By Frank Sabatini Jr.
The menu is as dizzying as the voluminous food portions at Hash House a Go Go in Hillcrest, where customers over the past 18 years have consistently exclaimed, “Oh, my God!” when their meals are served.
As a less-is-better kind of guy, I’m an infrequent patron of the place. Although I love bringing out-of-town guests here, if only to see their eyeballs obtrude over what co-founder Johnny Rivera describes as “twisted farm food” deployed on jumbo plateware and garnished with tall-standing sprigs of fresh rosemary.
In my most recent visit with two relatives in tow, we waited only five minutes to land a table — a miracle considering there are snaking lines out front on any morning of the week.
Seated in very heavy metal chairs amid black-and-white photographs of tractors and barns supporting the Midwest diner theme, we were each handed oversized brunch-lunch menus. If you’re in a hurry (we weren’t), reading through the rambling number of options ranging from flapjacks and waffles to egg dishes, salads and sandwiches is enough to make you late for everything. It took us 20 minutes to make final decisions, and even then, we remained tentative in our choices.
My visitors each chose the “tractor driver” combo, which comes with a humongous pancake as well as two eggs any style and a choice of bacon, sausage links or potatoes.
One combo had the plump, greaseless pork sausages, which we found delectable. The other came with several strips of curly bacon that we unanimously agreed needed another five minutes on the griddle to achieve preferred crispiness.
The pancake on each plate was breathtakingly large; a photo-worthy thing that immediately drew numerous comments after my aunt posted it to her Facebook page.
Both cakes were somewhat dry beneath their golden surfaces, thus requiring generous measures of butter and syrup to revive them.
I opted for corned beef hash with two eggs cooked over-easy as requested.
I had high hopes for the hash and wished after seeing wild boar chilaquiles delivered to a nearby table in a porcelain bowl the size of a hand sink that I had chosen them instead. The customer who ordered the dish shared his raves with us as he dove into the pile of meat and queso fresco mantling the tortilla chips.
My hash was chunky with par-cooked bell peppers strewn throughout large pieces of potatoes and cubed beef that tasted oddly like ham. Semi-melted Swiss cheese draped the medley. Rounding out the plate was a decent buttermilk biscuit too big to finish and a slab of fresh watermelon.
In previous visits, I tried the grilled meatloaf with eggs, a homier and more satisfying departure from classic steak and eggs that required only a gentle push of the fork for cutting through the fat slice of nicely seasoned meat.
From the dinner menu, I shared with a different visitor the “sage fried chicken and bacon waffle tower,” a signature dish that captivated us with two deep-fried chicken breasts coated heavily in sage-spiked batter. They were served over thick Belgian waffles encasing several strips of bacon. Here, quantity squarely matched quality.
Unfinished meals are commonplace at the restaurant. They’re neatly boxed and placed into brown-paper grocery-size bags for easy hauling. Wait staffers instinctively know when to “wrap it” before you even ask since you essentially receive the equivalent of two meal portions for the price of one. It’s part of Hash House’s allure, which has spread to locations in Las Vegas, Chicago, Orlando and other U.S. cities.
Other meal options, depending on the time of day, include a variety of “farm scrambles” with either roasted chicken, smoked bacon, ground turkey or sun-dried tomatoes and goat cheese. You’ll also find sausage gravy and biscuits; eggs Benedict with pork tenderloin; an “upside down” chicken pot pie with cracker crust; stuffed burgers; Maine lobster tacos; and many more dishes not intended for customers monitoring their calorie intakes.
—Frank Sabatini Jr. is the author of “Secret San Diego” (ECW Press), and began his local writing career more than two decades ago as a staffer for the former San Diego Tribune. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.