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June 8, 2007


I’ve been in San Diego this week for my little bro’s high school graduation. Man, I can’t believe my little boy is all growned up. And about a foot taller than me. I’ve been trying not to be too sentimental.

The actual graduation ceremony was yesterday, and we had a big family dinner at a little bistro in South Park called Vagabond. (Beware: their website has music.) The South Park neighborhood is an area I never spent much time in, but my oldest little brother lives there now, and it seems like a pretty cool neighborhood–a few small restaurants, a coffee shops, and a friendly-looking dive bar.

From what I can see, Vagabond has most often been described as eclectic. The menu is kind of Asian-Caribbean-French fusion, and the little space is brightly painted, sunny, cozy, and welcoming. And as in San Francisco, it was nice to see an interesting menu with prices under $10–a rarity in Boston.

I kind of suspected that they weren’t set up to accommodate 14 people during their lunch service, and although our waitress was friendly and obviously doing her best to provide great service, there a few small kitchen snafus. I wouldn’t hold that against the place, though, and if I lived in the area, I bet it would be a regular destination.

Saffron aioli

While we were all perusing menus, they served a nice bread platter with an inspired saffron aioli. At least, it inspired me to try to make it when I get home, although my previous aioli experiences have been abject failures. It was the perfect amount of saffron, too–just barely detectable in the garlicy gloriousness of aioli.

We ordered Kung Pao Calimari for the table to start, and I’m sorry I didn’t get a picture, because it looked quite impressive, dotted with bright red chilis and whole cloves of garlic. And what a genius idea! My bro had told us about it beforehand, so I was looking forward to it and it did not disappoint. The calimari wasn’t too overly fried and breaded, and the kung pao was a better version than many I’ve had in Chinese restaurants. We finished off that plate with no problem.

My dad picked out a really nice, light Malbec, which name, of course, I can’t recollect at all.

They had an extensive lunch menu and it was hard to make a decision. Tons of interesting salads, including a house variation on a Nicoise, several seafood salads, and a Caribbean Chicken Salad. Their sandwiches also looked cool–basics like chicken but with nice touches like a Caribbean marinade, avocados, and manchego cheese. They serve a Kobe beef burger but my brother and I couldn’t really taste much of a difference from regular ground beef. All of their sandwiches came with either a healthy-sized salad or Belgium-style skinny pommes frites. Which were excellent (I stole some of my dad’s).

My aunt had the salmon salad, and was a bit surprised at the lack of greenery, but it looked pretty good to me: two types of salmon, smoked and grilled, huge edamame beans, and some lovely looking crostini.

Salmon Salad

I debated between the Filet Mignon sandwich, the pesto ravioli, the Cuban Pulled Pork sandwich, and a tasty looking salad. But I had to go for the Black Ink Linguini.

Squid Ink Linguini

Chorizo, roasted peppers, chili oil, manchego, crushed peanuts, and topped with six juicy awesome shrimp, this is something I definitely want to try at home. The slight sweetness of the squid ink pasta was a nice balance to the spiciness of the rest of everything else. The chorizo was Spanish-style, so a little drier than I expected, but still super tasty.

I think everyone was happy with their lunch, and getting 14 people happy around a dinner table is no easy feat. So despite the one mixed up order and the, erm, uh, wire that was sitting on top of my pasta when I received it…erm, yeah…well, everything else was pretty awesome.

The bar looked really charming, too, and apparently they serve a great tapas selection. Their wine list was nice, though I’m starting to realize that getting a good selection of whites in San Diego isn’t always an option. And my brother noted that they make a kick ass basil martini. Noon felt too early for martinis, though.

Vagabond isn’t far from Balboa Park and the zoo, so it’s not out of the way if you’re visiting San Diego. It’s worth a trip if you’re expectations aren’t too high and you’re interested in a local neighborhood kind of spot.

Vagabond 2310 30th Street (at 30th and Juniper)

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