8910 Troy Street, Spring Valley
Looking at it now, you may have to squint a little to envision the Spring Valley home that Bulgarian-farm-boy-cum-doctor Luben Walchef bought in 1972 and converted into a family restaurant about ten years later. The eatery went through a handful of owners before Luben’s grandson, Shawn Walchef, and friend Corey Robinson took over in 2008. The co-owners renovated the building and converted it into a BBQ pit and sports bar spackled with flat screen TVs.
Today, Cali Comfort is best known for their brunch and award-winning Chris Ello Pulled Pork Sandwich ($9.99), named after the XTRA 1360 AM sports host and slow-cooked in an Ole Hickory smoker for 14 hours. Surrounded by tow yards and apartment blocks, Cali Comfort caters to a crowd of local sports fans, bikers, residents of the adjacent retirement home, and dog owners, who can enjoy a tall beer on the patio accompanied by their canine counterparts.
The bar’s 8 taps and selection of bottled beers aren’t meant to impress San Diego’s elite brewstergentsia but instead tout a handful of domestics to accompany the game and their extensive menu of classic American cuisine. And what beer and BBQ joint is complete without an eating contest? The San Miguel Fire Fighters wing challenge may not seem like much. At $12.99, you get 6 wings to be eaten in 10 minutes with no sips of liquid. Sounds easy, right? The ghost pepper, also known as Bhut Jolokia, was formerly recognized by Guinness World Records as the hottest pepper in the world. It’s so hot, in fact, that you have to sign a waiver before taking up the challenge.
“Most people give up after about two wings,” says bartender Alicia, who shook my hand and walked me through the entire menu when she realized it was my first time in the restaurant.
The prize? A T-shirt and maybe an ulcer or two.
Happy hour runs from 3 to 6 p.m. on weekdays and 10 p.m. to close daily, when starters are 50 percent off and all liquor, wine, and tall domestic drafts are a buck off. Daily specials include $2 pulled pork tacos and $3 margaritas on Tuesdays, $3 martinis and $1 sliders on Thursdays, and shot specials on UFC fight-night Saturdays.
Cali Comfort doesn’t pretend to be anything more than a sports bar and traditional BBQ pit. If that works for you, you’re going to have a great time.
Attire: East County casual
Price: Cocktails $5+, tall drafts $6+
Hours: Mon–Thurs, 11 A.M. to 11 P.M.; Fri, 11 a.m. to midnight; Sat–Sun, 7 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Happy: Weekdays, 3 to 6 P.M.; daily, 10 P.M. to close.
Food: Kitchen open during all business hours
Capacity: 170 inside, 40 on the patio
The Deal: $5 tall domestic drafts during happy hour