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14 San Diego Uptown News | Apr. 1–14, 2011


By David Nelson

Although its fans persist in believing The Cosmopolitan Hotel and Restaurant in Old Town has always been a ven- ue where Cal-Mex and mariachi fiestas are apt to erupt at any moment, the truth is a little different.

In the 19th century, The Casa de Bandini, as it was then known, was the residence of Juan Bandini and his family. Bandini built the original adobe in 1827, and was known as a gracious host who loved to formally entertain. He reputedly had quite the ear for music and introduced the waltz to the little settlement on the edge of the Pacific. (Cinco de Mayo wasn’t an occasion for margaritas and guacamole in Bandini’s day.) The state of California is the building’s landlord, and the struc- ture has periodically expanded over the decades. It now includes a number of hotel rooms on the

A San Diego Landmark Since 1944 Quality Home Cooking

The Cosmopolitan Hotel and Restaurant 2660 Calhoun St. 92110 (619) 297-1874 Breakfast, lunch and dinner daily Dinner entrées $10.95-$28.95

second floor, and recently the state invested several million dollars to rehabilitate it. Today, mid- Victorian era period pieces grace the elaborate dining room and are reflected in staffers’ costumes. Tread thoughtfully upon the highly polished floor boards, because they contain remnants of Bandini’s original flooring. Operated by a partnership that includes the founder of the Tin Fish chain, The Cosmopolitan presents three meals daily, supple- mented on Sundays by a brunch menu that extends from all-Amer- ican flap jacks to a scramble of chorizo and eggs with tortillas and

the restaurant’s own, fire-roasted salsa. This is typical of the restau- rant’s other menus, which offer both contemporary fare and south of the border-style preparations, some listed as “Juan Bandini’s Favorites” (a heading that earns a chuckle from those who know that fajitas were invented in Texas sev- eral decades ago and would have been unknown to Bandini and his fellow townsmen). On the other hand, the carne asada with nopales (cactus) and grilled onions might well have been everyday cooking when Old Town was known simply as “San Diego,” as would be true of the pollo asado, or roasted chicken served with white beans and roasted squash.

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The Cosmopolitan is a good destination at lunch hour, when all Old Town attractions are open and sunshine streams through tall win- dows edged in fringed Victorian draperies. The food can be sunny, too, like an appetizer of albacore tartare served with crushed avocado and crisp flatbread. The optional chips and salsa are inevitable in Old Town, but they’re satisfying if you decide to splurge on a Margarita or one of the inven- tive house cocktails. Local flavors resonate in the sopes (thick cups of masa dough) filled with shred- ded carnitas and decorated with avocado and sour cream. It’s a very satisfying dish, and with a cup of the days’ soup, quite sufficient for lunch. The Waldorf Salad was created

in New York around the time The Cosmopolitan became a hotel (the latter part of the 19th century), and that this rich arrangement of poached chicken with apples, walnuts and grapes remains popular today is no surprise. To find it in Old Town is something of a surprise, and the kitchen turns in a satisfying performance with this classic. On the lighter side, the menu offers a grilled vegetable salad, a grilled Romaine salad (both can be garnished with a choice of meats or seafood at ad- ditional cost), and a spinach salad garnished with bacon, egg and a creamy poppy seed dressing. The Cosmopolitan meets San

Diego’s preference for seafood with lunch entrées like a grilled mahi sandwich—a straightforward presentation dressed with lettuce, tomato and tartar sauce, and garnished with french fries—and a none-too-local plate of fish and

see Cosmo, page 28

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