You Won’t Get Carded At The Red Card Cafe

| May 1, 2017 | 0 Comments

Paris is known as the “City of Lights.” To romantics, it is the “city of love.” To foodies, it is the “city of great cuisine.” It is, after all, the city that originated cordon bleu. Even the smallest bistro on the left bank of the city seems to embed extra flavor in even its simplest dishes.

Caroline Sternberg grew up in Paris and even worked in bistros. She dreamed of owning her own restaurant one day. Her husband, Justin, had similar dreams. They met when working in a restaurant in Los Angeles.

They moved to San Diego and worked on fulfilling their dream. They opened the Red Card Café in an office/industrial area on Morena Boulevard, close to Costco. If you’re old enough, you remember the location as the site of the original Price Club.

“Red Card” refers to soccer. It is a penalty card that gets a player thrown out of the game. A “yellow card” is only an infraction or warning. But, get two of those and a red card issues.
Soccer is becoming more vital in San Diego. Our large European and Hispanic population seems to have a lot of love for “futbol.” Soccer is apparently the most popular sport in the world. There’s even talk of converting Qualcomm Stadium to a soccer center.

But, even though Red Card Café identifies with the sport, it is not a sports bar. Some soccer themes decorate a few of the walls but the venue’s ambiance leans more to that of a really warm and friendly place where friends can get together and where strangers quickly become friends.
The entrance leads into the bar/restaurant area, a happy and happening place, especially during happy hour. Ceilings are high and ducting reflects the buildings area. Another dining room leads off the bar area. To the other side is the party room, with a long communal table, where new friends can sit together, along with several high-tops tables. I was most attracted to the outdoor patio on the side of the building, terrific for cool evening dining.

The menu, under the direction of Chef Alfonso Arellano, presents staple dishes and street food. “Street food” is defined as food that may be bought from street vendors or off trucks on the streets of major cities of the world. But this food is served in comfortable, elegant surroundings. That means that the food that is offered is perhaps uncommon but tasty and satisfying.

Chef Arellano learned to love cooking in his family’s kitchen. His stint in the Marine Corps exposed him to cuisines around the world. Returning to San Diego, he served in Little Italy before joining Red Card Café.

Come early and enjoy the happy hour, with discounted drinks and street food like mole chicken street tacos and parmesan duck fat fries. Justin Sternberg works in the wine industry. A weekly specials menu lists daily specials, including half price wine bottles on Wednesdays.

The “all day” menu offers street food like TJ dogs like in Tijuana and shrimp beignet, like in New Orleans, among other items. Country duck pate is a savory way to start a meal. The miniwedge is covered with heirloom tomato and avocado. The chicken chop salad is a delicious and healthful combination of chicken and choice ingredients.

The pork chop was tender and well prepared, presented with mashed potato and spinach.
The most popular item on the menu is the Cubano, whose origin is in the Caribbean. The sandwich features pork ham, pulled pork and guyere with Dijonaise on top. And, the favorite dessert is double cheddar crusted apple pie. Absolutely delicious!

Justin summed it up. “We want to serve good food in a comfortable, casual setting.” I think he’s done it. Prices are low to moderate and a kid’s menu makes this a great family venue.

Red Card Café is located at 4140 Morena Boulevard in Bay Park, off the 5 freeway. Call (858) 291-8030 for information and reservations.

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