Start Your New Year with Some Spice and Soul
With winter well underway, this Chowhound has been in search of comfort food to satisfy my hunger and warm my soul. I found just the place recently at a new restaurant called Spice and Soul on Avati Drive just off Morena Blvd. On a chilly evening, a group of us decided to give this new restaurant a try. Located in a small strip mall (across the parking lot from isa.bella artisan pizza & beer garden) , this Clairemont newcomer is setting the right tone with comfort food, bistro classics and a wide range of craft beers.
Once inside, the space is on the small side with a roll-up garage-style window leading out to a small patio… perfect for lunch on a warm day. A small bar seats about ten customers and the main dining area, consisting of tables and high tops along one wall, seats about 30. This night was surprisingly busy and the tastefully decorated dining room was bustling with noise. (I understand the owner is currently working on the acoustics.) Spice and Soul began as a catering company several years ago and just a few months ago opened this eat-in restaurant.
Upon seating ourselves, our server greeted us quickly, offering menus and asking about our drink order. Without missing a beat, one of our friends ordered the beer flight ($7) and the crunchy chickpea appetizer ($4). With 20 beers on tap, bottled beer and wine, there were plenty of drink options. I opted to stay on the lighter side with the San Diego Pale Ale from AleSmith ($6.50). The roasted chickpeas arrived and, in this Chowhound’s humble opinion, were dry and flavorless, although everyone else seemed to enjoy them.
When I asked our server to tell us what Spice and Soul was known for, she explained that roasted meats were one of their specialties. This Chowhound loves a good chicken, so the roasted chicken dinner ($16) served with two sides was the logical choice for me! The chicken was roasted with spices, salt and pepper making the skin amazingly crispy and full of salty flavor, yet the inside was juicy and cooked to perfection. The portion is huge and comes with your choice of two sides, making it easily sharable for two people. For my sides, I chose the mac and cheese and the shoestring fries. The mac and cheese was rich and gooey, with hints of cheddar and other cheeses running through it and topped with melted cheese and crispy breadcrumbs. The side portion was just right (about a cup), although if you’re a mac and cheese fan, there’s also a full entrée that includes your choice of chicken, pork or brisket for $13. When ordering sides, I usually opt for fries as this is always a good test of any restaurant. These shoestring fries were thin as you’d expect, and cooked crispy, served in a salty mound. I couldn’t be happier. My husband ordered the drunken shellfish ($14) with shoestring fries (add $3). The mussels were cooked in an herb butter white wine sauce with smoked Harissa aioli. Harissa is a mildly spicy chili paste commonly used in Middle Eastern foods, and it added a uniquely smoky and interesting flavor to the already rich sauce. The mussels were served with plenty of grilled sourdough for soaking up all that flavorful sauce. Note to self: come back for this one to de-stress after shopping at Costco! Our friends ordered the BBQ pulled pork ($13) and smoked brisket ($14) sandwiches, which were both good as well. We ended our meal by sharing the ice cream sandwich ($5). The sandwich was cut into four wedges for easy sharing and consisted of vanilla ice cream wedged between two homemade chocolate chip cookies topped with a drizzle of caramel sauce—yum.
While Spice and Soul is relatively new and understandably making adjustments, the first impression is a good one. It goes without saying that my tummy was happy and my soul was satisfied—this Chowhound was in comfort food heaven. I’ll definitely be back!
Spice & Soul is currently open Monday through Friday from 11am-9:00pm. Closed on Saturday and Sunday. Plans are being considered to open on Saturday and/or for Sunday brunch in the New Year, so be sure to check.
Spice & Soul
4033 Avati Drive (Just off Morena Blvd.)
San Diego, CA 92117
Michael Baehr is known as the San Diego Chowhound. He is an accomplished home cook, food blogger, cooking demonstrator and self proclaimed foodie. He also loves to sample and write about new eateries, local restaurants, fast food and specialty markets. You can follow his food journey at www.SDChowhound.com