Sandwich Chronicles: Panama 66


Work is pretty rough this time of year.  We are currently in our post-Christmas dead period where all the New Year’s Resolutionists have finally given up on their goals of weight loss and reading more and have settled back into their respective couches with takeout and Netflix, not to return until next Black Friday.  Due to this sudden lack of cash flow, payroll gets all kinds of tight and we basically just end up sending everyone home after they hit the required two hour mark.  Last Tuesday was my turn: after coming in at 6 am, commute lit by a gorgeous crescent moon, I was off by 9.  I had already been fully awakened by that point and had an entire day ahead of me; while I had a lot of Workaholics to catch up on, I figured I could save that for the last seven hours of the day, and agreed to meet Erica in Balboa Park to explore the free museums.  It was the third Tuesday of the month so the Museum of Man and the art museum were among the ones free of charge; we decided to start with the SDMA, grab lunch and a drink at the newly opened Panama 66, and catch some mummies afterward.

The art museum was, you know, the San Diego Art Museum.  We walked around.  Laughed at the ugly stuff we could probably do ourselves, saw some paintings of Jesus depicted as a Man-Baby.  The usual.  Also, FYI, searching Google images for “Jesus as man baby” does not disappoint.

First there’s this little guy, apologizing to Mary for making everyone think she’s a ho.

First there's this little guy.
Forgive me, mom.  I know not what I do.

Then there’s this little hipster baby Jesus, who was probably a Vegan and built his own tree house.

Then there's this sweet little bearded savior.
Baby Jesus had a beard before you even knew about them.

And finally this guy comes along and raises some important questions about race and the white-washing of our dear Emmanuel.

And then this guy comes along and raises some important questions about race and the white-washing of our dear Emmanuel.
Or maybe he’s just a guy named Jesus Manbaby.

Just thought that needed to be shared.

Obviously we had worked up an appetite after the strange and intriguing museum visit and headed straight to Panama 66.  It is owned and operated by the people who run Tiger! Tiger! and Blind Lady Alehouse, so I had some pretty high expectations.  Though I’ve never dined at Tiger! Tiger!, I have a very special place in my heart for Blind Lady’s egg and bacon pizza.  The egg is cracked in the center.  It cooks just enough to leave the yolk runny.  It’s topped with swiss chard and truffle oil…needless to say, I could eat this for breakfast everyday.

Panama 66 has a different feel to it, which is to be expected given its touristy location.  It’s an open, outdoor area with a bar/counter where you order.  Erica and I snagged a seat and pored over the menu.  I was happy to find they had a decent selection of good beers for pretty cheap.  I found this especially surprising in Balboa Park, where a soda can set you back $5.  They also had many delicious-sounding sandwiches and I had been told by a friend I had to get the pork loin, but for whatever reason, I went against her guidance.  I was interested in something light and the butternut squash sandwich caught my eye.  So that’s what I got.  And I never regretted a sandwich more:

Ew.  Just ew.

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the densest, nuttiest, richest sandwich you will ever eat.  Or, if you’re lucky, won’t ever eat.  It sounded so refreshing in theory:

Roasted butternut squash, shiitake mushrooms, kale slaw, pepitas, miso vinaigrette on house-made focaccia.

You know, reading that over now, it doesn’t really sound refreshing at all.  It actually sounds pretty heavy.

So maybe I didn’t really think about how that would all come together until it was too late, but whatever, I still don’t think it’s my fault.  Basically the bread was good, but too heavy for that thinly-sliced squash.  The squash itself needed some kind of flavor.  The mushrooms and the pumpkin seeds really had no place on the sandwich and, combined with the miso, only brought that umami flavor to an almost unbearable level.  And the kale?  That’s not a slaw.  That’s just kale, cut up.  So basically, nothing on this sandwich worked.  And I hate to say this, but I didn’t even finish it.  Scratch that–I couldn’t even finish it.  While I was yet again learning the hard lesson to never order vegan when pork is on the menu, Erica got one of the most gorgeous turkey sandwiches I ever seent.  She even let me have a bite, probably because she’s a good friend and not because I was eyeing it with the same intensity with which a lioness stalks her prey.

That's me, across the table, crying into my gross food.
I’m just about ready to pounce.

This was hers, a combination of turkey, brie, butter lettuce, bacon, and a cranberry mayo which is, in my opinion, just delightful.  This sandwich changed my mind on Panama 66.  This sandwich offered them hope of redemption.

Plus, it’s hard to swear off a place with this view:

Goddamn, San Diego.  Why you so beautiful?
Goddamn, San Diego. Why you so beautiful?


Price: Unlike the beer, the sandwiches run a little pricey–my abomination was about $9, and most of the meaty ones were $11ish.

Menu:  It’s a little underdeveloped, but it is also a new spot.  With time, they may beef it up a bit.  The sandwiches they do have are unique, though in some cases, like, oh I dunno, a butternut squash/mushroom/pumpkin seed sandwich, uniqueness doesn’t pay off…

Ambiance:  Outdoors in Balboa Park–gorgeous.  Reference above glamour shot of the Museum of Man bell tower.

Sides:  For an additional $4, you can grab some fries?

Second Trip Worthy?  I’d like to give their pork loin a go, but I’m not going to go seek it out.  If I am ever exploring museums in the future, I’ll swing by.

Overall rating: On the sandwich alone, 1 out of 10 sandwiches.  I never thought I would hate a sandwich so much.  I need to sit and think about my life.


Sandwich Chronicles: Rubicon Deli


You guys.  I’ve finally gone and done it.  I’ve been told for years it is the best sandwich shop around and while I held high hopes, I didn’t realize just how good it would be.

I ate at Rubicon.

I must say, when I arrived there, I kind of didn’t know where it was.  I knew it was on India by Shakespeare’s Pub but I could not for the life of me find a sign.  So I parked, got out of my car, and saw a line of people directly in front of me.  I figured that had to be it.  Then I saw people eating sandwiches on the little sidewalk patio and knew by the looks of those culinary marvels that I was in the right place.  Though the line went out the door, it’s only because the counter is basically three steps inside the building.  After a short wait, it was time to order.  I had heavily researched this establishment prior to arriving and was set on ordering either the Dapper Dipper (a fancy french dip) or the Rich Boy (chipotle grilled chicken, cheese, and avocado).  However, once I got to the front of the line, I began to have second thoughts.  The dip sounded/looked and smelled delicious (one of the patio people ordered it, okay?  He was right there and I was just kind of casually leaning over, checking it out…it wasn’t as creepy as it sounds).  However, it was about 85 degrees out and as much as I love au jus, I thought I should maybe save it for a time when it could be more fully appreciated.  The Rich Boy was highly favored on Yelp, but it sounded pretty similar to the sandwich I got from BFD (, in case you missed it!), and I felt obligated to try something a little different.  Then I saw it.

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the Belly Up:

Cue Lord of the Rings theme
Cue Lord of the Rings theme.
One sandwich to rule them all
One sandwich to rule them all!

This sandwich is unlike any other sandwich I have either reviewed or ever eaten.  It’s pork belly with a sweet and tart Asian slaw, lettuce, and a miso ginger mayonnaise.  You choose your bread and, being unsure of what it would go best on, I went with the recommendation of the guy at the counter–the pesto roll.  It sounds weird, but it works so well.

As a rule of thumb, I’m not usually a huge fan of coleslaw on sandwiches.  As with potato chips, I adopt a very conservative policy of segregation–they are sides, that is where they should remain!  However, I wholly support the integration happening in this sandwich.  The pork belly, being as fatty and rich as it is, needs something slightly sweet and acidic to break it up.  Not to mention the crunch of the slaw also adds a nice texture to a sandwich that would otherwise be, well, soft and flabby (don’t take that the wrong way, pork belly; I love you just the way you are).  Though it is expensive, weighing in at $12.99 for the whole, it is also gigantic; half is basically the size of a homemade sandwich.  Considering the quality of ingredients and the fact that I could never make this myself, I say it is well worth the price.

Because this was a really special sandwich day, I decided to splurge and get myself a side of their bacon potato salad.  I love potato salad so very much, and have honestly never found a place that serves it with bacon.  I don’t know why this is; it only makes sense, especially if it also contains hard boiled eggs…it’s like breakfast in a creamy, mayonnaisy scoop!  Who wouldn’t want that?

WAAAAAIT a minute...
What is this shit?

So you can imagine my disappointment when, at home, I discovered they gave me not the glorious meaty potato salad, but fucking QUINOA.  MOTHERFUCKING QUINOA.  Sure, it was the healthier option, and sure it probably saved me from having a heart attack that day, but there is nothing as disappointing as expecting bacon and getting a super grain.  To be fair, it was really good, even better the second day, once the flavors had time to meld.  It had a nice garlicky richness, a vinegary bite, and the tomatoes and cucumbers were yeah, it wasn’t the worst side I could have received.  But still, man.  Goddamn quinoa.


Price: I’m not going to lie, it’s pretty expensive.  But if you’re going to budget for a sandwich, this should be the one.  Also, I don’t think it is humanly possible to eat a whole in one sitting, so you really get two meals for the price of one.

Menu:  A large handful of unique specialty sandwiches along with the option of building your own.  They also offer salads, for the weak.

Ambiance:  Is artisanal an ambiance?  Because I think it should be.  Okay, if not it’s young, it’s hip, it’s fun, but you can tell they all take it seriously and know what they’re doing.  Except for the guy packing to-go bags.  He needs some retraining.

Sides:  Well as you know there are potato and quinoa salads, and also a bunch of potato chips.  OH!  Before I forget!  They have the most amazing soda fountain–all the sodas are made with pure cane sugar and the flavors include lemon lime, diet cola, cola, root beer, orange, and SHIRLEY TEMPLE.  Where have you been all my life?

Second Trip Worthy?  It’s taken every ounce of willpower I have not to go back and try that Dapper Dipper.

Overall rating: 15 out of 10 sandwiches!

February, In Passing

February was way too short, and this post is a little too late, but it still deserves to be remembered.  Here’s to you, February: a month unjustly hated by singles and East Coasters weathering your angry storms.  As for me?  I liked you just fine.

Things I Ate But Probably Shouldn’t Have:

I'm Southern at heart.
I’m Southern at heart.

1.  Homemade Mac n’ Cheese:  The first weekend in February, Damon had to travel to Portland to record with his band, Ape Machine (Never heard of them?  They’re on Spotify.  Go listen; I’ll wait).

Good right?  Alright, back to me.

His aunt happens to be high up at United and as Damon has to travel a lot, she has given him a pass that allows him to fly for free.  The problem with this?  Though he flies for free, it is on standby, which would test even the Dalai Lama’s patience.  More often than not, he ends up spending the day on the floor of SFO, watching Netflix on his phone, cursing the gods, and swearing off flying that way ever again.  He’ll usually end up snagging a seat on the last flight out just for the added drama, and come home achy and exhausted.  This time around, however, was worse than usual.  His train to the airport broke down (at four in the morning, mind you), causing him to miss the early flight.  He spent all day at the airport, finally got on a flight to LA, and from there took a rickety plane to the Carlsbad airport where I picked him up, and then drove the 45 minutes down to his place.  He did not get home until 9:30 at night.  One a day that started at 4 am.  Spent mostly in airports.  AIRPORTS!  It would be heartbreaking if not for the irony that he watched Planes, Train & Automobiles just the night before.  I decided he deserved something special for putting up with that so the next evening I treated him to his favorite meal–Mac n’ cheese.  This is a dish I have perfected over the years and is just as delicious as it is expensive and high in calories.  I’m gonna share the recipe here one of these days, but basically it’s a blend of fontina, grueyre, and goat cheese with pancetta and brussel sprouts, and topped with a thick, melty layer of parmesan.  A bit decadent, but we deserved it.

Hey, look guys!  I'm eating healthy!
Hey, look guys! I’m eating healthy!

2.  OB Noodle House:  In the beginning of the month, I was having some car trouble.  As in, my car would not start.  At nearly 20 years old, I have long feared its demise, but (being me) did not plan or save for it whatsoever.  I had to wait a few days to take it in to our neighborhood mechanic, which was plenty of time to work myself into an anxious fervor.  Without a car, I would have to give up my job.  I would struggle to find one within walking distance, what with the economy.  I would burn through my meager savings quickly and eventually be forced to live on the streets, a homeless, wandering nomad fighting to survive…

So you can imagine just how elated I was to find out all I needed was a new battery and a few replacement belts!  I obviously had to celebrate, and how better than by going to the OB Noodle House?  Though my repairs were cheaper than I expected them to be, they still cost a chunk of change; fortunately, the Noodle House is really quite cheap for how much food you get.  I ordered the meatball, rare steak pho which is $6.95 for the regular size or $7.70 for the extra large.  I always upgrade cuz I’m American and also, 75 cents isn’t going to break the bank.  My friend and I also shared the chicken lettuce wraps which, aside from being the best I’ve ever had, are only $7.50 and make you look healthy.  That’s what I call a win-win.  The only downside to the place is that the wait for a table can sometimes be a little much, but inversely, your food comes out within five minutes of ordering.  Plus they have a bunch of cheap beers to help pass the time with.  Not much more a girl can ask for.

No filter necessary.
No filter necessary.

3.  Marisco’s Fish Tacos:  THESE ARE THE BEST FISH TACOS IN SAN DIEGO WHICH, BY PROXY, MAKES THEM THE BEST FISH TACOS IN THE WORLD.  Really, some foodie guy trekked through all of San Diego on a hunt for the best and nothing surpassed these, or even came close, really; though I’ve known that all along.  They are from a food truck called Marisco’s Nine Seas Seafood located in the old Gala foods parking lot in South Park, conveniently less than a block from Damon’s apartment.  Now get this: the regular fish taco (the one on the left) is just $1.50.  That’s basically free.  The fish is fresh, perfectly battered, and topped with just the right balance of pico de gallo and cabbage.  The white cream sauce is light and good in its own right, but you see that orange sauce in the back?  Waiting patiently, stacked three-tall?  I like to smother it with that, and go through about two containers per taco.  It’s basically that spicy mayonnaise that sometimes comes atop sushi, but a little thinner and less mayonnaisey.  Also, besides being great on fish tacos and sushi, it makes a beautiful dip for boiled artichokes.  That’s why I always grab at least six–you never know when the price of artichokes will dip, and it’s best be prepared.

Though the regular fish taco is definitely filling enough to eat on its own, I’d be remiss if I did not also grab a marlin taco (the one on the right).  The texture of the fish is very meaty and it has the most amazing salty, smokey flavor; it’s almost pork-like, but with the added bonus of not giving you cancer and clogging your arteries!

Mmm, orange.
Mmm, orange.

4.  Jollof Rice, Smashed Yams, and Inedible Plantains:  My sister and two girls who are basically sisters decided to start a book club.  Our first novel, Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche, follows a man and woman from Nigeria.  The woman, Ifemelu, moves to America when she is 20 and attends college, starts what becomes a famous blog, and dates rich, intellectual, super annoying guys.  The man, Obinze, moves to London, can’t get a green card, and is deported the day of his wedding–he really got the short end of the stick.  I won’t go into it further as some of you may end up picking it up yourselves (as you rightly should!), but the novel continually raises questions about identity–who we are and how we came to be that way.  There were many things in the book that I had never considered before (like how complicated an issue hair-styling is for black women), and feel like my eyes were opened to a whole different world.  Adiche did this thing where she would mention something like, say, the harmattan, and not explain what it is.  It made all of the non-African readers out there stop, pull up google, and find out just what she was talking about.  She did this often with food as well and after reading the book, I thought it would be fun to make some of the dishes she mentioned to fully submerse ourselves in the culture.  For the main course, we chose Jollof aka Party Rice.  It is a relatively simple rice dish made with tomato paste, curry powder, a little thyme, and chicken.  It reminded me of a Mexican rice, but more stew-like.  The yams were slightly sweetened and with a kick of heat, and the plantains tasted like woodchips.  In hindsight, I see that we should have looked up a recipe for those.  The meal was enjoyed while discussing the book and watching The Lagos Housewives, a great Lifetime Channel style drama we found on Youtube.  We learned a lot that night, the most important being if your husband leaves you alone often enough, you may be tempted to join a lesbian sex club, and that malaria is relatively common to catch and can easily be confused for pregnancy.

Too classy.
Just a casual night in.
Too classy for you.
You know, no big deal.

5.Valentine’s Dinner:  There is basically no reason for Damon and I to go out to eat anymore.  We can make almost anything with our own two hands.  This Valentine’s Day we decided to go all out and cook some goddamn lamb, because why not?  We whetted the appetite with some brie, stilton and a warmed baguette.  The main course featured rack of lamb with a mustard, rosemary rub served over a blueberry, balsamic reduction; marscapone mashed potatoes with leeks; and a simple roasted asparagus.  We ate this while watching What We Do In the Shadows, making this Valentine’s Day a close second to two years ago where we dined on scallops by candlelight and the soft, magical glow of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.  Romance is alive ladies.

A girl's got to have her asparagus.
A girl’s got to have her asparagus.

6.  Salmon Bow-Tie Pasta:  This is another gem I would like to do a full recipe post on, but here’s a little teaser to hold you over until then: salmon, capers, dill, lemon, tomato, cream.  Restaurant quality, with the added bonus of getting to enjoy it in the comfort of your own sweatpants.

Just because I don’t know what it’s called doesn’t mean I can’t love it.

7.  La Cocina de Rosita:  This gem of a restaurant is hidden away in a teeny shopping center in Golden Hill where the main draw is the 99 Cent Store.  I’ve been a few times and on only one occasion has someone working there been able to communicate with me in English.  For me this really adds to the charm of the place.  That, the homemade corn tortillas that you get an entire steaming hot basket of, and the old lady that set up a folding table in the corner to do people’s taxes last March just give this place real character.  Living in San Diego my whole life along with having worked in a restaurant, I have enough of a base of Spanish to understand the basics of what I’m ordering, though I don’t know exact names.  This is the Pork and Potato Thing, and good God is it delicious.  The sauce has a real kick to it and when scooped up with the beans in one of those warm, hearty corn tortillas…I’m getting lightheaded just thinking about it.  Damon got the pozole this time around which was really nice, much better than the menudo, because no matter how hard I try, I will never get over my aversion to tripe.  I don’t get the appeal Andrew Zimmern. It just doesn’t taste good.  Though La Cocina de Rosita does have lots of soups and hot dishes, they also have all the same foods as an average taco shop.  You can make a day of it–stop in at the 99 cent store for your weekly supply of paper towels, spices, and Kim Kardashian workout videos (for real, they have those), and top it off with some $1 Carnitas street tacos. Poverty doesn’t have to be so bad!

Things I Did That I Probably Shouldn’t Have Done:

Every year my friend throws the Oscar party to end all Oscar parties.  We dress up in thrift store ball gowns, eat fancy snacks, bet on the winners, and becoming sloppy messes thanks to Natalie’s special blend of champagne, vodka, and juice known as the Manmosa.  Though it is just a fun evening for most ladies invited, it is a heated night of competition for me.  I follow the Oscars the way many people follow football, and this night…it’s my Super Bowl.

Thankfully the one person who posed a threat to my winning did not show (SOMEONE lacks dedication, Nancy…), so I won, no sweat.  However, I got a little cocky and a little drunk, and I would like to issue a formal apology to anyone who had to deal with me that night.  I imagine I was a mix of Kanye West and Sweet Dee from It’s Always Sunny: an absolute nightmare.  Here’s a visual for you of my Black Swan-like transformation:

Like Cinderella, glowing with grace and charm
A modern day Cinderella, glowing with grace and charm!

This is early in the night, and I am keeping it classy with a full-skirted, queen-like dress.  Here, I am channeling Princess Diana, telling myself this year, I will keep my shit together.  Notice my boyfriend’s complete lack of embarrassment.

Uh oh.
Hide your kids, hide your wife.

There are many clues here to indicate my decline:

1.  My hair is up.

2.  Glasses are on, indicating I’ve lost all hopes of looking cute and also, thing are probably getting fuzzy.

3.  Purple lipstick has been applied.

4.  Tongue is out–classic drunk Gina.

and most telling of all…

5.  A costume change has occurred.  With the putting on of that purple velvet dress, I removed my dignity.  The hopes of having a calm, classy night were extinguished.

Get money, get paid.
All I see is signs, all I see is dollar signs.

This is me at the end of the night.  That is the money I won in my hand.  I woke up to find this picture along with a video of me dancing with my winnings on my phone.  I was blinded by greed, by my competitive spirit, and alcohol.  But mostly the alcohol.  Here’s hoping that next year I will be able to remain composed and graceful throughout the night.

But I’m not making any promises.