Sean Stillstrop (far right) runs the day-to-day operations at Chief’s with his father Joe at the helm. From left to right Barbara Dolce, Nicolette Kalic and Anna Hodge add to the restaurant’s fun atmosphere. Photo by David Boylan
Lick the Plate

Solid burgers & brew and a few surprises


In the past few years, hamburgers have been elevated to a level I’m not sure they were meant to be. It seems every corner has some kind of unique spin on this most basic of culinary indulgences. It’s almost to the point of enough already, give me a simple burger made with quality beef with an 80/20 lean to fat ratio and cook it medium rare with some basic fixins.That’s where Chiefs brings it home. No fancy Kobe Wagu Australian Greg Norman Ranch fed hype here, just high-quality Gold Canyon Angus beef with that perfect percentage of mix of lean to fat I mentioned above. Serve it next to some fries, onion rings, or sweet potato fries with a cold beer and life is good.Of course they provide some variations on this basic burger with their one pound Super Chief, Blue Cheese Burger, Mushroom Swiss Burger, Hula Burger, Jalapeno Jack Burger, Ortega Burger and Western BBQ Cheeseburger. I tend to be somewhat of a purist and go with the simple cheeseburger, but it’s nice to have options.

Besides the burgers, I was very happy, and surprised to see a Chicago-style Italian Beef and Sausage Sandwich on the menu. Chief’s version has thinly sliced roast beef in au jus, spicy Italian sausage, sweet peppers, and grilled onions piled high on an Italian roll and served with giardniers on the side. I spent three years living in Chicago and Italian beef became an addiction. To have this version so close to home makes me very happy.

For those of you unfamiliar with this windy-city staple, its history dates back at least to the 1930s. In traditional Italian beef joints, the bread itself is often dipped or double-dipped into the juices the meat is cooked in, and the sandwich is typically topped off with Chicago-style giardnier or sautéed, green Italian sweet peppers. Origins of the sandwich are disputed, but one early vendor, Al’s No. 1 Italian Beef, opened its first stand in 1938.

One story has it that the Italian beef sandwich was started by Italian immigrants who worked for the old Union Stock Yards. They often would bring home some of the tougher, less desirable cuts of beef sold by the company. To make the meat more palatable, it was slow-roasted to make it more tender, then slow-simmered in a spicy broth for flavor. Both the roasting and the broth used Italian spices and herbs. The meat was then thinly sliced across the grain and stuffed into fresh Italian bread. Because the meat is served dripping wet it is necessary to use chewy bread, as softer bread would disintegrate.

Trust me, the combination of super tender beef, hot and sweet peppers, chewy bread with just a hint of moistness is pure culinary bliss.

There are also some other nice looking sandwiches on the menu including a Philly Cheese Steak, turkey avocado and a B.L.T. Starters, soups, and salads are well represented with Chief’s Famous Wings, Sliders, Chopped BBQ Salad, and homemade Chili. If you happen to have someone along who is not into the bar menu thing so much, Chief’s has accommodated them with some good looking rice bowls and rotisserie chicken.

Daily specials are also a nice option. Monday brings BBQ Beef Sandwich, Tuesday is Fish and Chips, Wednesday is Carnitas, Thursday offers Spaghetti and Meatballs and Friday is Fish Taco day. Daily specials are $9.99 and are very popular so get there early.

If beer is your thing, Chief’s has a very nice selection of 20 craft beers on tap plus the traditional favorites.

Chief’s is family run with Joe Sillstrop at the helm and his son Sean running the day-to-day operations. They hail from Denver, which has led to Chief’s becoming the gathering place in San Diego for Denver Broncos fans to congregate. Actually, that is a bit of an understatement. Chief’s is listed in the top five bar/restaurants in the country to watch a Bronco’s game, and that includes Denver! The décor is all about the Denver Bronco’s but besides that, there is a very casual atmosphere that includes picnic tables, a long bar and an outside patio that is a fun place to hang as well.

Chief’s is located at 124 Lomas Santa Fe, Solana Beach. Check them out at



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