Neighborhood Gem: Trust in Hillcrest
The Short and Skinny
Imagine the ideal neighborhood spot. You know the one: friendly service, bustling atmosphere, and consistently great food. It's that one restaurant where you take your out-of-town friends to show them what a great culinary city San Diego is. You go on date night, because the meals always feel leisurely, and a little exciting. And you go for happy hour, because honestly, you will use any excuse you can to have a bite or a sip here. Trust is that kind of place, due in no small part to the creative comfort food being turned out by executive chef Brad Wise. And, even if you don't live in the neighborhood, Hillcrest is a convenient junction between downtown and North Park, with excellent accessibility to alll reaches of town via the 163 or the 5, and the offerings at Trust make it a worthy destination.
Soaring celings, exposed concrete and ductwork, and walls of windows that open onto a patio beset with fire pits are accented with playful, well-placed wall murals and golden pigs standing guard over the bar. The diningroom is almost always humming with the banter of two-tops, four-tops, and larger parties of six or eight. The knowledgable, friendly wait staff are unflustered by the crowds, taking time to make suggestions and guide each table through the menu. Despite the bustling energy, it is a place where you can easily have a conversation with the rest of your party without shouting. The restaurant has a relaxed sophistication that makes you want to stay for one more course or one more cocktail. It makes you feel as effortlessly cool as the unselfconcious space itself.
The bulk of the menu consists of shareable small plates, which are divided into farm, sea, and ranch. There is also a handful of larger dishes that are listed under the nondescript "more" section. While these larger dishes, like the perfectly charred whole branzino, served under a blanket of tangy lemon and herbs, are excellent, the real fun of a meal at Trust is in the sharing of the small plates.
Seemingly simple offerings are transformed into showstoppers. Oxtail raviolini are served under dollops of airy, whipped ricotta, scattered with toasted pinenuts and sweet roasted carrots, and dressed in a lucious sauce made from the oxtail braising liquid. Arugula salad becomes a memorable experience when combined with creamy goat fromage blanc, crispy-fired yams and lentils, and the sweet bite of red onion under a maple dijon vinaigrette, which accentuates the complex layers of the salad, rather than obscuring the, as so many dressings do.
The almost played-out offering of crispy brussels sprouts take on new life in a dish of wood fire roasted sprouts agressively combined with salty tortilla strips, cotija cheese, and a tangy, piquant jalapeño vinaigrette.A surprise hit is the humbly-named shrimp and sausage with beans, a rustic, rich plate of chickpeas braised in a tomato and wine base studded with andouille sausage and plump, tender shrimp and served with plenty of grilled bread to soak up every drop of the elegant liquid.
And that's just dinner.
The brunch menu offers a similar array of inventive comfort foods, desserts range from the mind-blowing bourbon custard, which is essentially a re-imagined old fashioned, to the visually stunning tower of profiteroles, and the weeknight happy hour is the perfect time to enjoy the lavish seasonal charcuterie and cheese board, which is a meal in and of itself. We have tried almost everything on the menu (which changes seasonally), and have yet to find a dish we haven't enjoyed.
A respectable wine list, both by the bottle and the glass, eight rotating taps of craft beer, and an understated, but seriously good cocktail menu make the bar program at Trust a good match for the culinary offerings. Little touches, like the locally-sourced, fresly-made pear puree in the Trust Cocktail #7, a combination of Maker’s 46 Bourbon, meyer lemon, bitters, and the aformentioned pear, make the drink both easy to enjoy and intriguing. Even the #2, an intimidating combination of Jalapeño Tequila, Grapefruit, Agave, Firewater Bitters, ends up being well-balanced, enjoyable, and surprising. Happy hour (available exclusively at the bar) cuts the price of these hand crafted tipples down to $7.
3752 Park Blvd. Suite 105C, Hillcrest, San Diego
Hours: Dinner nightly from 5pm; weekend brunch Saturday and Sunday, 9am-2pm; happy hour Monday to Thursday, 5pm-7pm and Friday, 4pm-7pm
Pro tip: Unless you want to sit at the bar, always call ahead or go online to make a reservation
Our Perfect Order for Four
ARUGULA SALAD yams, fried lentils, red onions, goat fromage blanc, spiced pepitas, maple dijon vinaigrette $11
BRUSSELS SPROUTS tortilla strips, cilantro, jalapeño vinaigrette, cotija cheese, tajín $11
SHRIMP + SAUSAGE andouille, garbanzo beans, tomato, wine herb butter, grilled bread $17
BRAISED OXTAIL RAVIOLINI pine nuts, carrots, oxtail jus, horseradish, whipped ricotta $22
BOURBON CUSTARD vanilla oak sorbet, toffee, orange, cherry
PROFITEROLES banana cream, caramel, sea salt