Riviera Supper Club and Turquoise Room gives do-it-yourselfers a reason to eat outside the kitchen. Like a classy backyard without the tuxedo-clad bug zappers, the restaurant serves platters of raw filet mignon, pork spare ribs, and bratwursts for diners to cook up on an enormous, indoor communal grill. Yet much of the guesswork is taken out of the equation: every steak is USDA Choice, every rack of ribs comes pre-seasoned with a dry rub, and every side dish takes shape in the kitchen under the eye of skilled chefs. And those same culinary masters can also handle the rest of the cooking if guests desire to stay away from the heat—the menu also includes entrees of slow-braised pork and roast chicken.
This family-style grilling experience is just one facet of a two-sided coin. The Turquoise Room stirs up a different sort of nostalgia, harkening back to the age of lounge singers and strong cocktails with a mid-century bar. There, glasses of Pimm's Cup and martinis served with blue-cheese-stuffed olives offset bacon-fat popcorn and garlic bread topped with sauteed onions. To further the club experience, live bands of every genre play in the space throughout the week.
Nico's Steak & Chop House is an upscale steakhouse owned by retired NFL pro Robert “Griff” Griffith and his wife Amethyst. Huddle inside cozy booths to sneak a peak at the new Griffs Smokehouse menu and kick off consumption with small plates of Korean short-ribs ($9) and hand-breaded calamari ($9). Sandwich earls can majestically munch on a turkey club ($10), while more adventurous carnivores can try the 12 oz. New York strip steak ($27) and herb-crusted lamb loin ($28). Feed fish-or-feather urges with the pan-roasted salmon ($26) or the Cajun chicken breast ($19), or try the roasted eggplant burger ($12) to send a message to potential vegetable uprisings. "Griff" Griffith is often around the restaurant to sign autographs and call audibles on orders—bring a pen and a Refrigerator Perry-esque appetite and tackle the satisfyingly smoky fare of Nico's Steak & Chop House.
Once the home of Wyatt Earp's gambling hall and saloon, Georges on Fifth also holds the distinction of being the most photographed building in the Gaslamp Quarter. Today, the venue casts off the sounds of tinny pianos for the aromas of Zagat-rated dishes, each painstakingly crafted by executive chef Jose Kelley. The flavors of certified Angus beef, Snake River Farms Kobe beef, and USDA Prime cuts heighten beneath port-wine and Jack Daniel's demi-glaces, and fresh, flaky seafood in the form of scallops, halibut, and salmon don equally delicate notes from herb-infused oils. With Chef Kelley's wine list made up of more than 50 West Coast and international varietals, diners can find a pleasing accompaniment to any dish.
Inside the celebrated eatery, romantic lighting emanates from ornate chandeliers and dances on exposed brick walls, wood accents, and the piano player's solar-powered hands. Portraits of San Diegans dot the interior walls to showcase the work of artist John Wismont, who held the Guinness Book of World Record’s title of “Most Prolific Portrait Painter” for nine years.
Argentine restaurant Puerto La Boca is named for the colorful La Boca neighborhood in Buenos Aires, an area originally settled by Italian immigrants. So the restaurant fits naturally into San Diego's Little Italy, even if the focus is on Argentine-style grilled meats. Tasteful wood-framed art and Argentine photos, as well as tall wood wine racks showcasing the collection of wines from Mendoza, accent the dining room tables set with beige linens. There's also a bar with live music on Fridays as well as sidewalk seating beneath the blue awning at the restaurant's entrance. The beefy grill menu includes succulent Argentine cuts including the asado de tira (Argentinean short rib), picaÌ±a (culotte steak) and lomo (filet mignon). Halibut "Mar del Plata" in a Roquefort cream sauce with mashed pumpkin is also a signature dish. Those seeking a taste of the restaurant's Italian heritage will appreciate the selection of pastas and pizzas.
At the Zagat-rated 25 Forty Bistro, chef Mark Pelliccia composes dishes that blend classic and creative culinary approaches. Pelliccia draws from international travels and experience working in restaurants throughout Italy to inspire his work. While the menu changes seasonally, featured dishes have included braised pork belly with sweet potato salad, a duck and white bean casserole, and oven-roasted lamb with tarragon fennel. Different events and specials liven up the week, from a prix-fixe three-course menu on Wednesday to Tuesday’s free buffet access with purchase of a glass of wine.
Diners relax with glasses of wine and cups of coffee in 25 Forty’s bright clean space, punctuated by line work of Asia and a chalkboard menu of specials. Crisp heather-violet tablecloths dangle from each table, flanked by modern chairs with geometric cutouts in the back. The bistro is open all day Tuesday-Sunday, and rests its burners every Monday.