Brunch spot is Crushin’ it in Pacific Beach

Crab Cake Benny
( Courtesy )

Picture this: You’re sitting down to brunch with a flight of different-flavored mimosas and a dish of delectable cinnamon-roll pancakes in front of you. Your brunchmate is eating the chicken chilaquiles (scrambled eggs over fresh tortilla strips smothered in a green tomatillo sauce with oaxacan cheese) with a beer flight.

Brunch heaven! That’s what Crushed has to offer among many other dishes. Located at 967 Garnet Ave., the four-year-old establishment has come into its own with a selection of the now and the new.

It started out as a neighborhood-oriented haunt for locals, but thanks to aggressive social media marketing, prospective diners make a beeline for the place straight off the plane.

Amy Ballester co-owns Crushed with her brother, Andy. Her husband, Edgar, is head chef.
( Jeanne Rawdin )

Co-owner Amy Ballester says it’s a dream come true. She moved here from New Jersey at age 21 and spent 20 years in the food and beverage industry before opening Crushed with her brother, Andy. Her husband, Edgar, is the head chef.

After majoring in child development in college, Ballester recounts: “I realized that my drive, my passion, what satisfies me the most, is seeing others happy ... I really enjoyed ensuring people left with a smile on their face when I’d serve them. I knew I wanted to open my own place one day.”

When Crushed opened in 2014, there were few restaurants in PB dedicated to brunch, so they knew they would fill a niche. And the name?

Cinnamon Roll Pancakes
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“When we were just bare bones,” Ballester explains, “we were coming up with different things, and we really liked Crush. We were initially going to have a beer and wine license, so we thought, ‘you crush hops for beer, you crush grapes for wine.’ But we liked Crushed a little bit better because it’s also a feeling of satisfaction like, ‘We crushed it!’

“And, literally,” she continues,"everyone’s like ‘I crushed it’ when they leave. It’s not only a feeling of satisfaction for us, it’s for everyone else, as well.”

Gaucho Steak Skewers
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The menu offers a little bit of everything — American, Mexican and Italian — and their raison d’etre is to always offer items that Ballester calls “brunch forward.” There are five kinds of sliders at $12 a plate, pizza-oven flatbreads from the Morning Delight to the Stinky Goat, three types of salads, and five types of “Bennies.” Coffee is either French Press or Blackbird Nitro Cold Brew.

Four varieties of Surf & Turf and three pasta dishes round out the dinner menu, plus much more. And speaking of dinnertime, Crushed has a vibrant theme calendar for almost every night of the week: Monday, make your own succulent arrangement; Tuesday, it’s Family Feud; Thursday, it’s throwback board and card games; and Sunday is Trivia Night. “We really have a nightlife kind of fun atmosphere here,” Ballester insists.

Crushed, 967 Garnet Ave., is open 8 a.m. to midnight daily.
( Jeanne Rawdin )

She said she’s bolstered by what’s happened in Pacific Beach since Crushed opened in 2014: “As a community, PB is on the up and up. It’s growing up a little bit. It’s a little pricier now in town. The places are nicer, and everybody has a higher scale from when we first started. The existing owners are putting their money back into their business. You see a lot of improvements being made throughout the community, which is amazing.”

A Spicy Mary
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Although Ballester wants to stay in PB, she also wants to open another Crushed somewhere in San Diego. And, on a personal note, she wants to grow her family from one child to two. “We’ll go from there,” she says.

Crushed, 967 Garnet Ave., is open 8 a.m. to midnight daily. (858) 230-6567.