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Evaluate: Travis Swikard’s Callie soars with Michelin-high-quality foods and a sublime San Diego vibe

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If you want to know the top secret of accomplishment for Callie — chef-owner Travis Swikard’s new East Village restaurant that has gained “best food ever” evaluations on social media from several community chefs and restaurant-goers due to the fact it opened in June — just try the Aleppo chicken.

The deceptively basic and unbelievably succulent dish normally takes far more than 24 several hours for Swikard’s crew to get ready. It requires an overnight yogurt marinade to tenderize the meat, a dry salt brine to preserve its juiciness, imported Aleppo pepper from Syria, freshly picked coriander and fennel and a honey-sherry vinegar gastrique glaze that, when charred, gives the pores and skin a crunchy caramelized crust without having drying out the flesh underneath.

Advertised on the menu with just 4 ingredients and shipped to the desk with no a prolonged rationalization, Swikard’s best-marketing Aleppo chicken is obtaining exactly what Swikard dreamed of for Callie — to “under-assure and overdeliver” by serving Michelin-excellent food items in an reasonably priced, approachable and laid-back San Diego way.

Chef Travis Swikard poses for a portrait at his new East Village cafe Callie.

(Sam Hodgson/The San Diego Union-Tribune)

Prior to the San Diego indigenous opened the 188-seat cafe and bar, he used a decade in New York functioning as a culinary team leader for Michelin-starred chef Daniel Boulud. Swikard could have stayed in Manhattan to open up his to start with restaurant. Rather he came household with his wife and sons to create a cafe with partners David Cohn and chef Deborah Scott that brings together his knowledge in Mediterranean cooking and vintage French coaching with San Diego’s laid-back again vibe and its unparalleled generate, proteins and seafood.


East Village

Mediterranean delicacies


Approachable and affordable Cali-Mediterranean cuisine

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At Callie, there is no pretension, no white tablecloths in the eating area and no chef’s coats in the kitchen area. When company arrive, they are greeted with what Swikard calls the “Callie hospitality hug,” which is not an precise physical embrace but a warm and welcoming welcome to his culinary residence.

The décor is portion Mediterranean blue tile and aspect sunset-gold memories of the Santee-raised Swikard’s twin childhood passions of browsing and skateboarding. The bar — which serves a tangy browsing-impressed cocktail known as the Kook Juice — has a barrel ceiling influenced by a crashing wave, and the dining place banquettes resemble the curves and ramps of a skate park.

Though many of the dishes have San Diego accents, like a trace of jalapeño in this article and creamy Hass avocado there, the Callie menu is unabashedly Mediterranean with dishes motivated by the cuisines of Syria, Turkey, Egypt, Italy, Tunisia, Morocco and additional.

Swikard understands the intimidation variable of dishes and substances like “fattoush,” “labneh,” “zhoug” and “dukkah,” so he takes the guesswork out of the menu by providing a five-course menu identified as the Mediterranean Feast for events of two and above. Much more than 60 p.c of nightly guests, including me, decide on the $65 possibility.

Fresh-baked pita and dips start most meals at Callie resturant in East Village.

Clean-baked pita and dips start out most foods at Callie resturant in East Village.

(Kimberly Motos )

The Feast is no little-meals tasting. The generously portioned shared plates commence with a mezze class of hummus and other Med dips with house-baked pita, a crudo study course, a fresh pasta, a land-and-sea study course with vegetable aspect and a dessert. If patrons return and buy the feast once more, the kitchen area will happily modify the dishes up to share far more of the menu.

The mezze program of smoky baba ganoush, spicy hummus and pistachio-sprinkled avocado labneh (strained yogurt) are served with warm pita and a platter of organic and natural uncooked, blanched and pickled artisanal veggies like lemon cucumber, pickled radishes and orange bell peppers. It’s enough to fill you up, but help save your urge for food if you can.

Tuna crudo with compressed basil and spicy tomato water gelee at Callie restaurant

Bluefin tuna crudo with compressed basil and spicy tomato h2o gelee at Callie cafe in East Village.

(Kimberly Motos )

My crudo program was refreshing-caught nearby bluefin tuna topped with compressed basil leaves and cherry bell peppers on a bed of spicy tomato drinking water gelée. The dish burst with fresh new tomato taste and pleasing acidity, even though a touch of salt would give the tuna much more difference in the dish.

My pasta course was the lemon saffron spaghetti, a nightly distinctive featuring bluefin confit, fennel sofrito and toasted breadcrumbs enhanced with bottarga (cured fish roe) seasoning. It delivered the complete umami bundle with its brine, sweet, tart and savory features, and its home-built noodles have been cooked flawlessly al dente.

Lemon saffron spaghetti at Callie restaurant in East Village.

Lemon saffron spaghetti at Callie restaurant in East Village.

(Pam Kragen/The San Diego Union-Tribune)

The aforementioned Aleppo hen was served with a aspect of crunchy Moroccan carrots, a pleasurable dish of chilled carrot ribbons piled substantial like fettuccine pasta and served with a tangy burnt orange-habanero dressing and crunchy cashew dukkah (a Middle Japanese nut, herb and spice combine). It was vibrant, sweet, stunning and a amazing complement to the abundant and spicy chicken dish. At the suggestion of the server, we also ordered the facet dish of the chilled broccolini, which is the serving staff’s preferred dish. The tender-crisp broccolini spears are served with a light-weight and refreshing tahini sauce designed with Meyer lemons from the backyard of Swikard’s dad.

Crunchy Morrocan carrots at Callie restaurant in East Village

Crunchy Morrocan carrots at Callie restaurant in East Village

(Lucianna McIntosh )

A further dish we additional from the nightly specials menu was the spot prawns al ajillo. Saved live in a kitchen tank for the peak of freshness, the buttery, melt-in-your-mouth shrimp are served with just a contact of garlic, chili and parsley and a side of warm bread, which is manufactured from wheat that is floor and baked in-household.

The feast concludes with desserts that have been also created by Swikard. They are on the more compact aspect and are mostly gentle, citrusy and fruit-centered. Although the fragile Turkish rice pudding with summer season figs from Swikard’s garden and a twist of fairy floss (fiber-like cotton sweet) is memorable, my favorite was the pleasingly sour Eureka lemon pavlova, manufactured with rose meringue, honey yogurt and kumquats.

Selling prices at Callie are affordable for the total of food items and support offered, with most dishes priced from $12 to $26, wines starting up at $13 a glass and $14 cocktails. Parking in the restaurant’s underground lot is free of charge for the initial a few hours with validation, which has been a huge promoting position with diners I know who’ve traveled from Escondido, La Mesa and Carlsbad for foods they’ve described as the ideal they’ve at any time had.


Hours: 5 to 10 p.m. Wednesdays-Sundays

Wherever: 1195 Island Ave., San Diego (parking garage entrance on 11th Avenue, garage entrance marked 1155 Island)

Cell phone: (619) 255-9596

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A view of the bar area at chef Travis Swikard's new East Village restaurant Callie

A view of the bar spot at chef Travis Swikard’s new East Village cafe Callie

(Sam Hodgson/The San Diego Union-Tribune)