Every once in a while it’s nice to take a trip south of the L.A. Basin. One nice place to go is Temecula, where what used to be a small town has now become a hotbed of wineries such as the Wien Family Winery where you can spend the afternoon tasting some delicious wines. Temecula has really grown and modernized into one of San Diego County’s nicer cities. Right next door, however, lies Fallbrook. To those of us who have grown up traveling to Fallbrook, it looks for the most part like it hasn’t changed much over the years—-a small town, where ranches dot the outskirts and no fancy restaurants or upscale malls dot the landscape. It is the perfect place to decompress after wine tasting, or fortify yourself with a good old-fashioned meal before beginning your winery crawl. Right in the center of Fallbrook, the Fallbrook Cafe provides a perfect place to have some delicious home cooking in a place that looks like it has not changed much in decades.
The Fallbrook Cafe advertises itself as “Home Cooking at it’s Best” and it delivers. A brief talk with one of the waitresses brought out that the chicken pot pie was a specialty and completely made on the premises. After a short wait, a plate was brought out with the Chicken Pot Pie on it. This was not a chain restaurant pot pie. The crust hung unevenly well over the edges of the pie dish, with gobs of creamy chicken gravy cascading done some of the edges. The pie had that just-baked golden brown sheen to the crust. At the first push with the fork on the edge of the crust, it broke off to reveal many flaky layers, the sign of a nice handmade crust. This was much closer to a fine puff pastry crust than your usual hard crust. As the excitement built, I pushed my spoon into the top of the pie. The crust broke away, releasing a puff of steam from the hot interior. Dipping the spoon into the gravy, large chunks of chicken and carrots came up, coated with the golden yellow thick chicken gravy.
After one taste, I decided this could be the poster child for a chicken pot pie. The gravy was not overly salty, instead with the taste of good chicken stock and nice herbs. The carrots were tender and the chicken still with a nice firmness to the bite. I never even noticed if there were potato chunks in it; if there was, the blended in so nicely that they did not dominate the chicken. So many times I’ve had what amounts to a ‘potato pot pie’ so this was really interesting that I didn’t even think about the potatoes until I was done eating the pie. I found myself scraping the plate and the dish to get every last bit of goodness out of the chicken pot pie. As I broke the last bit of crust off of the edge of the dish, I leaned back contentedly to enjoy the last bit of flavor of this excellent dish.
Growing up in the L.A. Area, one of my favorite diner dishes has been the Los Angeles creation, the Chili Size. Even though it has spread throughout California now, it remains one of Los Angeles’ greatest culinary creations. Not bad for a dish created at a place in the 1920’s called ‘Ptomaine Tommy’s’! The Fallbrook Cafe’s version ran pretty true to the original. The bun was lightly toasted with the top split. A hamburger patty was on the bottom of the bun and covered with a generous portion of delicious, house-made chili. On the side came a dish of chopped onions and grated cheddar cheese to top the chili size with. It was a perfect size to just dump on top of the chili size for a perfect topping.
Of course, the proof was in the taste of this chili size. At that, it delivered. The chili was seasoned just enough to not overpower the flavor of the hamburger patty. The chili had some beans in it but was not what I call “bean chili”, but had just enough to add a little extra. The crisp bun and chopped onions added nice texture to the dish. Overall, it was a delicious chili size and quite satisfying. This was another dish that I wound up using a spoon to scrape up every bit of chili.
After a nice meal at the Fallbrook Cafe, a nice time can be had driving around Fallbrook and Temecula, enjoying the views of horse ranches, vineyards and wineries. A nice glass of wine at one of the wineries makes a perfect way to cap off a day in Northeast San Diego County, a nice day trip from Los Angeles. Add to that a meal at the Fallbrook Cafe and it makes for a nice way to enjoy a lovely spring day.
739 East Mission Road Fallbrook, CA 92028 Ph: (760) 728-1898