San Diego: You've Got to Love the 3-Course Express Lunch at Jsix
616 J Street San Diego, CA 92101
(map); 619-531-8477; jsixrestaurant.com
Cooking method: Grilled
Short Order: Tasty half-pound burgers are the star attraction of one of the best lunch deals in the Gaslamp
Want Fries With That? Yes! Delicious golden brown shoestring fries dusted with herbs and salt come with the burger
Price: Prix fixe lunch, $15
Notes: Free parking Mon-Fri, 11:30 a.m. - 2:30 p.m., 10% discount for anyone who lives in the 92101 zipcode
Living in a city that routinely fills up with thousands of people who are visiting for only a few days predisposes me to look out for tourists. The Gaslamp Quarter, where most convention-goers stay, is home to dozens of restaurants, but if you've only got a few opportunities to eat a great meal, it pays to know which spots to skip and which to make a point of visiting. Jsix is one of the latter, especially for lunch, where you can get a hefty half-pound burger as part of a three-course prix fixe for $15.
The meal starts with a basket of freshly baked bread and olive tapenade, and includes soup or salad, your choice of entrée (burger, chicken sandwich, or squash ravioli), and dessert. It's a pretty spectacular value, especially considering the burger by itself is $11 at lunch and $13 at dinner.
Given the decision between lentil soup and salad was an easy one. Of all the meals I've eaten at Jsix, it's the salads I remember most. This time around was no different. The plate of fresh greens, topped with feta cheese, Persian cucumbers and quinoa, with a citrusy vinaigrette, was delicious, and a great way to ease into a hearty main course.
The thick, hand-formed patty of Brandt beef chuck (ground daily) was moist and juicy, with a mild beefy flavor. The beef was coarsely ground and fairy loosely packed, but cooked a bit shy of my requested medium rare. The patty had small specks of char, but not much of a crust. A little bit longer on the grill (and a touch more salt) would have made a noticeable improvement, but as is, it was still excellent. Toppings (lettuce, tomato, onion, and house-made pickles) come on the side, and you can add aged white cheddar, bacon, or avocado for an extra buck. I'd advise doing so. With the sharp and creamy cheese and veggies in place, the burger felt complete. Without it, you'd notice the absence.
The lightly toasted brioche bun (made in-house) was more substantial than most, which was a good pairing with such a large patty. Though the bottom half of the bun did get soaked with burger juice, it stayed intact and the meat-to-bread ratio was spot-on.
With no mention of fries on the menu, I was expecting the burger to come à la carte, so the mound of golden brown shoestring spuds, which were dusted with salt and herbs, was a pleasant surprise. The sheer size of the burger (and knowledge that dessert was still to come) forced me to decide which item to finish. I opted for the fries.
All of the dessert options sounded almost equally good. There was gelato (chocolate, vanilla, or hazelnut), chocolate chip cookies, or raspberry sorbet. After the bread, salad, fries, and burger (which alone would have been enough to stuff me to my gills), sorbet was the most logical choice. Despite being more than adequately full, I ate the whole thing, which is either testament to its deliciousness, or my inability for moderation (or both).
For the quality and volume of the food you get at Jsix (not to mention the atmosphere or quality of service), $15 is beyond reasonable for a three-course meal. There's no better value for lunch anywhere in the Gaslamp Quarter.
About the author: Erin Jackson is a food writer and photographer who is obsessed with discovering the best eats in San Diego. You can find all of her discoveries on her newly-launched food blog EJeats.com. On Twitter, she's @ErinJax