Although it is a landmark in the Gaslamp district, I have never been to Croce's, maybe because it seemed very touristy and because it had a famous name associated with it. But a friend who worked literally down the block, said, "Go, it has great food" so I did and I am happy to have had all my preconceived ideas proven false.
The outdoor terrace is wonderful on a warm night, and on cooler evenings, there are heat lamps and an awning so I chose to eat outside. All the dishes come with suggested wine pairings, so it is easy for novices and indecisive people to choose a fine drink to accompany your meal.
Since I had recently come back from Greece, I started with the Greek Spinach Salad ($10) with honey balsamic crumbled feta cheese, roasted red peppers, artichoke hearts, Kalamata olives and toasted pine nuts. Yes the plate is as big as it looks and it is easily a full meal by itself. The toasted pine nuts and use of spinach were an inspired addition to this classic medley and worked well. It was like a hybrid of a spinach salad and a Greek salad, and since I like both, this worked well for me.
The Golden Ahi Poke ($14) with mango, green onions and ginger, tossed with sesame and soy, served with home made taro chips. Sambal vinaigrette and sliced avocado is listed as an appetizer, but once again, this is easily a full meal by itself. I loved the use of taro chips as scoopers for the poke, but I found the marinade for the fish a bit sweet for my taste. The slices of pepper and onion could have been smaller also just for ease of eating, but the flavors did work well together, and the fresh fish combined with mango did remind me of Hawaii.
After my meal, my server Bob gave me a card that enticed me to come back in December for a three course meal for $30 if I merely made a reservation and used his name (and brought the card). Talk about a diner reward program, this is a great way to not only promote diners who become regulars, but also to reward the waitstaff with loyal clientele.
Croce's also have live music every night and as a diner, you can get preferred seats, so come for dinner, enjoy the show, and and shop for some memorabilia like a DVD or CD of Jim Croce's music. This restaurant was created and is run by his widow Ingrid, and I applaud her for sharing her love of her husband and good food with the rest of us.
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