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First Bites: Now Open - October 2010


[ Craft & Commerce ] The anticipated spot finally opens in Little Italy with a taste of each of its owners’ specialties: great burgers and local beer from the guy behind Neighborhood, great craft cocktails from the guy behind El Dorado. We already love the punch-bowl cocktails and killer corn muffins. ­craft-commerce.com.

[ Sessions Public ] Point Loma High School alum Abel Coffey opens a neighborhood pub next door to the Catalina Lounge in Ocean Beach with a locally focused menu, chalkboard walls for the kiddos and a gourmet grilled-cheese night on Tuesdays. sessionspublic.com.

[ Maria Maria ]  A new Mexican menu arrives in Mission Valley, in the former Prego space in Hazard Center. It’s the fifth location for the partnership between music legend Carlos Santana and chef Roberto Santibanez. ­mariamariarestaurants.com.

[ The Cravory ] Formerly 410 Degrees, the renamed bakery now offers 950 customized cookie combinations. Our staff favorites include the birthday cake, pancakes-and-bacon and rosemary balsamic flavors. thecravory.com.

[ Anthology ] Coronado native Todd Allison, most recently head chef at Checkers in downtown Los Angeles, returns to his roots as the new chef of Anthology in Little Italy. He plans a menu that will change nightly depending on the genre of the club’s live music performances. anthologysd.com.

[ Stingaree ] Chef Antonio Friscia introduces a we’re-not-just-a-nightclub menu that incorporates Latin, Mediterranean, European and Pacific Rim flavors with locally farmed produce and fair-trade ingredients. ­stingsandiego.com.

[ Charlie’s Best Breads ] A second location is in the former Con Pane bakery space on Rosecrans Street in Point Loma. The original in Pacific Beach remains open for business as usual. ­charliesbestbread.com.

[ Beaumont’s ] Bird Rock’s neighborhood staple celebrates its five-year anniversary this fall with a revamped menu from chef Scott Cathcart and a new license to play live music seven nights per week. beaumontseatery.com.

[ Bice ] The Italian spot in the Gaslamp launches a wealth of fresh menu items this month to celebrate truffle season, including three truffle cheeses served with truffle honey and a polenta crouton with taleggio fondue, sautéed mushrooms and truffle shavings. ­bicesandiego.com.

[ Regal Beagle ] Tucked into a tiny strip mall in South Mission Hills, this new sausage-and-ale house features a rotating menu of house-made sausages, a special mustard station with several varieties for dipping, and a slew of local beers on tap. regalbeaglesd.com.

[ PubCakes ] Hops and butter cream join forces in baker Misty Birchall’s new line of beer-infused cupcakes available by special order or on dessert menus at local pubs like Toronado, Tipsy Crow and KnB Cellars. The Irish car bomb flavor, made with Guinness Irish cream frosting and chocolate ganache, is one of her best sellers so far. pubcakes.com.

[ Zel’s Del Mar ] Chef Ricardo Garcia has taken over the kitchen at the Del Mar neighborhood eatery and introduced a popular Happy Hour featuring $4 fish tacos and a $10 burger-and-beer special from 4 to 6:30 p.m. ­zelsdelmar.com.

Coming Soon

[ Burger Lounge ] adds two new locations in Hillcrest and downtown.

[ Sprinkles Cupcakes ] opens in La Jolla later this fall.

Mike Viscuso reopens the former Jack’s La Jolla space as [ Mike’s La Jolla ] later this year.

Pho Real

San Diego is rich in Vietnamese restaurants that offer the wondrously complex beef-and-noodle soup known as pho, an alchemy of long-simmered beef bones, roasted onions and fragrant spices such as star anise and clove. A generous bowl costs $5 to $6 and is traditionally served for breakfast, lunch or dinner (not to mention as a rumored hangover cure). Here are three spots for pho and more:

1. Pho Point Loma & Grill, 2788 Midway Drive, 619-226-6502: The old South China buffet on Midway has been transformed and offers some of the best-seasoned pho in town ($5.75), rich, bold and aromatic. The well-spiced seafood pho is another winner ($6.50). Other faves: Fresh shrimp ’n’ pork spring rolls ($4.95 for two); house-special broken rice topped with moist meatloaf, smoky barbecue pork and shrimp cake wrapped in crisp, shiny tofu skin ($8.95). 

2. Pho Fifth Avenue, 3807 Fifth Avenue, 619-260-3555: Open since April, this eatery boasts a prime location between Robinson and University and a moddish interior with black granite tabletops and upholstered booths. Here, mellow pho is a bit pricier than in humbler establishments ($6.25 regular, $7.25 large). Other faves: Rice and noodle dishes topped with succulent marinated shrimp or barbecued pork are a particularly good bet (around $7). Perfectly prepared iced coffee hits the right balance of sweet and bitter ($2.75).

3. Pho Ca Dao & Grill, 11808 Rancho Bernardo Road, 858-451-8820: The newest of three local Ca Daos arrives in the suburbs. The pho ($5.70) is a bit on the restrained side, lacking the signature star anise scent. Still, the beef’s above average, and the place gets extra points for providing the traditional bitter saw leaf as a garnish. Other faves: Lemongrass-marinated pork chops smell like heaven and slice like butter ($6.55 for two chops, rice, salad and soup).    

— Robin Kleven Dishon

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