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Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Is The Prado in Balboa Park a Tourist Trap or a Serious Restaurant?

Today, it seems like everyone is a food critic.  For the record, I have been writing unsubstantiated, biased, and inaccurate restaurant reviews longer than anyone!  And through the years I've been tough on the Cohn Restaurant Group.  Maybe it's because they have been so darn popular with tourists and locals alike, maybe it's because in the past their plates had more decoration on them than a Christmas tree, or maybe it's as my daughter used to say when she was little - "I know why, it's because you're stupid."

I don't know where she gets that from.

Anyway, the other week I found myself at Balboa Park and hungry before the show at the Old Globe.  Let's check out the food options.  Tamale cart?  No.  Hot dog cart?  No.  Crummy concession stand food?  No, No, No!   Wait, how about that place I send all the tourists to?  Right, The Prado.

Located right in the heart of Balboa Park, The Prado is a bit of a hidden gem.  Not because it's hard to find, but because it's location suggests tourist trap food, overpriced hotel quality stuff.  And yes, there are a lot of tourists here.  But trust me, it's way better than a typical tourist stop.

Here's where Local Wally gives you a few tips.  Locals and tourists, listen up  First, the patio is open seating.  It there's a line to the restaurant but you see a table in the front, grab it!  Second, remember that when the kids get out of hand at the park that you can get an alcoholic beverage here.  Third, if you have the time, the outdoor dining area in back is beautiful, a tropical setting that's as good as any in San Diego.  It's like you are on vacation.  Hey, maybe you are!

And here's a super secret tip - upstairs in this building is a restroom that NO ONE knows about!  You don't even have to go into the restaurant to get there.  When the lines are long at other Balboa Park restrooms, the Local Wally Executive Washroom is open.

They start by bringing some crispy crackers and hummus.  Very tasty.  Mmmm, very very tasty.

Here, want a bite?  OK, but as I said, we were here before a show so it's time to order and go.  We only wanted an appetizer to share so what looks good?

How about some ahi poke tacos?  Hawaiian raw ahi tossed with soy sauce and sesame oil, topped with a fresh fruit salsa and served in a lightly fried crispy won top wrapper.  These look good!  Give me a bite!

Damn, that's good!  In fact, this was so good that I wished we didn't have a show to go to so I could sit here and order more food.  The fish was so fresh, the salsa tangy, the won ton lighter than air, is this the best appetizer ever?  More, I want more!

But sadly, I had to go.  I peeked inside and saw so many tasty plates going out, the smell of tamales in the air, I reluctantly left to go to the show.  But I'm coming back, and I hope you give these guys a try next time you are in the park.  I know you're thinking this is a tourist restaurant.  I know you're thinking it can't be any good.  But trust me, it is.  Don't let the tourists have all the good food.


1 comment:

HereBeDragons said...

Two weeks ago, I was wandering the park on a Sunday afternoon and remembered your tip. Sure enough, the downstair restroom had a line out the door, but the upstairs restroom was blissfully empty, save a Prado employee or caterer or something doing her makeup.

Also, the Prado is one of my favorite HH destinations. In fact, showing up early for the organ pavilion Motown concert last night, we decided to forego our walk and enjoy some margaritas and shrimp instead!