Picasso Tapas in Hillcrest

Last night Kristen and I discovered a fun little place in the Hillcrest neighborhood of San Diego called Picasso Tapas. Walking around the neighborhood we settled there purely because it was busy when nothing else was. (Little travelers tip right there.) After wiggling our way past the door we found a nice seat and settled in to enjoy this cozy hole in the wall.

If you’ve never done tapas you need to know this is a place to skip the entrees… tapas is all about ordering several “little plate” appetizers. The owner suggested we get 2 each and share, we were hungry and so we ordered 5. Also, tapas places typically have a European approach to a meal. So if you want something fast and have high expectations for minute attention to detail you’ll be disappointed. Since Kristen and I came with the idea that we’d be there a while so relaxed and enjoyed their famous sangria. Originally, we were going to grab a bite to eat then head to a movie but we ended up staying so long that dinner was plenty for one night.

A couple of the things we ordered were good. Tasty but not special. But two items really stuck out and are worth the hassle of parking down on 4th & University. First, the turkey meat balls were about the best thing I’ve ever tasted. Full of flavor and tender, not dry, we actually had to cut the 5th one in half and contemplated another order. Second, the almond shrimp was stellar. I’ve had my fair share of shrimp in my life and I’ve never bit into a shrimp to taste almond. It was a great flavor and this order came with an abundance of very large shrimp. Both items were recommendations and I kind of wish we had just asked for more instead of taking chances on some of their other 37 tapas to chose from. One negative, like was mentioned in a few reviews elsewhere, we never got all of our 5th dish. I’d tell you about the mushroom tapas but it never arrived. That didn’t disuade us though as we just ordered a dessert, flan, and were quite pleased.

The service was quaint and added to the cozy factor. I think midway through our meal we graduated from the owner, a man from southern Spain, to a “real server.” I can’t lie in saying that I preferred the owner talking about his wife (the chef from northern Spain) better than a boring server. All-in-all though the service was very typical of something I expect on the Continent.

The price was right. We ordered a lot and I was stunned that the bill was so little. If you arrive before 7 PM there are some great deals to be had from the $5 menu. I actually suggest coming early as this small place fills up with locals and gets louder as the evening progresses. Also, if you have a party larger than 4 it may be hard to get a table.

Overall, I highly recommend this place. No website and none needed. Check out some other reviews on Google and you’ll get the idea. Locals love it and critics don’t. My kind of place.

By Adam McLane

Kristen and Adam live in Ahwahnee, California.

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