Food & Drink
SUSTAINABLE SEAFOOD How do you get the freshest seafood to your restaurants’ doors and guarantee eco-friendly fishing methods? If you’re Matt Rimel, you partner with hook-and-line fishing boats based off the coasts of San Diego and Hawaii. From boat to plate, it takes Rimel’s Ocean Giant just 24 hours to deliver sustainable, sushi-grade goods to his La Jolla and Cardiff outposts, Zenbu and Rimel’s Rotisserie. rimelsrestaurants.com.
VEGETARIAN BUFFET Customers of Nature’s Express in Hillcrest pile their plates high with fresh, organic vegetarian fare from the whole-foods buffet. In addition to the cold bar complete with an array of salad fixings, the hot bar features a rotating menu of dishes such as seitan Stroganoff, tempeh tacos, “chicken” Parmesan and a hearty selection of soups. There’s also a dizzying assortment of smoothies and juice blends. 619-550-1818; natures-express.com.
MOVABLE FEAST Imagine a naturally scenic location—perhaps a beach, vineyard or forest. Now add a sunset, hundreds of flickering candles, a gorgeous tablescape set for 50-100 and a locally sourced gourmet meal paired with wine. What you’ve got is the ChileCo Social, a monthly mixer hosted by executive chef Scott Wagner. Basically, it’s a dream dinner party without the cleanup. 866-662-2837; chilecocatering.com.
CANDY SHOP Open only two years, Spreckels Sweets & Treats took over an old shoe shop at Hotel del Coronado and is now one of the classic hotel’s top kiddie draws, particularly around Christmas. Enjoy a wide selection of vintage candies imported from all over the country, from Mary Janes to old fashioned peanut brittle, saltwater taffy and carmels. For the more sophisticated sweet tooth, there’s an entire case of truffles and fudges. 619 435-6611; hoteldel.com
FISH MARKET There’s good reason folks line up at the no-frills Blue Water Seafood Market & Grill in South Mission Hills: They want fresh fish, simply prepared. An extensive menu offers everything from fried calamari and oysters to ceviche and cioppino, but your best bets come with grill marks— pick a species and a marinade, and ask for a sandwich, salad or plate. Or buy it over the counter, take it home, and prepare it yourself. 619-497-0914.
ANNUAL FOOD-AND-WINE EVENT California chefs, farmers, ranchers and vintners showcase their bounty at the annual Celebrate the Craft event, October 29– November 1 at The Lodge at Torrey Pines. Patrons meander through a maze of food and wine booths, stationed on the lodge’s large lawn skirting the Pacific Ocean. The weekend-long event also features a private dinner and the Torrey Pines Plein Air Invitational art show. 858-453-4420; celebratethecraft.com.
GREEN RESTAURANT The chain may be in 11 states, but their being outtatowners is no reason to knock Pizza Fusion. They deliver in hybrid vehicles, recycle and reuse pizza boxes, work in LEED-certified build ings, wear organic cotton uniforms, use ovens that redistribute heat, serve with biodegradable utensils, purchase wind-energy credits, teach kids the importance of organic eating and recycling, clean with eco-friendly products and happen to make delicious pies at the Hillcrest location. 619-278-0057; pizzafusion.com.
EDIBLE GARDEN With numerous sprouts and long waiting lists, San Diego’s crop of more than two dozen community gardens is an amazing success story. The unique satisfaction of growing what you eat is in higher demand than ever; new gardens spring up and are breaking ground every year. Up-and-comers include Balboa Park Edible Landscape, at Sixth Avenue and Quince Street. sandiegoroots.org.
MADE-TO-ORDER DONUTS Even better than fresh donuts made earlier in the day: warm, bite-size miniatures born before your eyes at a time and location of your choosing. Dolce Donuts will come to your office or event, set up shop in a corner and send the delicious minis down an assembly line that’s almost as much fun to watch as its product is to eat. 619-9859854; dolcedonuts.com.
24-HOUR TACO STAND It’s 2 a.m., and dining alfresco under fluorescent lights among the inebriated and drifters at Mission Hills’ La Posta de Acapulco never felt so right. Transact your business through a tiny hole, wait a few minutes, and enjoy one of the city’s best California burritos or carne asada fries for just a fistful of change. 619-295-8982.
$1.50 LUNCH Costco’s meal combo featuring a quarter-pound hot dog and soda takes the crown for the most satisfying cheap lunch. You could probably even scrounge enough change from your ashtray to spring for two dogs. Still hungry? If you’ve got a Costco membership, head inside and load up on free samples. Take that, recession! costco.com.
RESTAURANT ROW With an increasing number of this magazine’s Best Restaurant picks set in North Park, the gentrified bor ough has made the leap. Whether your taste is exquisite dining, small bites, health food or exotic beer and wine, the epicenter of San Diego’s most exciting culinary scene is at 30th Street and University Avenue.
TAPAS BRUNCH Sundays sparkle at the Carlsbad Sheraton’s Twenty/20 Grill & Wine Bar. That’s when the eatery hosts its Sparkling Sundays brunch (11 a.m.–3 p.m.), and it’s where chef Reed Anderson cooks up tapas-style plates—try the smoked salmon with potato pancakes—prepared on the outdoor grill (and priced at a reasonable $2 to $6 apiece). And what’s brunch without the bubbly? There’s an array of champagnes, sparking wines and other specialty drinks. 760-827-2500; twenty20grill.com.
POUR Mosaic’s generous pours endear it to us even more at this fun yet intimate North Park wine bar, where unpretentious bartenders offer up way more than a spit of wine. No wonder it’s one of the more popular new wine bars in town. 619-9064747; mosaicwinebar.com.
LOCALLY PRODUCED VIOGNIER Orfila Vineyard & Winery in Escondido put San Diego County on the oenophile map with its award winning Rhone style wines. To create the Estate Viognier Lotus 67 ($29), noted winemaker Leon Santoro, who passed away last year, blended 76 percent Viognier with Marsanne and Rousanne and aged it in French oak. The very drinkable result is a citrusy white wine with hints of vanilla and floral notes. 800-868-9463; orfila.com.
SUMMERTIME COCKTAIL Starlite’s copper mugs can barely contain all the wonderful goodness and synergy of organic vodka, ginger beer, bitters and a slice of lime. The famous Starlite Mules go down easy, pack a swift kick and ensure devotees return to this Mission Hills lounge night after night. 619-358-9766; starlitesandiego.com.
SALSA For 16 years, no one’s been doing it better than Miramar’s La Salsa Chilena. It’s a hybrid of TJ style with pebre, the Chilean mix of tomatoes, lots of garlic, onions, lemon juice and a secret combination of spices and peppers that render this stuff irresistible (Silvia Guerra, the originator, is from Chile). 858-566-7257; lasalsachilena.com.
SQUARE CUPCAKES Wait a minute—cupcakes are round, right? So this must be a gimmick? Maybe. But the great taste of the cakes at Cupcakes Squared (in Point Loma’s Stumps Market Center) is no gimmick. Plus, these beauties come in 25 flavors, from almond to lilikoi (vanilla cake with passionfruit frosting) to pumpkin pecan. For up to 99 cakes, prices are $2.75 to $3.50 each; 100-plus gets you a quarter discount per cupcake. 619-226-3485; cupcakessquared.com.
MARGARITA AND MARTINI Ortega’s Mexican Bistro is a consistent winner among our annual Best Restaurant picks,so maybe the food overshadows the drinks. But owners John Haugland and Juan Carlos Ortega have carved out a cozy bar/lounge, too, in their southwest corner of a strip mall at Third and University. In addition to our vote for best Margarita (mango-mint), a nod to the bartenders for a pretty mean version using pomegranate juice, as well as their Rosa Maria martini. 619-692-4200; ortegasbistro.com.
SORE-THROAT REMEDY Sure, the food tastes good. Fairly priced, too. But here’s a secret about Taste of Szechuan in Hillcrest: The restaurant’s hot-and-sour soup has amazing healing properties. Okay, maybe it won’t heal you, but it’ll sure take the sting out of your sore throat. Medicine men call it a counterirritant, but there’s nothing irritating about the taste. Best hot-and-sour in the city. 619-291-1668.
PLACE FOR A SUNSET GLASS OF WINE On exceptionally clear days, just as the sun sinks into the ocean, there’s a green flash on the horizon. That’s what The Green Flash in Mission Beach is named after, and there may be no better spot in town to catch the atmospheric fluke than this outdoor patio, which fronts the Mission Beach boardwalk. Added bonus: nearly two dozen wines by the glass. 858-270-7715; greenflashrestaurant.com.
HANGOVER BREAKFAST Forget the Advil; nurse a nasty hangover with the tasty breakfast grub served up at Honey’s Bistro & Bakery, a homey café on Coast Highway 101 in downtown Encinitas. You’ll think they stole Mom’s recipes for pancakes, muffins and eggs Benedict. Honey’s Big Breakfast hits the spot after an especially rough night. 760-942-5433; honeysbakery.signonsandiego.com.
SANDWICH WITH A VIEW Dine cliffside over the magnificent Torrey Pines bluffs at this seriously underrated snack shack, the Cliff Hanger Café at Torrey Pines Glider Port. With surfers and hikers below, hang gliders and paragliders above, this center of action is an unrivaled spot for an eye-filling bite. 858-452-9858; flytorrey.com.
INSTANT PICNIC Saffron, the Thai masters of Mission Hills, offers a ready-to-go picnic basket to feed four for those days when dining alfresco on a blanket is too tempting to ignore. Just $38 gets you a whole rotisserie chicken with seven sauces, two chicken egg rolls, cucumber salad, Cambodian salad and rice. Return the basket and containers and save 10 percent next time. 619-574-7737; saffronsandiego.com.
BOTTLED ALTRUISM Created, funded and bottled in San Diego, Nika is a new brand of water that pours 100 percent of its profits into efforts to bring water and sanitation into underdeveloped countries. Nika’s owners offset the company’s carbon footprint by funding the planting of trees in Nicaragua. nikawater.org.
MOLTEN DESSERT It seems no other place goes to so much trouble to make sweets so luxurious, and Extraordinary Desserts’ chocolate lava bun tops them all. From gold leaf to real flower petals, the dessertier in Little Italy and Bankers Hill keeps wowing our city with its indulgent sweets after all these years. 619-294-7001, 619-294-2132; extraordinarydesserts.com.
TEA ROOM Sitting inside Tea-Upon-Chatsworth in Point Loma, you’ll feel transported to a kinder, gentler era, where people spent leisurely afternoons sipping tea and nibbling finger sandwiches. Various fine teas (poured into porcelain tea cups, of course) are complemented by a menu of sweet and savory items: gourmet tea sandwiches, scones, tarts, tea cakes and more. 619858-2848; cu4t.com.