Urban Solace showcases untraditional Southern food in North Park.
North Park is undoubtedly the culinary capital of San Diego at the moment. 30th Street is lined with an impressive array of market-driven restaurants. Urban Solace isn’t one of them, but it does specialize in inventive comfort food at reasonable prices in a canary yellow space that feels like it was plucked from New Orleans.
Executive Chef Matt Gordon founded Urban Solace with GM Scott Watkins on September 19, 2007, and the duo offers several dishes with a Southern bent.
Chive-studded “Famous” Warm Cheese Biscuits ($4.50) slather easily with orange-honey butter.
One of Gordon’s signature dishes was probably the night’s best: Sassafras Marinated Skillet Shrimp and Chili Infused White Corn Grit Cakes ($6). The menu listing didn’t leave much to the imagination. Still, jumbo shrimp were plump and aromatic, served on crisp-edged, soft-centered polenta triangles.
“Not Your Momma’s Meatloaf” ($15.95) combined ground lamb, dried figs, pine nuts and Feta. As if the loaf wasn’t rich enough, it was wrapped in bacon, topped with a thatch of crispy fried onion strands and plated with fig jus and mashed white sweet potatoes. With meatloaf, there’s something to be said for simplicity, and though the flavors were bold, there was probably too much happening.
Braised Beef Cheeks (16.75) resembled short ribs, rich and tender, topped with smoked tomato jam and drizzled with spicy garlic-mustard jus. There was another mound of white sweet potatoes. Somehow, a green vegetable found its way onto the plate. Green beans must have been accidental. Urban Solace is the opposite of health food.
With a name like Duckaroni ($7.50), the dish was an absolute must-order. Deluxe macaroni and cheese combined duck confit, “house mac sauce,” pungent blue cheese, arugula, scallions, roasted garlic and toasted breadcrumbs for texture.
At Urban Solace, where one flavor would do, Chef Gordon decided to feature four. Most of the food was really over the top. In some cases, like the duckaroni, that’s a good thing. With dishes like the meatloaf, Gordon could easily scale back. Overall, it was worth a visit.