San Diego food faves

26 May

Scouring food boards, a traveler might think San Diego is the red headed stepchild of the U.S. I’ve read so many posts on the Internetz claiming ‘There’s no good food to be found in San Diego,’ ‘San Diego falls short when it comes to food’ and a bunch of other baloney that doesn’t warrant a piece of real estate on this blog. Truth is, there are some darn fine chefs and restos in our fine city. Here are some of the best foods — and I’m not talking mayonnaise — I’ve come across, and the restaurants that serve them, in alphabetical order, because Sesame Street was good to me. I hope you’ll respond with some of your own faves.

  • Beach Grass Cafe (Solana Beach location) – Best breakfast – Love the chilaquiles. And they won over my Mexican-born father-in-law who used to be a chef and makes the best Mexican food anywhere. So there. Another to try:  Upside-down Pineapple Pancakes.
  • Brigantine – Fish taco – Another happy hour find. Who would expect the best fish taco, in a county that’s a stone’s throw from Mexico, at a somewhat hoity-toity restaurant? Who cares?! That’s where it is! – Multiple locations, though I can only vouch for the one in Solana Beach.
  • Bronx Pizza – Gotta get it by the slice so it retains its crispiness. (Hillcrest)
  • Cafe Chloe – Mac ‘n Cheese…but more specifically, macaroni, pancetta & french blue gratin – You can thank me when you’re happily constipated — emphasis on the word “happily.” (Downtown)
  • Cavaillon – Two Eggs Benedict with Bacon and Spinach – Oh my. I’m always on the lookout for good benedict; this takes the cake. (Del Sur/off the 56 freeway)
  • Chez Loma – Canard Rôti - Roasted half duck, lingonberry cherry-port wine, green peppercorn and burnt orange sauces, served with herbed rice. These sauces are ridiculously good and the duck is cooked to perfection; not the slightest bit greasy. (Coronado)
  • Currant - Lavender lemonade – Yes, a drink, but it stands on its own. And this coming from a gal who mainly drinks water. Great happy hour here, too. (Downtown)
  • Darshan Bakery & Cafe - Crème Brulée and Avocado-Gruyere Sandwich – No website…or meat, for that matter, except fish, which I do include in the meat category, but the intro. to this sentence works so much better if I briefly exclude my gilled friends. So back to the meat — you won’t miss it. The good folks at this spot, located next to the Self-Realization Fellowship, bake their sandwich bread — fresh focaccia — daily. God love ‘em. (949 2nd Street, Encinitas)
  • Indigo Grill – Good Things Growing – The carnivore’s “no meat” dish. There’s no way that, after you take a bite of the Indian pudding (one of several items in this humongous dish), you’ll proclaim, ‘I wish I was eating a T-bone.” It’s like an oasis of goodness. But be warned, veg-heads:  This one contains chicken broth. (Little Italy)
  • Joey’s Smokin’ B-B-Q - Pulled pork sandwich – Comes with a choice of one side. I favor the sweet potato with cinnamon butter, but that’s because my arteries prefer some closure. (Carmel Valley)
  • Las Olas – Formerly known as #6, Charbroiled Chicken and Sour Cream Enchiladas – Best…green sauce…ever. And, like Beach Grass’ chilaquiles, they have the father-in-law stamp of approval. (Cardiff-by-the-Sea)
  • Lei Lounge - Alsatian Salad – Frisee, pancetta, pralines, bleu cheese. This mother is topped with a fried egg. Also love the mac ‘n cheese. (University Heights)
  • Lockwood Table Cafe – The Grenados – What a sandwich. Roast beef, grapes, gorgonzola and grilled onions on artisan bread fresh from San Diego’s very own Sadie Rose Baking Co. Cute cafe tucked away in the Cedros Design District. (Solana Beach)
  • Lourdes Mexican Food – Chicken soup — No website. They don’t need one; the line is consistently out the door. (650 South Escondido Boulevard, Escondido) If you’re hankerin’ for dessert after exiting, head to Peterson’s Donut Corner for a French cruller or your favorite donut varietal. It’s open 24 hours. Don’t mind the belly fat advertisement currently on its website. (Escondido)
  • Mama’s Bakery – Ultimate Supreme with chicken – This drool-inducing wrap contains fresh mint and spice blend containing thyme and one of Middle Eastern origin called sumac, which I ate in nearly every restaurant I patronized during a trip to Israel; I couldn’t get enough. I assume it makes its appearance all over the Mediterranean. The Eggplant Wrap is another winner. Lebanese goodness. And, if you’re so inclined, head over to North Park Produce and pick up a package of the spice on your way home. (North Park)
  • Point Loma Seafoods - Crab sandwich. If you see a wheelbarrow loaded with a hefty, just-caught tuna in front, you’ll know you’ve made it. If you don’t see it, well, you may also have made it. The point is, this is the place to go for fresh fish. (Point Loma)
  • Prepkitchen – Tuna melt — This baby’s line-caught; well, the tuna — maybe not the melt. No words. Just know that everyone we’ve introduced this dish to has remained speechless after one bite. Like I said, no words. (La Jolla)
  • Starlite – Mussels – (think: local herbs, chiles, Meyer lemon, olive oil). These puppies are locally-raised at San Diego’s very own Carlsbad Aquafarm. Starlite is all about local and sustainable. (Mission Hills)
  • Station Sushi – Monkey Roll – No rice in this American-style sushi roll of goodness. Go for happy hour, when it’s lightly fried and deeply discounted. (Solana Beach)
  • Surati Farsan Mart – Vegetarian Indian lunch specials – The moong dal (yellow lentils) = splendid. I go with whatever the curry special of the day is — it comes with warm roti (bread). (Miramar)
  • Terra – Chicken and fruit salad & lobster mac ‘n cheese – Chef Jeff at Terra does something I’ve never seen at another restaurant; he serves homemade hummus in lieu of butter (with fresh, locally baked bread, I might add. Oh, I did add.) Chef sources his ingredients locally. Love it. (Hillcrest)
  • Vigilucci’s Ristorante & Pizzeria – Vodka Penne and Pizza Genovese – Robbie’s next door is also owned by Roby Vigilucci, so you can order off of both menus. The Ahi Poke Salad on the Robbie’s menu is also one to try. (Leucadia/Encinitas)
  • Whisknladle - WNL Burger – With so much debate over who makes the best burger in San Diego, let’s put it to rest. Made with sustainably-raised, humanely treated Niman Ranch beef. Previously made with Brandt Beef. Both great. It’s topped with an egg and grilled onions — and the cheese, oh, it’s to di-i-e for. They source locally, baby. (La Jolla)

11 Responses to “San Diego food faves”

  1. Janice D. June 1, 2010 at 4:30 pm #

    Brook, if that picture above is the WNL Burger (and I think it is), OMG. Can’t wait to sick my teeth into that one!

  2. Brook Larios June 2, 2010 at 11:45 am #

    That is, indeed, the WNL Burger. *sigh*

  3. Eric June 3, 2010 at 4:16 pm #

    No Naked Cafe?! Tsk, tsk.

  4. Brook Larios June 3, 2010 at 5:45 pm #

    I’m afraid not. Naked Cafe is worthy, especially based on the view, but Beach Grass trumps it in the food category. Naked does make a mean Yerba Matte Latte, however.

  5. Nicole Meyer June 9, 2010 at 4:20 pm #

    Urban Solace need to be on this list!! More specifically for their Duckaroni. It is LIFE CHANGING

  6. Brook Larios June 9, 2010 at 9:10 pm #

    Good call on Urban Solace. I haven’t been able to get behind the Duckaroni, but your enthusiasm gives me reason to try again. I will, however, add the pork belly sandwich, served at lunchtime, to the list. It’s phenomenal. Likewise, I think Matt Gordon is an exceptional chef and human being, and I love that he sources his produce locally and adheres to Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch list. For those who are interested, download the aquarium’s pocket guide for making the best choices about the seafood you consume.

  7. Summer June 24, 2010 at 3:50 pm #

    Froglanders for dessert perhaps? ;)

  8. Brook Larios June 26, 2010 at 7:39 pm #

    A resounding ‘yes’ to Froglander’s for frozen yogurt. The peanut butter is a luscious staple and the watermelon, a surprise treat I caught during one visit, is exceptional.

  9. Lena Nozizwe November 13, 2010 at 11:35 am #

    I love Hash House and Phil’s–they are bettah than plenty of restaurants I’ve been to in NYC, Paris, Seattle and most certainly LA

  10. Brook Larios November 23, 2010 at 1:13 pm #

    Welcome to the conversation, Lena. I haven’t yet tried Phil’s (I know – crazy). I’m not a huge fan of Hash House, but I do like the rosemary chicken hash and their ginger limeade. I’m heading to NYC soon, so do share any spots you particularly like.

  11. Lena Nozizwe November 24, 2010 at 11:42 am #

    My favorite place to eat in the NYC is Zen Palate. I was raised veggie and I think they have the best presentation of any and their dishes are unique. My favorite location was the one on 77th and Broadway which has closed. I’m not as crazy about the Union Square location. When I ate there I didn’t think the food was as good as the other location. I have seen some bad comments about the service and food. I never have had a problem, but then I’ve had a taste for veggie food since birth. They have opened up a new place in the Theatre District.

    For cheesecake I love Juniors in Brooklyn, although the very best thing on the menu is cheesecake. The rest, not so much.

    For sammys I say I like, dare I say it, a chain called Cosi. They have a couple of spots in SoCal, but they’ve been in the NYC for a long time. Never disappointing.

    I’ve been to fancy places, including Elaine’s and the Russian Tea Room, but the meals were not memorable–although Elaine was–she was very nice.

    For fancy, I would have recommend Jezebel’s which features food from New Orleans and it’s a fun space, but alas it has closed.

    I tend to like more down home or rustic food.
    New York is the type of place where you can find a great pizza place around every corner.

    You can’t miss. Happy eats!

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