The thrill of the bet, the roller coaster adrenaline highs of a win and grumbling lows of a loss, the sounds of the track – beating hooves, roaring crowds – every summer, there’s more fun to be had at the Del Mar Race Track. But only until September 4th…
Last weekend I was headed to the races for the Del Mar Grill Fest and joined hundreds of enthusiastic horse lovers on the Amtrak Surfliner to Solana Beach. Boarding in Irvine, there was standing room only for a short distance, until one gregarious, tattooed, weekend warrior offered me his seat since he was headed to the cafe car for more beers. He insisted he didn’t mind standing – and as it turned out, standing provided a more captive audience as he entertained his friends and those of us within earshot with a nonstop stream of amusing banter.
My girlfriend met me at the station so, thankfully, I didn’t have to scramble to board one of the shuttles to the track. Carmen lives in San Diego, and although the races are very popular, a crowd like this was unusual. Maybe it was because Weezer was playing after the races or the promise of good food and good beer at the first-ever Del Mar Grill Fest featuring some of San Diego’s finest restaurants, or maybe people realized that summer is waning and it was a perfect day for the races – not too hot and with gentle ocean breezes to cool your brow.
Either way, we headed to the track, hit the Grill Fest to check out the bites and then made a few wagers on the ponies.
Here’s a recap of the bites we had – there was no way we could try everything, so we carefully selected from the list of restaurants and dishes. Each bite was a token and you could buy 5 tokens for $10 or 10 tokens for $20. We were pleasantly stuffed after five tastes and three beers. There was a decent selection of domestic beer and some craft beers, many from San Diego – draft beer was $7-$8 and craft bottled beers were $9.00, I think.
First things first – grab a beer. Then, the pork belly was calling our name.
Pork Belly with pickled radish, onion and cherry gastrique from Uptown Tavern
We award BEST TASTE to the Grilled Oysters Rockefeller from Oceanaire Seafood Room
BEST PRESENTATION went to Barleymash with their Chimichurri Skirt Steak Torta
FAN FAVORITE: Slater’s 50/50 Signature Burger
BEST PERSONALITY with a great taste to go with it: Hard Rock Cafe
Grilled Shrimp and Pear Salad from Hard Rock Cafe
Salad Maker Extraordinaire, Hard Rock Cafe
More smiling faces:
Beer, and lots of it, is the best complement to robust grilled flavors!
My winning race. Put it all on #1 “Hard Buns” This was one time when the favorite came in and I doubled my $$.
Even if you missed Opening Day, Food Truck Festival, Grill Fest, B52’s, Sammy Hagar, Weezer, or this weekend’s Donuts Day and SOJA, you still have Labor Day weekend!
Tomorrow: $1 Million TVG Pacific Classic and Long Sleeve T-Shirt Giveaway – Sunday, Aug. 25 – Del Mar will welcome some of the country’s top horses for the richest and most prestigious race of the season: the $1 Million TVG Pacific Classic. Guests attending the races will also receive a fan designed “Cool As Ever” long sleeve t-shirt (while supplies last). There will be a special post time of 1 p.m. on Pacific Classic day.
Next weekend is the Del Mar Beer Fest (August 31st), Rocket from the Crypt and Reggae Fest featuring Bob Marley! Check out the schedule of events for all the info.