San Diego cuisine with views of the sea? Now that’s George’s at the Cove!
By Daniel K. Lew
“There are three elements to any restaurant: The people, the food and the environment,” said George Hauer, owner of George’s at the Cove. But what he and his staff have done is take those elements and elevate them to an unique dining experience by building three different places in one, on three separate floors — California Modern, George’s Bar, and Ocean Terrace — all of which are highlighted by panoramic ocean views.
Open for 27 years, George’s at the Cove has gone through many physical and menu changes at its prime location overlooking La Jolla Cove, but what remains constant is Hauer’s goal to create an establishment that reflects San Diego’s people, food and environment. “The food represents what we think is San Diego cuisine,” he said.
George’s prides itself on serving a seasonal menu filled with sustainable, local ingredients in both its vegetables and meats. “Our philosophy revolves around using as many local ingredients as possible,” said Hauer who pointed out that his chefs make daily visits to the famous Chino Farm in Rancho Santa Fe.
The restaurant gathers its produce from Chino Farm to such an extent that some of the menu items are named after the highly regarded farm, like Chino Farms Minestrone (a seasonal soup with condiments) or Chino Farms Carrot Salad (with Indian spiced yogurt, crushed almonds, tangerine, cilantro, and Temecula honey).
“We have relationships not only with Chino Farm, but also other producers who are all local,” Hauer said. “Our philosophy is that our products are going to be sustainable — we don’t serve endangered seafood; our chicken, beef and duck products are free from antibiotics and hormones. We are sourcing the best products.”
George’s at the Cove is grounded on its first floor by California Modern, an upscale contemporary restaurant headed by nationally recognized chef Trey Foshee. “He creates food that is some of the most acclaimed in San Diego,” Hauer said. “It’s not that we’re the only one — there are a lot of good cooks in San Diego — but Trey has been a driving force in the culinary world for the past 12 years.”
Foshee’s unique twist on fish tacos, a San Diego staple, even caught the attention of The Food Network, which featured George’s “Fish Tacos” on its “The Best Thing I Ever Ate” show. The California Modern menu lists “Fish Tacos” (named with quotation marks) as “Hard to explain, just try it.”
George’s reinvents this classic by breaking down a fish taco’s traditional ingredients and serving it “inverted.” Raw, yellowfin tuna are cut into small discs, acting as the outside layer (instead of a tortilla), and rolled in crushed corn nuts to give it corn flavor and some crunch. The bite-sized, tuna-disc tacos are wrapped around a mixture of diced tuna tartare, jalapeño-mayonnaise aioli and lime juice. They are then rested on beer-battered California avocado with a cool creme sauce, cilantro, shaved cabbage, radish, lime slices and crushed corn nuts.
California Modern’s selection of entrees feature Foshee’s contemporary take on popular seafood and meat choices, including Porcini Glazed Bone in Halibut, Pacific Albacore, Smoked Maine Lobster, Jidori Chicken, Niman Ranch Pork Chop, and Niman Ranch 21-Day Dry-Aged Strip Steak.
The spacious, indoor dining room includes metallic, dark green, gray and wooden tones to evoke a modern look. Patrons also have a choice of green sofa-like seating with back pillows along the entire length of a back wall, or curved, gray retro-modern chairs. But California Modern’s main feature is its seaside view — four, acrylic-edged windows appear like giant-framed photographs of the ocean. “Still, after 27 years, I find it hypnotic to look at … I pinch myself, to think that we have a beautiful business with this as our viewpoint everyday,” Hauer said.
Patrons who want a similar but different view of the ocean can go to the second floor, occupied by George’s Bar. This area serves a bistro-style menu and includes indoor or balcony seating with a Pacific breeze.
Ocean Terrace, the third floor of George’s at the Cove, is popular with locals and tourists alike, for those seeking a rooftop dining and bar experience. The sense of hovering over La Jolla Cove with grand views of the ocean is best accentuated on this outside level. George’s bistro-style menu is also served here and features George’s Famous Soup with smoked chicken, broccoli and black beans. Other menu items include Marinated Grilled Fresh Fish Tacos (made the traditional way), Spaghetti with Clams, Niman Ranch Pork Milanese, and Grilled Vegetable Skewer with Tabbouleh Salad.
Both George’s Bar and Ocean Terrace also serve lunchtime sandwiches, such as Grilled Niman Ranch Beef Burger, Grilled Eggplant Panini, The Cuban, and Blackened Seasonal Fish Sandwich. With its close relationship with Chino Farm, George’s has a vegetarian menu featuring seasonal items as both entrees and sides.
Every level of George’s has its own bar, and the three-in-one establishment employs its own mixologist, who creates seasonal drinks with local ingredients, such as the Berry Blast, a 120-calorie “skinny cocktail,” made with muddled strawberries, blueberries and raspberries combined with Bacardi Rum. The drink menu also features house-infused vodkas and an extensive wine list of more than 300 selections from California and international.
California Modern, George’s Bar, and Ocean Terrace each offer a different vibe, and Hauer describes the overall experience as “a very relaxed space with positive energy. The service staff is knowledgeable; the people who work here are experienced servers — they know the products, they know how to pair wines and foods and guide you through the dining experience. At the same time, they try to have fun; it’s not a stuffy environment — there’s a lot of personality that goes into it.”
George’s at the Cove
• Address: 1250 Prospect St., La Jolla
• Phone: (858) 454-4244
• Website: www.georgesatthecove.com
• The Vibe: Modern, hip, casually elegant, friendly
• Signature Dishes: Fish Tacos (with a twist), Porcini Glazed Bone in Halibut; Smoked Chicken, Broccoli, Black Bean Soup
• Open Since: 1984
• Reservations: Yes
• Patio Seating: Yes
• Take Out: No
• Happy Hour: Winter Happy Hour starts in November
• Ocean Terrace: Lunch 11 a.m. to 3:45 p.m. Dinner 4:30-10 p.m.
• California Modern: Dinner 5:30-10 p.m.
On The Menu Recipe
Each week you’ll find a recipe from the featured restaurant online at lajollalight.com. Just click ‘Get The Recipe’ at the bottom of the story. This week: George’s at the Cove Smoked Chicken, Broccoli, Black Bean Soup.
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