor dining. Warm sunny days and blue skies can enhance lunch. Cool, scent-filled moonlit evenings can make dinner flavors sparkle. That’s why so many San Diego restaurants offer outdoor dining or “dining al fresco” (Italian for “in the cool air”). So what could be better than to dine at the eponymous The Patio?

The Patio is built on the site of the former Lamont Street Grill, a landmark that pleased diners for more than 20 years. After all that time, the owners had had enough, and the former restaurant was rebuilt and enhanced to give it a fresh look and feel. Located in the heart of Pacific Beach, it is close enough to the ocean to feel the breezes, yet sufficiently close to private residences to give it a “neighborhood restaurant” feel.

The interior of the restaurant and bar are accessed by the patio, which is seeded with islands of small tables and heat lamps. Inside, the bar holds is a key feature, and with good reason. The choices are terrific, and devotees of single malt scotch will find even my favorite, Lagavulin, as well as a Dutch gin called genever. The specialty cocktails are crafted by a clever mixologist to light up the palate.

There is also a good selection of beers — both craft and large-format brews — and the wine list has many excellent choices.

Owner Gina Champion-Cain has achieved great business success in the real estate and hospitality industries and has been honored both academically, as well as for business achievement. She was the recipient of the San Diego Business Journal’s 2001 Women Who Mean Business Award, San Diego Metropolitan’s 2001 40 Under Forty Award, San Diego Magazine’s 50 People to Watch for 2002 and many more. As the moving spirit behind the restaurant, she focuses all her training and skill on making it succeed.

Executive chef John Medall concentrates on flavor, combining tastes to please the palate by using the best and freshest of ingredients. He knows the local scene and tastes well, having worked at Galileo, Red Circle and Sheraton Suites among other local venues. His menus change seasonally and intermittently between times, and his spring menu will launch mid-March.

The menu is divided into sections of small plates that are ideal for sharing, medium plates for lighter appetites and large plates.

An assortment of small plates could make an interesting dinner. Brussels sprouts dipped in asiago and blue cheese cream could combine well with lamb osso buco and Israeli couscous, along with tomato and pesto bruschetta with aged mozzarella. Or, how about fire-roasted artichoke with sautéed calamari in spicy tomato broth, along with filet medallion? There are countless combination possibilities.

As a standalone, the dungeness crab and ahi tuna tower comes as a tapering cylinder of seafood, avocado, tomato and cucumber. The flatbreads deserve special mention, as well. Available in vegetarian, seafood or beef and blue versions, they are satisfying, yet not filling.

Entrees include seafood (ubiquitous salmon, scallops and “catch of the day”), chicken, pork and filet. The pork shank was a large portion so tender that the meat flaked off, served on top of a delightful risotto. One of the night’s specials was an octopus dish of tentacles that were wonderfully crispy on the outside yet tender on the inside, served with bean, onion and ham.

For dessert, don’t pass on the warm chocolate chip cookie with pecans and vanilla bean ice cream. Then again, the signature dessert is the “twisted Elvis,” made with fresh banana bread, peanut butter, caramel sauce and vanilla bean ice cream.

The service, meanwhile, was also excellent. Servers were attentive, yet not obtrusive, and very helpful in making selections.

Bottom line — The Patio is magical, outdoors and indoors. The ambiance is cozy, the food terrific and prices are very moderate. It is even dog friendly, so feel free to bring canine friends.

The Patio, located at 4445 Lamont St. in Pacific Beach between Garnet and Grand, is open daily for lunch and dinner and for brunch on weekends. A weekday happy hour offers drink discounts. Live music is featured on Sunday. Valet parking is available for $3. Reservations are recommended. Call (858) 412-4648 for information and directions.
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