Stuffed Burgers and Stunning Ocean Views at Wonderland in San Diego
5083 Santa Monica Avenue Ste 2C, San Diego CA 92107 (map); 619-255-3358; wonderlandob.com
Cooking method: Grilled
Short Order: Two thin patties with a delicious layer of gooey melted cheese in the middle
Want Fries With That? The sweet potato waffle fries are an absolute must
Price: Burger stuffed with jalapeño cheese, $9.50; sweet potato waffle fries, $3.50
Ocean Beach, San Diego's slackadasical paradise, finally got a restaurant with everything you could hope for: strong drinks, killer grub, and stunning ocean vistas. From my highly-prized seat at the window, the view was super-concentrated Southern California culture at its finest: surfers, waves, a pier stretching out into the distance, and a rag-tag group of hula-hoopers on shore.
The restaurant's name, Wonderland, is a reference to the circa-1913 amusement park that once stood nearby. Even though it's long-gone, the carnival atmosphere is alive and well at its namesake. Conviviality was present at such high levels, I had to fight the urge to run around the room, giving strangers high-fives. Did I mention I was completely sober? On to the burger.
You've got two main options: a short rib burger with spicy hoisin barbecue sauce, or burgers stuffed with your choice of cheese (blue, smoked cheddar, or jalapeño). I went with the latter. I was expecting a patty with a liquid cheese center (aka a Juicy Lucy), but instead, there were two thin beef patties with a roasted, cheese-stuffed jalapeño pepper sandwiched in between. Honestly, it was a pleasant surprise.
As far as char or browning, there wasn't much to speak of on the patties, but they were cooked to order (my standard medium-rare) and full of fat and juice. A pinch more salt would have helped perk up the flavor of the beef, but the cheese-stuffed pepper filled in the gap nicely.
Burgers come à la carte. For sides, there's a well-rounded list of options, ranging from sautéed kale and garlic to roasted farmers market veggies, but you want the sweet potato waffle fries. They're cut thinner than most, and all of the little holes and edges work to maximize their surface area, resulting in more crunch per square inch. There's also a mixed fry basket ($4), which I only noticed when I consulted the menu to check on prices for this review, but honestly...I wouldn't want to sacrifice any waffle fries for the sake of variety. Standard spuds are everywhere; sweet potato waffle fries are not.
If you're looking for flawless execution above all else, I wouldn't necessarily send you to Wonderland, but for the all-around experience, with a completely solid burger to boot, it's a great choice. Every plate of food that touched down, from nachos, to tacos, to a ceviche sampler was worth ordering again. Like the Terminator, I'll be back...to annihilate another burger. And some nachos. And more waffle fries.
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 San Diego food blog EJeats.com. On Twitter, she's @ErinJax