San Diego spots?

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Skillet Doux
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8 years ago

Out in front of Yakyudori, there was a markerboard suggesting that if the wait was too onerous (it wasn't), we could try their sister restaurant, Hinotez. Well, okay then. Our last night, I wanted one more crack at some Japanese (an intense craving that week, for some reason), and a 2AM closing time at Hinotez made it easy.

For a split second, on first glance, it almost looks like a formal Japanese restaurant, mostly because of the tatami rooms in back, with low tables and sliding panels. But there's a little bit of everything. Standard four tops and two tops on the left, a counter that seats 8-10 on the right, and more rooms tucked away in back with regular seating. It's not quite as warm as Yakyudori, but it's plenty kitschy:
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Otaku Chic
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There's a lot of crossover with the Yakyudori menu, including a limited amount of yakitori, but a little heavier on the noodles, including more ramen options and some udon and soba as well. Oddly, though it's been open almost a year, Hinotez doesn't appear to have a website, so I took photos of the menu and attached a PDF at the bottom of the post. Though the menu's varied, however, I knew what I was after.

I figured I could get in at least two bowls of ramen. Same as Yakyudori, Hinotez offers half bowls of ramen. I'm trying to decide whether I think they're a good thing. They certainly aren't from a value proposition. A reduction of at least 50% in size knocks $1.50 off a bowl of ramen that ranges from $6.50 - $8.00. More importantly, I've had so many bowls of ramen that seemed okay at first, but whose charms truly emerged only once I was halfway through the bowl and I was deep into it, tongue now coated with the oil and fat, etc. Sometimes, I feel like the first half of a bowl of ramen is just the warmup. With this, there's no second half. For that reason, I doubt I'd make the half bowls a regular practice if I lived in SD. But having only one crack at a good-lookin' ramen menu before heading home, I' was exceptionally grateful for the option.
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Tonkotsu Miso Ramen
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Good golly, it's no small wonder why milky, rich tonkotsu broth now dominates the Tokyo ramen scene. Again, as with Yakyudori, I have an impossible standard still fresh in my mind. But I thought this was a really nice, smooth, rich bowl of tonkotsu, a little salty from the miso but not overly so. Good chashu, some scallion, nori and ginger, fairly firm noodles... the only complaint would be a cold egg. But again, I'd be flipping ecstatic to have this back home.
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Spicy Sesame Ramen
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The spicy sesame ramen was tasty, but I was a little disappointed with its construction. No fresh ground sesame, here. It was a viscous (and delicious) chicken-based broth that had been spiked with rayu (a chili-sesame oil), whether purchased or made in-house, I'm not sure. It had a really nice flavor, very subtle on the sesame and a nice, subtle burn. I was hoping for a little more sesame, but I suppose I can't fault it for what it is. And to be clear, bring this back to Phoenix and it's immediately my favorite bowl in town.

Here, I got to thinking... hey, it's vacation... I'm going home tomorrow... who knows when I'll have a shot at a good spot like this next... I could do one more small dish.
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Tonkatsu Curry
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Oops. The tonkatsu curry was not so much with the small. Not evident from the angle of the photo is that the plate must've been 16" long. But it was really good. The tonkatsu was hot, crisp and well-seasoned... about all one could hope for from tonkatsu. The curry seemed underpowered at first, but after a couple of bites the subtlety came out. It had a really nice flavor, an almost chunky texture and was strewn with ground meat. They offer curry at breakfast, and I wonder if the lighter approach is so that the same curry can do double duty? In any case, I'd have this again in a heartbeat. I did, in fact, since at least three-quarters of it went into a box to take home for breakfast the next morning.

Interestingly, as mentioned above, Hinotez also does breakfast (the menu is included in the PDF). Three bucks gets you a tray with rice, miso soup, cold tofu, pickles, nori and tea, and then for either $1 or $2 more you add your main dish which includes options like grated yam, a three minute egg, natto, grilled salmon, mini udon, gyoza, etc. It looks like it might be a great breakfast stop.

I'm more than pleased with Hinotez as a farewell meal from San Diego. I'd kill to have ramen options like this. Somehow the week ended up being all Japanese, all the time. Not sure how that happened. But I got my fix, and it was a pretty damn good one.
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Dominic Armato
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Arizona Republic | azcentral.com
sinosoul
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8 years ago

Skillet Doux wrote:but good enough that I'd strip naked and run around the house screaming if we had offerings like this back home.
oh my eyes. too early.

Also, speaking of SD, someone was raving about Craft & Commerce but then I read "ice cream sandwich with candied bacon" which made me immediately hate it so.

In Encinitas, I really liked Fish 101. It's not revelational or anything, and the simply grilled fish was WAY overcooked. But I really liked the vibe, and I really dig this new interpretation of an affordable gastropubby/beachy fish shack with good local beers on draft.
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azhotdish
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7 years ago

Little late here, but one afternoon we cruised up to La Jolla to the aquarium (awesome!) and stopped at Oscar's Mexican Seafood on the way back. This might be the most divey joint in LJ, but that's not a knock - it's a great spot. We got there around 2:30 in the afternoon and the place was packed. They have a small menu which focuses on seafood - tacos, tortas and mariscos, mostly.

We ordered a combo - spicy shrimp tacos, fried fish tacos, ny steak tacos and a fish ceviche. Sadly, I only managed to take one picture because we were starving.
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fish taco
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The ubiquitous fish taco in San Diego is rarely done this well - it was excellent. They offered it grilled or fried, so I can't compare, but this one was really good. The shrimp taco was also very good, and a welcomed level of heat, though not overpowering. Very well-cooked shrimp.

The winner of the bunch was the fish ceviche - fresh, clean, nice acid, large chunks of avocado and some freshly-fried tortillas pieces, everyone really enjoyed it.

The steak tacos were a disappointment, mostly because the steak was in desperate need of salt. I think with that, they could have been better, but I'd probably skip them.

They had a nice selection of hot sauces on the counter, including three fresh-made salsas in the counter-top frig. Parking and seating were a bit of a pain, but we'll definitely hit this place nice time we're back.

Oscar's Mexican Seafood
703 Turquoise Street
San Diego, CA 92109
http://oscarsmexicanseafood.com/
---
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azhotdish
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7 years ago

Last year on our trip, we hit Sushi Ota in PB, sat at the counter and had a fantastic meal. This year, we decided early that we'd do the same, and again, they sent us some really, really good food.

They have a standard menu of cooked items, a sushi list and a chalkboard with five or six specials. We ordered two things from the specials board - spicy tuna with eggplant and the bluefin tuna sampler.
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bluefin - toro, chopped o-toro
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Beautiful fish right here and exquisitely fresh. The toro melted to the touch. The chopped toro was a little lost on me - while I appreciated the flavor, there was no textural component - I would have loved a sesame cracker or something to put it on.
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spicy tuna on eggplant
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Rich, moderately spicy tuna on a fried piece of eggplant. I think a lot of places use lower quality tuna for the spicy tuna because they hide it in rice, but the quality of the fish they're using for this is on full display here. Really good stuff. The eggplant was a little under-seasoned, but tobiko made it pop.
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yellowtail belly, mackerel, unagi
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Beautiful piece of yellowtail belly up top, sitting on a small mound of rice and a bit of wasabi. The mackerel in the middle has a bit of ginger and green onion and needed nothing else. The unagi was okay, but a little boring (at least it wasn't drenched in sauce).
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hamachi kama
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When there's collar available, I'll usually order it, and I'm glad we did this time. Simply grilled with a side of lemon and some light soy sauce.
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softshell crab
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The lone disappointment of the bunch was the softshell crab - the oil wasn't hot enough when they fried it, and the flavors were kind of muddy.

Overall, another really good meal at Sushi Ota. I haven't eat sushi elsewhere in Mission/PB, but this has got to be up near the top of the heap. The price for the two of us with two glasses of wine and two beers was about $120, which I consider to be a very good value.

Sushi Ota
4529 Mission Bay Dr
San Diego, CA 92109
---
Joel
@azhotdish
sinosoul
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7 years ago

Skillet Doux wrote:Out in front of Yakyudori, there was a markerboard suggesting that if the wait was too onerous (it wasn't), we could try their sister restaurant, Hinotez. Well, okay then. Our last night, I wanted one more crack at some Japanese (an intense craving that week, for some reason), and a 2AM closing time at Hinotez made it easy.
hinoteztonkotsumisoramen.jpg
Good golly, it's no small wonder why milky, rich tonkotsu broth now dominates the Tokyo ramen scene. Again, as with Yakyudori, I have an impossible standard still fresh in my mind. But I thought this was a really nice, smooth, rich bowl of tonkotsu, a little salty from the miso but not overly so. Good chashu, some scallion, nori and ginger, fairly firm noodles... the only complaint would be a cold egg. But again, I'd be flipping ecstatic to have this back home.

I'm more than pleased with Hinotez as a farewell meal from San Diego. I'd kill to have ramen options like this. Somehow the week ended up being all Japanese, all the time. Not sure how that happened. But I got my fix, and it was a pretty damn good one.
Having done Sushi Ota, knowing there was simply no window of opportunity to risk the slowness of Sakura, nor the time to fully ingest an omakase meal at Kaito Sushi, we went with Hinotez because the SO decided soba > fungus smut tacos and because of above report.

Had the small bowl of tonkotsu ramen with noodles done katame, soba with mixed tempura, few small plates, and a litre of beer. Just did an LA ramen tour last month (4 new-ish stops, see map here: http://goo.gl/maps/nNDgN ) and this tonkotsu bowl would rank 5th. It was a decent bowl, punctuated with floating, lovely, black garlic oil, but lacked unctuousness found in top LA bowls. The chasu was plain and the ice cold hanjuku providing overcooked yolk. Best part was the generosity of the al dente hosomen and the low price.

Spicy jellyfish was tasty if not pedestrian, crab rangoon of cheese and roe was rather foul, and the special of seasoned (marinated/sliced) burdock roots was my rustic fave. Overall, not quite dogfood per tatterdemalion, but below par set in US metropolitans. Given more time, Sakura seems a more sophisticated choice, but Hinotez (talk about improper naming) was indeed full of local Japanese, and the staff (both FOH & kitchen) was expeditious. It was a good choice for what we needed, ie, plentiful and quick consumption of carb & beer turned the SO a lil ho-ish.

Hodad: ordered the $6.5 "skinny" version of Skillet Doux's gut bomb with only 1 patty + bacon. The bacon was indeed fantastic. The rest of the burger is a picture perfect definition of what Carl's Jr meant in their targeted ads of "$6 Restauarant Burger".

Best dinner befitting the spirit of the SD County coast remains Fish 101 in Encinitas, and Whisknladle, La Jolla was a great, if unexceptional by big city standards, brunch.
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Skillet Doux
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7 years ago

sinosoul wrote:Had the small bowl of tonkotsu ramen with noodles done katame, soba with mixed tempura, few small plates, and a litre of beer. Just did an LA ramen tour last month (4 new-ish stops, see map here: http://goo.gl/maps/nNDgN ) and this tonkotsu bowl would rank 5th. It was a decent bowl, punctuated with floating, lovely, black garlic oil, but lacked unctuousness found in top LA bowls. The chasu was plain and the ice cold hanjuku providing overcooked yolk. Best part was the generosity of the al dente hosomen and the low price.
Eep... wouldn't have recommended it to somebody coming from L.A. No question the scene's far more developed up there. And it's easy to just say everything sucks when you were in Japan six months ago. But man, it's a breath of fresh air coming from Phoenix.
Dominic Armato
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Christina
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7 years ago

Piggybacking - Heading to the San Diego area for my first visit this holiday weekend. We'll be staying in La Jolla, but the main event is a reserved table at the Del Mar racetrack all three days, so at least one lunch will be there.

We have dinner reservations already (Nine-Ten, Addison, and George's Modern), so mainly interested in lunch and cocktail recs in La Jolla. For lunches I was thinking (view-wise since all our dinners will be late when it's dark) one of the restaurants at La Valencia or George's Ocean Terrace. Maybe some place in Del Mar close to the track? If not going for a view - I'm thinking WhisknLadle or Herringbone. Cocktail-wise - no clue.

I also may spend one day at the hotel while E is at the track. Any thoughts on a good place for a solo leisurely lunch or a friendly bar lunch within walking distance of the Grande Colonial? Thanks.
cactuschowdah
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7 years ago

You've hit all my usual La Jolla haunts, but I'll give you some unsolicited advice- for breakfast, grab some Coast Toast at Brockton Villa. Show up early, grab a seat on the patio that looks out over the ocean (and the seals), order yourself a Keith Richards (4 shots of espresso, Mexican chocolate, foam) and the Coast Toast. Enjoy.

http://www.brocktonvilla.com/
sinosoul
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7 years ago

2 pix from WhisknLadle:
Image

Image

Though there's no view, the food was fun/fresh. I especially liked spicy pesto and the fantastic olive selection on the charcuterie plate. The bar program is just not as polished as all the reviews may suggest though. That jalapeno/avocado/gin concoction called "London Burning" should've been better strained, but it was still tasty, and only $7.

For a leisurely solo lunch, perhaps Burger Lounge? I really enjoy Burger Lounger's "Mcdonald's Hamburger" using all organic ingredients and grass-fed beef. It ain't bougie, but it's a very interesting take on the $0.39 burger, and I think it's culturally/culinarily important for us to realize we can get that kinda fast food taste with great ingredients. Also, Burger Lounge's fries are freakin' heavenly. One of my fave in SoCal.

Seeing you're into cocktails, you're probably really into coffee. Bird Rock is roasting up some pretty serious single origin stuff. Their barista couldn't pour me a cortado/Gibraltar to save his life, but the cold brew/beans, etc. we got were all as good as any of the SF/Seattle/Portland 3rd Wave stuff.
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Christina
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7 years ago

Gorgeous pics!

I hope to have time tomorrow to do the full report, but I wish we had gone to WhisknLadle our last lunch food-wise. We decided to go for a view for our last lunch (we moved from a Boston Harbor waterfront condo to Phoenix and I realize now I'm a lil' bit crazy about wanting to see water views I took for granted), but UGH my lobster tacos at Eddie V's were the worst thing I ate this trip.

As it turned out, Jake's was such a pretty on-beach location but everything except one dish was meh, and our best lunch was no-view and excellent - Herringbone. Dinners were fab across the board. Nine-Ten was a wonderful intro and Addison was amazing (everything about that restaurant is superlative), though have to say George's California Modern was our favorite. E especially loved it, and is still raving about the octopus. As some of you know, he loved Frasca this year (Denver) and he called George's "my West Coast equivalent to Frasca". High praise for him indeed; when traveling for first-time visits, I pick the high-end atmosphere he likes but menus that appeal to me :twisted:. It's always special when it makes us both as happy .
Last edited by Christina 7 years ago, edited 1 time in total.
sinosoul
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7 years ago

Keep reading great things about Herringbone (and Craft & Commerce). I definitely want to check out both next time downthere. Now only if the weekend traffic into La Jolla wasn't such a BITCH...

Look forward to the extended report.
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Pato
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7 years ago

For drinks do not miss:
Noble Experiement
7 Grand (north park)
Prohibition
El Dorado

Food:
Craft & Commerce (drinks too)
Oscar's
Prep Kitchen (fantastic)
Café Chloe
I have been told to go to Tiger Tiger. Have not been yet.

If you drive out do not miss Ranas Mexico City Cuisine on the way out and on the way back!
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Pato
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7 years ago

One more interesting spot is venissimo cheese shop. They have a few locations. Great place to experiment in cheese. Lots of variety. I recently was at the gaslamp location and they let me buy a ton of small portions.
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Dapuma
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7 years ago

Prohibition I thought was not the greatest for a speakeasy, they have the band playing WAY too loud so you can barely talk, they do not enforce the no sneakers dresscode which they made a big deal out of on the website, and the drinks were 50/50 one was really good and one was pretty poor - I would not return there again

Only tried it once, but I have been told there is no comparision to Noble Experiment

I would also really recommend Hamilton's Tavern for beer and if you need something to soak up the beer they place next door which you order through a hole in the wall makes up some awesome grilled cheese (much better after 4+ beers) they have an amazing selection of drafts, very casual, pet friendly - think a more open friendlier larger Papago
Pato wrote:For drinks do not miss:
Noble Experiement
7 Grand (north park)
Prohibition
El Dorado

Food:
Craft & Commerce (drinks too)
Oscar's
Prep Kitchen (fantastic)
Café Chloe
I have been told to go to Tiger Tiger. Have not been yet.

If you drive out do not miss Ranas Mexico City Cuisine on the way out and on the way back!
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Pato
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7 years ago

Prohibition has recently relaxed the guest list structure, in fact it may be no guest list now. That is too bad that the music was too loud, because that would bother me too. It is usually pretty low key jazz when I have been there. This place works best as a date spot or one or two friends. I like to go too early or too late. If it is packed it loses something. I went at 8pm the last time and it was before the band and really mellow. Drinks were great. Last one I had was a variation of a Last Word with mezcal. Something I would not dream up and it worked. It worked well.

Noble is fantastic. Dealer's Choice

Thanks for Hamilton's. Never been there, but I will next time. It looks like what I am looking for!
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BarbaraToombs
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7 years ago

Anyone have any recommendations in the Gaslamp area? We're headed there this weekend, and although we know the place well, we usually focus on bar-hopping (!) more than dining, but as it's my birthday weekend, we'll want at least ONE good meal out. I perused Yelp and have a few ideas from that, but I trust all you more! :D
DesertDoc
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7 years ago

Not sure about the restaurants in the area, but had some nice drinks at Noble Experiment and Prohibition. Both require reservations and knowing where they are...

As an aside, why don't we have any good speakeasy or private drinking clubs here in Phoenix? Does RnD count?
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Pato
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7 years ago

BarbaraToombs wrote:Anyone have any recommendations in the Gaslamp area? We're headed there this weekend, and although we know the place well, we usually focus on bar-hopping (!) more than dining, but as it's my birthday weekend, we'll want at least ONE good meal out. I perused Yelp and have a few ideas from that, but I trust all you more! :D
Cafe Chloe is fantastic in gaslamp.
http://www.cafechloe.com/
jtkaya1
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7 years ago

Check out Neighborhood; amazing beer and whisky list.

http://www.neighborhoodsd.com/
PHXeater
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6 years ago

Giving a definite recommendation for Kaito Sushi in Encinitas for the sushi only. Last weekend while apartment hunting we swung by for a dinner and was very pleased. Shinbay it is not (just my opinion!), but it is definitely a pretty phenomenal neighborhood sushi joint.

Sitting at the sushi bar saved the day as the head sushi chef (owner?) is very engaged in recommending items. We didn't do a full omakase but took many of his recs to form a pretty great dinner. We started out with an impossibly fresh scallop served sashimi style after watching it get cut out (cleaned?) from the shell. New to me was how they took the muscle portion and cooked it up lightly in the back to soften it up. This was continued with amberjack sashimi, halibut nigiri, sea urchin nigiri, and something else I'm forgetting. Spicy calamari and spicy crispy roll were ordered to have some "normal American sushi items" - not my line! These were pretty meh - the spicy calamari was overdressed and although was clearly fresh wasn't spicy whatsoever. The spicy crispy roll was your standard americanized tempura fried roll but gotta please others when dragging them to a strip mall 15 miles away.

Overall this truly is a place to get amazing, fresh sashimi. Their non-sushi items looked standard and unexciting which was confirmed with the spicy calamari order and what I saw on others plates so I really wish the care that goes into the sushi was extended a little more into the rest of the menu. Also, the server gave us water but we had to ask for a menu and was never offered drinks until the sushi chef suggested a beer would go great with one of the items - up until that point we thought they were perhaps a booze free joint since we hadn't been offered anything. A little odd but reinforces the sushi bar is where to sit.

We got out of there for $105 which for the amount of sushi we got, plus a couple drinks, was a good deal. Sashimi prices were around $15 which is what you pay at mediocre spots these days.
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