CROSS STREET CHICKEN & BEER
ADDRESS: 12955 El Camino Real, Suite G-2, San Diego, CA 92130
It was the night before the MCAS Miramar Air Show that I was in the hotel room checking out some of the local spots on both Google Maps and Yelp, trying to put together a list of possible dinner spots after hitting up the show. I randomly stumbled on Cross Street Chicken & Beer on Yelp, drawn in by the photo of the Korean fried chicken. That’s all it took to convince me and the spot had already made it onto my list. After the show, I headed over to the restaurant with my friends Nate and Ruby, where the three of us were looking to get in a good meal after spending almost nine hours outside in the sun.
This place is located within the Del Mar Highlands Town Center, on the second floor on your way over to the movie theater. The décor definitely felt pretty casual, and I did like the neon lighting ambiance inside the dining area, which helped the place feel a bit more modern. It seemed like the dinner rush was just starting to pick up once we got there, but thankfully we didn’t need to wait for a table.
As evident with their name, the restaurant is known for their fried chicken. You could go for wings or tenders, or perhaps a chicken sandwich if you’re more in the mood for that. There are 10 flavor selections total, ranging from mild up to spicy. But if you weren’t feeling the chicken, you could instead go for some of the other Korean dishes they had on the menu, like Kimchi Fried Rice, Bibimbap, or Soondubu (tofu soup). There’s even a sprinkling of items that lean more on the American side, such as chicken & waffles, salads, tater tots, and fries.
Since it was the chicken that drew my attention on Yelp in the first place, I’d be remiss if I decided to get something else on the menu. I was in a bit of a hungry mood after the air show, so I decided to get the 6-piece Chicken Tenders, with the Seoul Spicy and Soy Garlic sauce flavors. In my head, I was envisioning the chicken tenders might be close to the size of tenders from Popeye’s or Raising Cane’s, so I decided to tack on a side order of the Tater Tots, tossed with lemon pepper seasoning.
Nate and Ruby had put in an appetizer order of the Beer Battered Fries (also tossed with lemon pepper seasoning) before I had arrived at the restaurant, and that ended up coming out of the kitchen not too long after we had placed the order for the rest of the food. The fries themselves had a nice balance between the crispiness on the outside along with the softness on the inside. The lemon pepper seasoning also helped provide a slight zesty note as an aftertaste.
Quick shoutout to our waitress, Sam, who had an upbeat energy about her and was very friendly to talk with. She came around numerous times during our meal, checking to see how the food was as well as to see if we wanted any drink refills as well. She definitely helped to make us feel welcome and the meal a more positive experience.
As I saw one of the other restaurant staff members approaching with my plate of chicken tenders, I started to get the feeling that I may have bitten off more than I could chew. Each of those chicken tenders was absolutely massive, and then to tack on the tray of tater tots along with it, there was definitely enough food for two people sitting in front of me. But I couldn’t turn back, so it was only time to move forward and start digging in.
From a visual standpoint, the tenders that had the Seoul spicy sauce on there just looked mean, with this fire-red color about them. There was also a mound of scallions that was served on top of the Seoul spicy tenders, while the soy garlic tenders had a garnish of both scallions and black sesame seeds. From a breading-to-meat ratio, I was actually pretty happy with it overall, since it was primarily a pretty thin layer of breading and a good amount of chicken with each tender. (I will say that I’m typically a wings type of person, but I guess on that particular day, the tenders were calling out to me.)
For being rated #9 out of 10 (with 10 being the top) on their sauce spiciness scale, I was particularly underwhelmed by the Seoul Spicy sauce. There was a simmering heat in my mouth as I ate more of the tenders, but it didn’t pack that punch that I had been bracing for. It’s my guess that the sauce base might have been made with gochujang to give it that characteristic fire-red color, and I was also getting some honey notes in some bites as well. For the soy garlic, I did find that flavor to also be more mild than I would have liked. I would get the garlic notes within the first bite or so, but then it would be just the regular chicken and breading flavor after that. Don’t get me wrong: I did enjoy the chicken tenders, but I was expecting more of a flavor punch from the Asian flavors that I was looking forward to. Perhaps next time I’ll get some additional sauce on the side to dip the tenders in as well.
As a restaurant find while going through the local area Yelp search, it was a solid choice that definitely hit the spot after a long day at the air show. The atmosphere is pretty relaxed and there’s a good selection of foods available on the menu, along with drinks. Our waitress, Sam, did an excellent job, and the kitchen staff in general was cranking out that food pretty quick as well. If you’re looking for a fried chicken spot that is going to switch it up from the offerings from the national chains, definitely give Cross Street a try. If I lived closer to the area, I would be hitting up this place as opposed to my usual Buffalo Wild Wings for sure.
Let’s now take a look at the Cross Street Chicken & Beer Restaurant Dish Spotlight. Asterisks (*) below mark my recommended dishes.
** Beer Battered Fries **
French fries tossed with lemon pepper seasoning and garnished with scallions.
** Tater Tots **
Tater tots tossed with lemon pepper seasoning and garnished with scallions.
** 6-Piece Chicken Tenders **
Chicken tenders tossed with Seoul Spicy sauce (pictured left) and Soy Garlic sauce (pictured right). Garnished with scallions and black sesame seeds.
And finally, here are my rankings for Cross Street Chicken & Beer:
Food: 4.25 / 5
There’s a good variety of food to try, highlighted by the ten different flavors for the wings or tenders. The tenders themselves had a nice crunch to it, and the breading itself wasn’t too thick either. But the lack of punch of the two sauces I tried did pull this rating down a bit.
Atmosphere: 4.25 / 5
The neon aesthetic of the bar inside the dining area was pretty nice, along with the backlit alcohol storage shelves as well that doubled as nice décor. The tables also seemed well spaced to make sure you didn’t crowd up other diners as you’re enjoying your meal.
Service: 5 / 5
Our waitress, Sam, did an excellent job from start to finish. She was very hospitable, making us feel welcome and taken care of. She checked in on us throughout the meal to make sure we had everything we needed. Props to the kitchen staff as well for cranking out the food in a pretty speedy timeframe, too.
Price: 4.5 / 5
Now I know why the 6-piece ran for $20.50, which seemed pretty high to me when I was initially ordering it. It’s definitely a shareable plate of food with the size of those tenders. Couple that with a tray of fries or tater tots, and you’re talking $27.50. Split that between two people, and that becomes a very reasonable $13.75 per person.