The Champ Burger @ Barleymash
I’d heard good word about Barleymash chef Kevin Templeton for a while, about both his cooking and his commitment to sustainability. But sometimes the Gaslamp scares me with its Gaslampiness, and I didn’t expect a restaurant of that size to have great food. Well, I was wrong. At a recent tasting, Templeton’s food was lights out. They make everything from scratch, including the bread (which is phenomenal). His tequila shrimp skillet with housemade focaccia is the star of the appetizer portion of the menu. But that burger, whoa that burger. It starts with the bun (again, housemade), a touch sweet and compressable, as all burger buns should be. Then the patty is grilled, topped with tender, ale-braised pork shoulder, pepper jack cheese, habanero jelly, bourbon BBQ ranch dressing, and fried onions. It’s a BEAST—spicy and unforgettably delicious.
600 5th Ave., Downtown
Truffle Risotto @ Giardino
Giardino was a total surprise. I’m always on the lookout for restaurants away from the usual places (Little Italy, North Park, La Jolla), and Lemon Grove is not a culinary hotbed. But Giardino is absolutely worth searching out. And this dish was the best thing I ate in the last few months. Perfectly al dente rice, brandy cream sauce, truffle oil, and mascarpone cheese. Eat it on a treadmill.
8131 Broadway, Lemon Grove
Oatmeal @ Northside Shack
Oatmeal? Seriously? Yep. Awesome. Northside Shack is Point Loma’s go-to spot for healthy breakfast and lunch—mostly blends (smoothies and fresh-press juices), acai bowls, local kombucha, you name it. They heap fresh fruit into every order, so no one gets cheated. But it was this organic oatmeal, blended with some almond butter, banana, strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, grapes, pineapple, mango, and kiwi, topped with coconut flakes, that really stunned. It’s that banana-almond butter-oats combo that will make you throw out your usual brown sugar and rethink the way oatmeal should be done.
1255 Rosecrans St., Point Loma