After our third day of conference sessions, we decided to make the trip up to Ocean Beach, a neighborhood of San Diego about five miles from where we were staying in the Gaslamp. Our goal was the OB Noodle House, which I’m only slightly embarrassed to admit we discovered via an episode of Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, the Food Network show hosted by the hyper Guy Fieri. I am not a fan of Fieri’s style or his cooking, but I will admit he has highlighted some interesting places on the show he annoyingly refers to as “triple D”, including some local favorites in Boston. We also followed his advice to the Casino el Camino in Austin, where we had was was possibly the best burger of our lives, seriously. So, after watching his recent episode in San Diego, we were intrigued by the fact that he did not focus on the traditional tourist area of the Gaslamp, but instead featured out of the way places, including this noodle joint in Ocean Beach.
We ordered the three dishes that had been featured on the show: Spicy Garlic Wings, House Special Fried Rice, and the dish that most people seem to come here for, Pho. We were definitely not disappointed. The wings were crispy on the outside, tremendously juicy inside, and very flavorful. Not at all as spicy as we expected, given that the marinade they made included several types of hot peppers. The scallions and cilantro are a nice touch, and the ranch dipping sauce is good, though I didn’t really need it.
The fried rice was very good, and made with the owners’ father’s special Chinese sausage recipe, and also included shrimp, beef, and sriracha egg. Fresh, very hot and flavorful, though on the sweeter side than I prefer (from the sausage). But, I would definitely try a different rice dish here as it was very well made.
Finally, the pho: it was our first time having it, believe it or not, and from what we’ve heard it’s all about the broth. This was fantastic, a perfectly clear, incredibly savory and spicy (not hot spicy) broth, full of star anise and clove, as well a deep rich flavor from all the meat and bones cooked in it for several hours. At OB you can order pho with any combination of meats: brisket, cooked flank steak, raw flank steak, tripe, tendons, even chicken. We decided on the brisket & raw flank combo (the #9).
Although the steak is raw going into the bowl, once the piping hot broth is poured over it, it begins cooking, so by the time you are digging in it’s nicely rare and tender. The bowl is filled with noodles and cilantro as well, and a plate of extras is served alongside: bean sprouts, raw jalapeno slices, a wedge of lime, and basil leaves, so you can dress it as you wish. All of them went into our bowl, along with a generous splash of the sriracha that is on every table.
The OB also serves a fantastic selection of beer, as well as sake and wine. All in all, this was a home run for a field trip (it was about a 20 minute cab ride each way from our hotel). After our meal, we walked about 10 minutes to the main drag in Ocean Beach, Newport Street, which is home to various surf shops, beach clothing stores, head shops and other, ah, colorful items that you’d find in your typical hippie beach community.
We really enjoyed this area, as it felt very laid back and undeveloped compared to the touristy Gaslamp. Grabbing a seat with a view at a pizza shop about a block from the beach, we were able to people watch and enjoy the sun on our last full day in San Diego.