Media dinners can be many things, but they are always bizarre. Pack a bunch of writers (and their sensitive egos) in a room, ply ‘em with booze, and bring on the food, and lots of it. In the best of times, these dinners are an exercise in feigned (and failed) restraint that end in self-loathing and a strong desire to put one’s stomach in a time machine to undo that second chocolate mousse bon bon that better judgement would have never allowed. The worst don’t usually get mentioned. In an industry where writers were once prized for their brutal honesty, it’s somehow become taboo to share any real criticism.

From a PR perspective, it’s ideal. Writers happily line up for the gavage tube, gorge themselves, and waddle out happy. When the food is good, there’s no harm in it, but when it’s bad and no one speaks up, that’s a problem. My goal as a food writer isn’t to score free meals, shake hands with the chef, and gush about how great everything was. I work for the readers, and my job is to tell the truth, even when it’s not pretty.

My last experience was such a disappointment that weeks later, it’s still nagging me, to the point that while the rest of my household happily slumbers, I’m sitting alone, in my cat-hair covered pyjamas, stewing. It’s time I told the truth: I am completely over the Malarkey empire and the proliferation of textile-named restaurants in San Diego.

Live Spot Prawn from Gabardine

The burger shop formerly known as Craft Burger was one of the first places in Toronto to offer a better than average burger. At the time, it was an easy thing to do. All that was really necessary was to use fresh (not frozen) beef, and a decent bun. Under the previous name, the restaurant got raves from local media. Find out what happened when I tried a cheeseburger and poutine in my review on AHT.

Poutine from Big Smoke Burger

Del Taco makes some of the worst fast food burgers I’ve ever encountered, but there is one way to use existing menu options to better the base offerings. Find out what happened when I created a tostada cheeseburger and how you can improve the bacon double cheeseburger on Serious Eats.

Burger mashups at Del Taco

With new chains moving into town on a weekly basis, and the continued success of local indies, San Diego’s Burger Bubble is in no danger of bursting…for now. The latest kid in town is BGR The Burger Joint, a national chain with one location in Midway and another under construction in Poway. The company’s Facebook page claims their burgers are “the one burger YOU MUST HAVE before you die!” Find out if this checks out in my review on A Hamburger Today.

Burger and fries from BGR The Burger Joint

It should come as no surprise that I love dessert. So when I dined at Burlap, and saw three desserts on the brunch menu (coconut-lemongrass tapioca, vietnamese affogato, and carrot cake), it was a foregone conclusion that I’d be ordering one. To make room for a slice of carrot cake, I opted for one of the smaller entrees, but when the Twinkie-sized portion was delivered at the end of the meal, I was stunned.

Carrot Cake from Burlap

As a Canadian in San Diego, there’s really only two things I miss from my homeland: honey dip timbits and poutine. With no hope of Tim Horton’s moving to San Diego anytime soon, my only hope was poutine. I tried every interpretation of the dish available in SD. Some were close, others were so far off, they broke this hoser’s heart.

Poutine at Stout Public House in San Diego