Grub Sprawl draws hundreds to La Jolla dining deals

By Lonnie Burstein Hewitt

On the evening of Oct. 10, the streets of La Jolla were swarming with foodies drawn by the promise of a meal steal: $5 dishes from 10 tasty places in town. Grub Sprawl, a great idea with a tacky name, was masterminded by Alternative Strategies, a marketing company that aims to make San Diegans more aware of the restaurant scenes in different communities by sponsoring major-league tastings at minor-league prices.

They started with a pub crawl that morphed into a grub sprawl in North Park. Coronado and Hillcrest followed, and this month, it was La Jolla’s turn.

To be part of the event, all you had to do was pick up a wristband, map, and menu at Finch’s Wine Bar & Bistro on Girard or La Valencia’s Mediterranean Room on Prospect. After that, the only problem was deciding where to start and how many $5 dishes you could scarf down between 6 and 10 p.m.

Participating restaurants included The Cottage, Zenbu Sushi, Chedi Thai, Jose’s Courtroom, Vigilucci’s, Karl Strauss, La Jolla Brew House, and Prospect Bar & Grill, and food choices ranged from salmon poke to Thai pork chops, from street tacos to ravioli stuffed with blue cheese, roasted mushrooms and peppers.

At Finch’s, where co-owners Linda and Tiana Ravden (a mother-in-law/daughter-in-law team) were offering pistachio-crusted salmon and a chocolate French toast sandwich, there was a lineup well before starting time.

“Since we’re a new business, and in kind of a hidden spot, we wanted to be part of this,” Tiana said. They ended up having or than 300 guests and were packed again the next morning. “We’ve had so many people phoning for reservations, it’s been great!” said server Tami Mullins.

Bottom Line: Food Sprawl was a fun adventure, but when my husband and I totaled things up, our “meal steals” at four places — all we could handle — came to over $60, including drinks, tips and taxes.