Best of San Diego 2015: Food & Drink
Our 2015 picks for the best food, beer, spirits, wine, and more
Best Fine Dining in North County: Bellamy's | Photo by Sam Wells
Food & Drink
Fine Dining in North County
Escondido dwellers don’t have to schlep to Del Mar for a wow-worthy meal. At this hidden gem, chef Patrick Ponsaty—one of only two French Master Chefs in San Diego—combines California cuisine with influences Français, resulting in upscale fare like the lobster-ginger consommé, as well as more casual bar eats. Think truffle popcorn and tempura avocado with sriracha aioli. Feeling adventurous? Leave your palate in Ponsaty’s hands with the Innovation/Inspiration Menu, which changes daily.
417 West Grand Avenue, Escondido
Holsem Coffee | Photo by Luis Garcia
It’s only fitting that a coffee shop this good-looking should have equally attractive drinks. Co-founded by Salpi Sleiman, who helped introduce San Diego to Third Wave coffee with her Roast Coach mobile carts, Holsem specializes in coffee infusions like banana bread cold brew and a cappuccino mixed with rosewater and cardamom. There are also housemade nut milks and affogatos made in collaboration with Gelato Vero Caffé.
2911 University Avenue, North Park
Wow Wow Waffle
You’d be hard-pressed to find a waffle more perfectly doughy and crispy than Wow Wow’s Belgian-inspired creations, which can be topped with savory or sweet accoutrements like bacon, eggs, fruit, or homemade whipped cream. Tucked away in a small lot behind a North Park laundromat, the eatery feels more like a backyard party, with a picnic table, fire pit, and succulent wall.
3519 30th Street, North Park
The award-winning Convoy institution has finally moved into larger digs without sacrificing its hole-in-the-wall flavor credibility. It means more room to enjoy the deep-fried beef curry dumplings without feeling guilty that hordes of people are waiting for a table.
4625 Convoy Street, Kearny Mesa
BLVD Chinese Kitchen & Sake House
It’s worth the trek to Oceanside for chef A.J. Sheik’s progressive Asian cuisine like his ahi poke with cucumber, surf ’n’ turf sliders (shrimp and short ribs on sweet buns), and redonkulously delicious pulled-pork cream cheese roll, and spot-on pairing suggestions with rotating craft brews.
514 South Coast Highway, Oceanside
Candied kimchi bacon bits, yuzu, and prickly pear are just a few of the favorite ingredients flavoring the doughy eats of this North Park shop. They also make a cakey blueberry lemon thyme number and a mixed berry mascarpone, both of which are on point. Vegan versions also available.
4504 30th Street, North Park
Breakfast Sammie at The Curious Fork
It may look similar to that Egg Mc-thing, but this creation is an elevated version of savory morning delight. The house-made gluten-free (you wouldn’t know it was GF unless we told you!) English muffin is charred to perfection, topped with a fried egg and melted cheese. Customize by adding avocado, ham, or bacon for an extra indulgence. Try it once, and you’ll know why it’s the best breakfast anywhere. Plus, at $4, it’s an unstoppable deal. Tip: Curious Fork is one of the only places in San Diego to find freshly brewed Blue Bottle coffee. We’ve just made your new morning routine.
512 Via de la Valle, Solana Beach
Puesto Perfect Guacamole
An Italian cheese and Mexican dip sound like strange bedfellows, but not at Puesto, where owners Eric and Alan Adler have pulled from their own abuela’s recipe for a blend of avocado, Parmigiano Reggiano, cilantro, onion, chile habanero, lime, and orange.
789 West Harbor Drive, downtown; 1026 Wall Street, La Jolla
Tiger!Tiger! Tavern’s Curry Fries
The house-cut Kennebec Potato fries (which you can also get at Panama 66 and Blind Lady Ale House) are already superior in the San Diego fry landscape, but it’s the house-made sauce that is completely addicting and makes French fries with ketchup seem archaic. The smooth, creamy, aromatic curry dipping sauce is drinkable, not to mention vegan. You’ll never want to eat fries without it again.
3025 El Cajon Boulevard, North Park
Half Door Brewing Co.’s happy hour isn’t its only offering worth toasting. The regular menu has a crowd-pleasing mash-up of brewpub classics, like fish and chips, and the rasher and egg flatbread (above).
HAPPY HOUR GRUB
Half Door Brewing Co.
Happy hour just got a little happier thanks to this charming gastropub located in an old Victorian home. On weekdays from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m., the East Village newbie serves up $5 house beers and small plates for $5–$9. Grab a seat on the second floor’s wraparound patio—and don’t miss the fried goat cheese balls.
903 Island Avenue, East Village
Grab your stretchy pants. The delectable cinnamon rolls served during brunch at URBAN SOLACE are big enough for a slab (not a drizzle) of icing.
3823 30th Street, North Park
Spirits & Beer
fall brewing co.: The North Park beer spot brews a varied lineup of richly flavored, very drinkable beers—many of which are seven percent ABV or below. | Photo by Paul Body
Fall Brewing Co.’s 2 a.m. Bike Ride
Don’t worry, you don’t have to be hoppy. This stout brewed with Dark Horse Coffee and vanilla bean is rich and creamy without veering too sweet. Think of it as a boozy vanilla latte.
4542 30th Street, North Park
Crafted by Ironside Fish & Oyster, this cocktail incorporates St. George Basil Eau de Vie, fresh-squeezed lime juice, muddled cucumber, and San Miguel gin by local Old Harbor Distilling Co. The drink is even named after Old Harbor founder Michael Skubic. It doesn’t get more quintessential San Diego than that.
1654 India Street, Little Italy
Named for the Queen of Rum Row, a five-masted beauty anchored off San Diego during the Prohibition, Malahat spiced rum, with notes of allspice, cardamom, cinnamon, and clove, is off-the-charts delicious. Malahat’s stylish tasting room and tour prove equally impressive, with its speakeasy feel, striking set design, and well-versed rum ambassadors.
8706 Production Avenue, Miramar
Mango Michelada at Tacos Perla
A trendy taqueria like Tacos Perla—located on the newly happening corner of 30th and Upas streets—deserves an equally trendy cerveza. And this michelada, made with mango instead of tomato juice and a chili-dusted rim, offers a spicy twist on the classic.
3000 Upas Street, North Park
Duck Foot Chocolate Hazelnut Porter
Brewed with cocoa nibs and hazelnut, this porter perfectly balances the bitter, the sweet, and the nutty. The new Miramar brewery uses a natural enzyme that removes gluten from all its brews—but beer lovers with or without dietary restrictions will enjoy this dark chocolate deliciousness.
8920 Kenamar Drive, Miramar
Mission Brewery Hard Root Beer Float
This grown-up spin on the classic soda is one of the downtown brewery’s best sellers, and for good reason. Served with a scoop of ice-cream and heavy on the alcohol content, it makes for the perfect summer craving.
1441 L Street, downtown
Fancy desserts may come and go, but classic scoops at Mariposa Ice Cream are here to stay. This old-school ice cream shop, which counts Will Ferrell and Kristen Bell among its fans, specializes in offbeat flavors, like cappuccino almond fudge.
3450 Adams Avenue, Normal Heights
A brief lesson in SD wine geography—contrary to popular belief, Temecula is not in San Diego County. San Diego has its own 100 vineyards, notably Shadow Mountain with its 70-year-old vines planted at 3,500 feet in Warner Springs. Talented oenologist Alex McGeary helms this charming winery and cottage inn with his wife, Pam, and selected superb Shadow Mountain red and whites serve as the official wines of the San Diego Zoo label.
34680 Highway 79, Warner Springs
Edwards Vineyards and cellars Red varietals are the specialty at this unique outdoor tasting room along Highway 78. | Photo by Luis Garcia
OUTDOOR TASTING ROOM
Edwards Vineyards and Cellars
On scenic Highway 78 en route to Julian sits a friendly open-air tasting room shaded by colorful umbrellas where guests can taste impressive 100 percent estate-grown red wines. Winemaker Victor Edwards shows his finesse with his 2009 Syrah, and his flagship wine, a dense and rich Petite Sirah, is a Ramona Valley standout. The pastoral setting offers great views of Witch Creek Mountain, Cuyamaca Peak, and roaming camels at the dairy across the way.
26502 Highway 78, Ramona
Ramona has 29 boutique wineries and counting with some impressive wines coming out of the area, thanks to warm days, cool nights, and a little elevation. Winemaker Mike Kopp is making a beautifully balanced Viognier, a fruit-forward Merlot with a soft finish, and an interesting rosé from an unusual varietal—Italian Refosco grapes— and this summer sipper calls for a picnic and wine tasting at the dog-friendly Kohill Winery.
17211 Highlander Drive, Ramona
Vinavanti Urban Winery
Former physicist turned oenologist Eric Van Drunen has been producing some “quarky” yet purist natural wines like his unusual L’Heritier Sparkling Viognier and The Maverick, an organic Malbec/Petit Verdot blend that conjures up a damp forest floor with notes of fig, plum, and pencil lead. We can’t wait for his partially crowdfunded big move from Sorrento Valley to Hillcrest this fall, into a massive space housing a wine production site, a tasting kitchen, winery, and 100 seats for small plate dining.
9550 Waples Street, Mira Mesa; 1477 University Avenue, Hillcrest
SURPRISING WINE SELECTION
Vons Liberty Station
A grocery store may not be the first place you look for a bottle, but the Liberty Station Vons goes above and beyond the typical supermarket spread. Equipped with an impressive array of reds and whites ranging from $5 to $450, a wine cellar, and even a wine steward who can offer pairing suggestions, the section is stocked with many customer favorites, like Tolosa varieties. (Wine steward available Friday through Sunday and select weekdays.)
2495 Truxtun Road, Point Loma
The opulent Sunday brunch at THE WESTGATE HOTEL is a feast of epic proportions, with bottomless Champagne, crêpes, baked breads, pastries, seafood, and more. Live music rounds out the classy affair.
1055 Second Avenue, downtown