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World Apart

Fargo's and The Prince of Wales provide spellbinding meals in parallel universes; variety is one of the considerable advantages of city living. It's hard to be bored when you can find a goat curry in Encanto and ostrich in Coronado. Of course, I'm talking about having them arrive at your place, not on the hoof. For the goat and other examples of heady home-style cooking, head for Fargo's. It's a tiny, very informal restaurant that literally has four tables and a counter. That arrangement attests to Fargo's fundamental function as a carry-out and catering business. It's been in San Diego for more than 20 years and has changed brands several times over that period.

About five years ago, it was bought by a woman "whose Caribbean heritage led her to" convert what had been a small barbecue storefront to a Jamaican barbecue storefront. That's a difference a Jamaican makes.

This little restaurant, in addition to its very good curried goat, offers extraordinary barbecued spareribs. Maybe I'm telling you something you already know since Fargo's is the name that crops up regularly among barbecue aficionados. But it's worth repeating. Fargo's ribs easily rank among the best in town.

Broad and meaty and seemingly greaseless, these baby back ribs are smoked on the premises every day. Before being served, they're slathered with a sweet-spicy barbecue sauce that makes them a bit messy to eat but, after one taste, you won't care. These are ribs that entice you to nibble every morse off every bone—the heck with the mess.

Almost equal in satisfaction to the barbecue ribs is the oxtail stew. It's a big, warm, and intensely flavored dish that's strongly beefy and falling-off-the-bone tender. Collard greens, though only a side dish, by themselves are worth a trip to Fargo's. Well-cooked and splashed with vinegar, these greens have an addictive, ever-so-slight bitterness about them. Yarns probably are too sweer, and yet in small quantities, they are superb and provide an ideal to the collards. About the only dish at Fargo's I didn't like was jerk chicken. Its singular taste was a not and spicy chili-rich seasoning that mauled rather than teased ras‹e buds. Jerk chicken aside, Fargo's is a place to rediscover. Go especially for the ribs, the oxtail stew, and the collards. Then finish with a slice of sweet potato pie.

As with a dim sum meal, going to Fargo's as a group has a special advantage: you can order practically the entire menu. But if six or more of you go, be sure to call in advance since the place is so small. Parking is available directly in front of the restaurant, and there's a trolley stop right across the street.

Fargo's Bar-B-Q and Jamaican Cusine is at 6171 Imperial Ave. in Encanto. It's open for dinner every night, for lunch on the weekdays, and for catering at virtually any hour the day and night.

Completely different and a world away from Fargo's is The Prince of Wales Grill in the Hotel del Coronado. If Fargo's in Encanto is real life, the Prince of Wales in Coronacio is pure fantasy.