Best Food 2012

food dishes from Prepkitchen


drawing of Nathan Coulon
Drawing by Joel Kimmel

Nathan Coulon

As the third-generation representative in a local food dynasty (his grandparents ran the Belgian Lion in OB; his mom is Michele of the desserterie in La Jolla), Coulon is back in town cooking at Fashion Valley’s new True Food Kitchen (7007 Friars Road), open since July, after a couple of years at the Fashion Island location in Newport Beach. How does the so-local chef feel about cooking in a mall? “At least people aren’t asking where you are all the time. And there is a ton of parking.”

His Best of San Diego

Favorite new-er restaurant in San Diego
Mignon Pho + Grill
3860 Convoy Street, Kearny Mesa

Favorite fellow local chef
Aaron LaMonica (Blind Lady Ale House, Tiger! Tiger!)
3416 Adams Avenue, Normal Heights

Favorite spot to pick up pastries
Michele Coulon Dessertier (his mom’s shop)
7556 Fay Avenue, La Jolla

Favorite watering hole
Catalina Lounge
4202 Voltaire Street, Point Loma

...And six favorite spots
to dine at right now:

Hane Sushi
Yakitori Yakyudori
Poma’s in OB
Izakaya Sakura
Tender Greens

Hangout for Seafoodies: Fish 101
Sit on a bench and drink Pinot from a mason jar? Why not. Or start with a pitcher of a local microbrew on tap at this unpretentious resto on a nondescript strip. Dive into a fried oyster po’boy or go healthy with a grilled fish plate.
1468 North Coast Highway 101, Encinitas

Empanadas: Cueva Bar
Forget your truffle fries. We’re nominating the almighty empanada as the next savory shared plate trend. Chef Oz does them traditional with beef and chimichurri sauce or saucy with curried chicken and tangy blue cheese. Two to a plate for $10 at happy hour? Yes, please. Now if only they could get some patio seating…
2123 Adams Avenue, University Heights

Pizzeria in Little Italy: Isola Pizza Bar
We love this newbie’s wood-fired pies for their delicious simplicity. Case in point: the margherita, with tomato, basil, and mozzarella. Perfetto! Note the super-large photo of Sophia Loren as you enter the powder room. Che bellissima!
1525 India Street, Little Italy

Hangover Cure: URBN’s breakfast pizza
Cheesy, potato-y eggs and pizza are two surefire ways to cure last night’s indulgences. North Park’s industrial, New Haven-style pizza joint puts them together in a breakfast pizza, topped with what tastes like an inside-out breakfast burrito. What hangover?
3085 University Avenue, North Park

L.A. Transplant: Katsuya
Yes, it’s pricey and scene-y. But trust us, the much-hailed crispy rice with spicy tuna is all it’s cracked up to be. That and Philippe Starck’s sleek interior make this downtown sushi spot a must-try.
600 F Street, Gaslamp

Business Lunch with a View: Bali Hai
The Shelter Island staple is our new fave lunch spot.
Its second chef in as many years (snagged him from Burlap, oh snap!) serves a great burger and hasn’t messed with the Mai Tais or the coconut shrimp. Smart man.
2230 Shelter Island Drive, Point Loma

Food Court Makeover: Westfield UTC
Shoppers have long had to settle for shivering over a hot dog while staring at a skating rink. Now they will finally get a dining terrace, free WiFi, and eateries like Sarku Sushi Bar (this month). Also on its way to UTC: Eureka! Gourmet Burgers & Craft Beer (December). Meantime, rejoice at Tender Greens (open now).
4545 La Jolla Village Drive, UTC area

New Dessert on a Stick: Bardot
Cake pops are so last year. Now we’re jonesing for “luxury ice cream” in the form of Bardot Bars. We like the tropical coconut dipped in chocolate and the cookies ’n’ cream flavors. Try all 19.
1025 Prospect Street, La Jolla

Reuben: Lucky’s Lunch Counter
Despite the NYC prices, this near-the-ballpark eatery has a cool Jewish deli vibe and hands down the best Reuben west of the Hudson River.
338 Seventh Avenue, East Village

Butterscotch Cookie: Thyme in the Ranch
Part cookie, part candy, this cookie is a chewy, salty-sweet, OMG-what-is-this-thing kind of YUM. Order them by the dozen.
16905 Avenida De Acacias, Rancho Santa Fe

Tapas: Prepkitchen

Bravo for keepin’ it simple with the small plates at PK’s new Little Italy location. Spicy shrimp are served sizzling in garlic and the patatas bravas are charred crispy in olive oil, both perfect with a $5 glass of vino at happy hour, daily from 4 to 7 p.m. and 10 p.m. to close.
1660 India Street, Little Italy; 7556 Fay Avenue, La Jolla; 1201 Camino Del Mar, Del Mar

Kids Eat Free: Mia Francesca
More fitting than Burlap in the bedroom community of Carmel Valley is the hearty Italian resto from Scott Harris, serving pizze e paste and plenty o’ wine for parents. We love that kids eat free every Monday. P.S. That picture of the girl in the logo? That’s Scott’s daughter. See? Family-friendly.
12955 El Camino Real, Carmel Valley

Starter: Focaccia di Recco
Attention, lovers of salty-and-sweet. The app won’t jump out at you on Davanti Enoteca's menu, but look hard for the Ligurian-style baked focaccia with a melty layer of fresh soft cow cheese. Drip honey over it for a taste of heaven.
1655 India Street, Little Italy; 12955 El Camino Real, Carmel Valley

Poached Chef: Paul McCabe, Delicias
It certainly wasn’t “over easy” for McCabe to leave his post at the posh L’Auberge Del Mar for the lower-key RSF lunch spot. But his new menu is already getting raves, and we’re betting the place will transform from sleepy to a scene by Christmas.
6106 Paseo Delicias, Rancho Santa Fe

Brian Malarkey Venture: Herringbone
The latest fabric to join the fold freshens up a sleepy part of LJ's village. The dreamlike interior boasts six 100-year-old olive trees and a whale skeleton. Nicely ironed out. The food? Everything from oysters to eggs. And fantasy cocktails, too.
7837 Herschel Avenue, La Jolla


Best Farmers Market Finds

By Caron Golden

Best Twist on a Basic Panache Pantry bread crumbs
This company has turned bread crumbs—one of the most basic and bland of pantry ingredients—into a celebration of flavor and texture, with their vintage Sicilian (white and whole wheat), zucchini rosemary, and pumpkin Cajun varieties.

Best Vegan Dessert: Millie’s Gelato
If you’re all about flavor, but have said no to dairy, chef Susan Sbicca’s gelato is the stuff of decadent cravings, especially her mocha chocolate fudge.

Best Artisan Sausages: The Meat Men
A charcuterie platter (or afternoon snack) isn’t complete without small-batch, handcrafted dried salumi, plus you’ve got to love the names—Tasty Treason, Juicy Scandal—and their spicy porkiness.

Best Middle Eastern Market: Balboa International Market    
It’s hard not to love this store, with its extravagant selections of everything from olive oils and preserves to dried herbs and pickled veggies—plus, of course, its spectacular house-made breads, like the tangy dimpled sangak and sweet barbari.
5907 Balboa Avenue, Clairemont

Best Fish Market: Catalina Offshore Products
You’re missing a great bet if you haven’t shopped at this warehouse. Fishmonger Tommy Gomes will entice you into trying well-priced, local sustainable seafood you don’t usually see at the supermarket, like black cod, corvina, and California spiny lobster—or his specialty, sea urchin.
5202 Lovelock Street, Mission Bay


In. Three. Words.

Food critic Troy Johnson gets right to the point of why these neighborhood gems are the best.

TJ Oyster Bar
4246 Bonita Rd., Bonita
Brilliant octopus taco.

Ballast Point
10051 Old Grove Rd., Scripps Ranch
Sculpin is magic.

Hash House
3628 Fifth Ave., Hillcrest
Big beastly breakfast.

Marine Room
2000 Spindrift Dr., La Jolla
Master French chef.

Yu Me Ya
1246 N. Coast Hwy 101, Encinitas
Soba and sake.

Blue Ribbon
897 S. Coast Hwy 101, Encinitas
Wade knows pizza.

Cafe Chloe
721 Ninth Ave., East Village  
Charming as hell.

564 S. Coast Hwy 101, Encinitas
South American star.

Sushi Ota
4529 Mission Bay Dr., Pacific Beach
King of raw.

Kaito Sushi
130 N. El Camino Real, Encinitas
Hidden gem omakase.

Farm House Cafe
2121 Adams Ave., Normal Heights
Tiny. French. Pâtés. 

3702 Via de la Valle, Del Mar
Chino Farm showcase.

Craft & Commerce
675 Beech St., Little Italy
IPA beer cocktail.

Cafe Secret
1140 Camino Del Mar, Del Mar
Huge, great ceviches.

Dolce Pane E Vino
16081 San Dieguito Rd., RSF
Chino flatbread special.

View the rest of the 113 things to taste, try, & love this year

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