t began as a place to get takeout and these days it’s also a hot spot to chill out. Prepkitchen has evolved through the last few years from a tiny establishment in La Jolla into a full-service restaurant with three locations in San Diego County. Its objective: To offer the same quality fare as its sister establishment, Whisknladle, but at more “neighborhood-friendly” prices and a casual atmosphere.
While the goal is the same at all sites, guests will find differences when visiting Prepkitchen’s two northernmost restaurants in Del Mar and La Jolla.
After an electrical fire shuttered it in October 2011, the Del Mar location reopened in September 2012 with a new look that is modern and playful, similar to the Little Italy site. Inside, there are shelves filled with books, wine, candles and other assorted knickknacks, and booths covered with faux crocodile skin. Outside is a patio strung with lights, candle lights dangling over a community table and a high-table section dedicated to tapas service.
Background music ranges from current hits to classics, from Oingo Boingo and Creedence Clearwater Revival to even reggae at brunch time.
The original site in La Jolla is smaller than its counterparts, initially set up for customers on the go — in fact, the kitchen is part of the dining room. It’s “quaint and fun,” as described by manager Jeffery Arnesen, with a covered patio and a courtyard.
By day, both Del Mar and La Jolla locations — which are dog-friendly — are relaxed and on the quiet side. The casual vibe continues into the evening.
“After a hard day, you can grab a glass of wine and a good hearty meal that’s made from scratch,” Arnesen said. “Let the server take you on a journey through the food — they know what’s really great. It takes the pressure off. Let everything happen and enjoy.”
The menus are very similar at each location, with frequent changes depending on what is available from suppliers. “We like to keep it interesting, and make it exciting every time someone comes back,” Arnesen said.
And while La Jolla serves breakfast, Del Mar does not. However, both offer brunch and dinner and the focus is on farm-to-table.
For example, there are tapas, such as Patatas Bravas, featuring cubed potatoes dressed in a mildly spicy chipotle sauce; the Brussels Sprouts with Bacon; and the creamy Pea & Green Garlic Risotto with sweet, crisp peas and Parmesan sprinkled on top.
Different soups are presented daily, and among the creations is the Mushroom Puree with a gougere (a pastry mixed with Parmesan and gruyere cheeses) floating in the middle.
There are a handful of salads to choose from, including Pumpkin & Kale with warm, fried ciabatta, large shavings of Parmesan, small chunks of pumpkin, pine nuts and kale, all tossed in a sherry vinaigrette. For the current main dishes, there’s Mary’s Half Chicken in lime chicken jus, served with charred broccoli and a sweet potato mash that has a hint of cinnamon; the popular Tagliatelle Bolognese, composed of long, thick, house-made noodles mixed with beef, porcini mushrooms, tomato, rosemary and a dusting of Parmigiano-reggiano. Another favorite is the cranberry-topped Grilled Pork Chop, which lies on a bed of grits and mustard greens, all in bourbon pork jus.