Where the Chefs Eat: Deborah Scott
One of San Diego's restaurant pioneers takes us to her favorite dining spots in town
We tagged along with chef Deborah Scott to see where one of the biggest names in San Diego restaurants and food dines. Deborah Scott, or Deb as she introduces herself, is one of the restaurant pioneers in this fine city. A native of Virginia Beach, she landed in California in 1992, and introduced Indigo Grill in Little Italy two years later. Since then, she’s become the executive chef and partner in the Cohn Restaurant Group and opened a portfolio of successful eateries, most recently Coasterra on Harbor Island. Tour the city meal-by-meal with her!
Breakfast: Hash House a Go Go
For breakfast, she meets me at the original Hash House a Go Go in Hillcrest. Deb’s been friends with executive chef and co-founder Andy Beardslee for more than 25 years. And on this Wednesday, his day off, he met us at the restaurant because he doesn’t let an opportunity to cook for longtime friend Deb pass.
She sends anyone looking for the best breakfast in town here, and she loves sitting on the back patio.
Menu favorites The fresh mushroom hash, made with artichoke hearts, sundried tomatoes and fresh spinach; the sundried tomato farm scramble with fresh basil and goat cheese; Andy’s famous big o’ sage fried chicken and waffle tower; and the wild boar chilaquiles top her list. “Always come with friends,” she says, “get several of these giant dishes and share.”
3628 Fifth Ave., 619-298-4646, hashhouseagogo.com
Coffee: Lofty Coffee
For coffee, Deb stops in at Lofty Coffee in Little Italy (there are two other locations in Encinitas and Solana Beach) when she’s at her Indigo Grill restaurant located cattycorner from the open-air cafe. “I love the vibe and design here,” she says. She’s a fan of details—the textured white walls, folding doors that open all the way up, even the logo.
Menu favorites If she’s getting coffee, she orders the Morning Dove house coffee and drinks it black. “I like to be able to taste the true coffee,” she explains. “As soon as you add hazelnut or mocha, you lose the taste of the coffee.” When she opts for tea, she has a few go-tos: Dragon Pearl Jasmine Superior green tea, the hibiscus lemongrass tea on ice or the blood orange rooibos, which is what she drinks this morning. “I just love the presentation of this,” she says.
And though she’s not hungry after breakfast, she gets one of the handcrafted almond croissants. “It’s not too heavy or buttery,” she says, cutting it into bite sizes and passing it around for everyone to try.
444 W. Cedar St., 760-230-6747 x3, loftycoffee.com
Brunch: Great Maple
For brunch, Deb visits Great Maple, one of Johnny Rivera’s (he’s the other co-founder of Hash House) acclaimed restaurants. Johnny’s the man behind the midcentury-modern design with what he calls a “European dinette” feel.
Menu favorites She recommends the Portobello mushroom fries and brown bag mini popovers, which are shaken tableside, dusted with parmesan and served with honey butter, for starters. Kelly Stilwell, executive baker at Great Maple, used to work for Deb. “She’s got such a cool rendition on the popover,” Deb says.
For the main dish, she loves the California fresh kale-and-quinoa salad served with chicken, toasted pine nuts, tomatoes and a shallot vinaigrette, or the turkey burger with melted brie and arugula.
8675 Genesee Ave., Suite 1200,
1451 Washington St., 619-255-2282
For lunch, Poseidon is where she’ll be. The good seafood she gets right on the water at Poseidon reminds her a lot of home. “I grew up in Virginia Beach and on the outer banks of North Carolina,” she says. “I’m a coastal person.” She fondly remembers crabbing and clamming, then cooking it all on the beach before spending the night camping under the stars.
Menu favorites Go hungry. Start with the citrus-marinated ceviche with white fish, shrimp, cilantro, tomato, avocado, cucumber, jalapeño, scallions, olive oil and papaya-serrano relish. Try the beet-and-citrus salad with watercress, dried cherries, strawberries, oranges, tomato, pickled fennel, candied pepitas, radish, Humboldt Fog cheese, pomegranate crème fraîche and Meyer lemon vinaigrette; and finish with the wasabi sesame-crusted yellowfin tuna, which is served rare on wasabi mashed potatoes with a ginger baby bok choy slaw.
1670 Coast Blvd., 858-755-9345, poseidonrestaurant.com
Dinner and a Drink: Kettner Exchange
For dinner and a drink, she asks friends to meet her at hotspot Kettner Exchange, lauded for its rooftop bar and cabanas and progressive cuisine.
Menu favorites Truth be told, she’s not there for the booze, though she says they have an impressive craft cocktail program. “Oh my god, I’m addicted to the kale salad,” she says of the small plate made with apple, almonds, golden raisins, Parmesan and lemon olive oil. “I won’t emulate it because it’s too good not to go there just for that. It’s amazing.”
2001 Kettner Blvd., 619-255-2001, kettnerexchange.com
Something Sweet: Extraordinary Desserts
For something sweet, she peruses the eye-catching cases at sweets palace Extraordinary Desserts, which is opening another location in Bankers Hill sometime this fall.
“People eat with their eyes,” Deb explains. “And Karen [Krasne, executive pastry chef and owner] makes everything visually stunning.”
Menu favorites Deb’s sweet tooth craves roasted pecan shortbread or the chewy and sweet coconut vanilla cocoada. But she comments on the beauty of chocolate-chip cookies so full of chocolate, “there’s almost not enough dough to hold them in (a good thing),” and often picks up a banana cream or coconut cream pie if she’s hosting.
1430 Union St., 619-294-7001, extraordinarydesserts.com