Eat your way around the world—and San Diego—one meal at a time. From Abyssinian to Vietnamese, there is no shortage of international cuisine in the region. Here are just 13 to get you started. Follow your taste buds to get an idea of the incredible variety and deliciousness of San Diego’s diverse food landscape, no airfare required. Continue reading
Think that craft beer is the only thing San Diego brews up in delicious quantities? Don’t overlook the area’s estimable coffee roasters. Or its very own makers of kombucha, that tangy bubbly beverage that is so good you’ll forget it’s made from fermented tea. Here are some of the finest hot and cold (non-beer) craft brews to check out. Continue reading
San Diego’s Convoy Street runs through the central neighborhood of Kearny Mesa. Strip malls packed with restaurants whose signs—in Japanese, Korean, Chinese, and other Asian languages—bear the names of some of the best eateries in town. Popular favorites among locals include Shabu Shabu, Tofu House, and dim sum at Emerald restaurant. But excellent ramen, poke, bulgogi, dumplings, pastries, and desserts aren’t the only reasons to come to Convoy—there’s also karaoke, arcade games, and bliss-out sessions at Korean spas. Continue reading
One of the best ways to soak in the splendor of Balboa Park is with a leisurely picnic. The good news is there are picnic spots for every age and desired experience. Continue reading
Pop-up dinners are—you guessed it—popping up just about everywhere. These foodie events range from educational to esoteric. Whatever their focus, they put out some seriously delicious eats. Continue reading
Tiki culture is all about escapism—the food, the drinks, and the decor are all attempts to re-create some fantastical tropical island that never actually existed. This is also why tiki cocktails are so potent, designed to help ease you to into a festive state of mind. San Diego is embracing the tiki culture with a new generation of bartenders celebrating that rich tradition. Here’s a roundup of San Diego’s hot tiki bars and other spots where you can find a perfectly tropical cocktail. Continue reading
San Diego has world-class mainstay restaurants, like Mister A’s, George’s, and Addison. But new blood is good for the restaurant scene’s circulatory system. Here are eight restaurants that have made a significant impact since opening in recent months. Continue reading
In the classic French style of service, top chefs with the most expertise were trotted out from the kitchen in Europe’s finest restaurants to dazzle guests with fancy techniques of whipping, chopping, carving, and flambéing. It was food as theater. Today, even in the face of the growing fast casual and counter service trends, tableside preparations are making their way back into dining rooms both casual and upscale.
Here’s a roundup of San Diego’s most tasty tableside creations, from the waterfront to the foothills.
Born & Raised
Little Italy’s gorgeous new steakhouse Born & Raised straddles the line between elegant and modern. San Diego Magazine food critic Troy Johnson calls the $7 million space “a grand, elaborate investment in America’s past,” where servers clad in tuxedo jackets and Chuck Taylors offer classics like steak Diane and rib of beef with Yorkshire pudding as well as de rigueur dry-aged cuts of beef and duck. Wheeled out on ornate carts with brass and wood detailing, the tableside preparations of steak tartare, classic French omelets, and shrimp Louie take the drama up a notch.
Where: 1909 India St, San Diego, CA 92101
> Find out more about Born & Raised
Just down the block in Little Italy’s culinary center, Monello (the “naughty little brother” to longtime local favorite Bencotto next door) finishes orders of classic Italian risotto tableside in a unique vessel: a wheel of imported Parmigiano Reggiano cheese. The cheese is the final ingredient in the creamy rice dish and, instead of grating or tossing it in, chef Fabrizio stirs and scrapes the entire order inside the cheese wheel, which is lit afire at the edges to keep the dish warm. Rumor has it, they will also finish other pasta dishes in the wheel at a guest’s request.
Where: 750 W Fir St, San Diego, CA 92101
> Find out more about Monello
Manhattan of La Jolla
Head up to La Jolla for another classic tableside dish: Caesar salad. Originally invented just south of San Diego at Hotel Caesars in Tijuana, the legendary salad’s egg, anchovy, lemon, garlic, and Parmesan dressing makes for an impressive show when mixed fresh at the table. Manhattan of La Jolla has made it a signature experience for years in its swanky Empress Hotel restaurant that’s hosted celebrities like Ann Bancroft, Mel Brooks, Johnny Depp, and Jay Leno over the years. For locals, it’s been a beloved spot for special occasions for more than 20 years.
When: 7766 Fay Ave, La Jolla, CA 92037
> Find out more about Manhattan of La Jolla
Any list of tableside dishes served in San Diego wouldn’t be complete without guacamole. It’s the local version of bread and butter in a region that produces 40 percent of the nation’s avocados – and it’s most impressive when prepared fresh at the table with simple ingredients: Avocados, smashed with garlic, onions, lime, salt, and salsa fresca garnish. Try it alongside an unparalleled view of the city skyline at Coasterra on Harbor Island, an upscale Mexican restaurant right on the bay.
Where: 880 Harbor Island Dr, San Diego, CA 92101
> Find out more about Coasterra
Travel deep into Hillcrest, one of the city’s original foodie neighborhoods, and find Ortega’s tucked away in the corner of small strip mall. Almost as famous as their tableside guacamole is their simple, seasonal offering of Puerto-Nuevo style lobster dishes served in the rustic space with thick wood tables and colorful, imported glassware.
Where: 141 University Ave, San Diego, CA 92103
> Find out more about Ortega’s
Riviera Supper Club
For a twist on tableside, try La Mesa’s Riviera Supper Club. Its nod to midcentury steak houses is evident in the both menu (steaks, chops, and sides like macaroni and cheese and bourbon baked beans) and the décor of cozy booths, dim lighting, and live music – all housed in a classic 1962 building that was once home to the Department of Motor Vehicles. Here’s the twist: It’s a DIY grill. You pick your protein and cook it yourself on a large communal grill, equipped with tongs and seasonings. The kitchen handles the sides (and we hear they’ll help you with your meat if requested) and desserts like bacon chocolate cake and s’mores casserole. A warning to those who opt to sip a Sidecar while manning the grill: The cocktails are served famously stiff.
Where: 7777 University Ave, La Mesa, CA 91941
> Find out more about Riviera Supper Club
What’s better than indulging in some fine dining in America’s Finest City? How about two or three decadent courses for $10 – $40? Indeed you can, during San Diego Restaurant Week, where you can taste two-course lunches from $10-$20 or three-course dinners for $30-$40. Indulgence that’s kind to my wallet? I’ll raise my fork to that any day.
San Diego’s North County doesn’t just offer gorgeous beaches, expansive vistas and charming coastal communities. It is also home to some legendary fine dining establishments that celebrate everything from inspired Mediterranean fare, sumptuous French-inspired cuisine and the freshest fruits of the sea. So put on your finest threads, and venture out for an elegant culinary experience in San Diego’s North County.
Dinner only – Three Courses for $40
Feel like whisking yourself away to Tuscany? Escape to The Grand Del Mar for an enchanted evening amidst rolling hills and Tuscan style architecture. Elegance, romance and indulgence await you at the Amaya, where executive chef Camron Woods creates artful Mediterranean-inspired American classics, such as the Whole-Roasted Filet of Prime Beef Tenderloin served with fragrant red wine jus and smoked onions (pictured above). Or try the Cider-glazed Hot-Smoked Salmon with roasted baby root vegetables and celery root puree. For $25, complete your Mediterranean dining experience with wine pairings for each course, selected from their collection of fine Spanish, Italian and French wines.
Lunch – Two Courses for $20
Dinner – Three Courses for $40
Not only was Pacifica Del Mar the site of my wedding reception, but it’s also the place to I go in San Diego when stuck with a seafood craving. Their Sugar Spice Salmon (pictured above) is the stuff of legend, and is thankfully offered on both their lunch and dinner menu options for Restaurant Week. The overwhelmingly popular choice for guests on my big day, this perfectly grilled salmon filet is spiced with a glaze that is both sweet and succulent. Often imitated but never matched in its perfection, the salmon is just one of the many reasons to try Pacifica Del Mar. Go for lunch if you want to take in gorgeous sunny views of the Pacific Ocean, but go back for dinner if you want to treat your taste buds to their chocolate filled Beignets. Served with blood orange sorbet, these Beignets could be a dangerous start to a new obsession.
Dinner only – Three Courses for $40
A San Diego establishment since 1984 and winner of numerous awards (including a designation by Food & Wine Magazine as one of America’s top 25 restaurants), Mille Fleurs is the original creation of legendary San Diego restaurateur Bertrand. Nestled in the heart of Rancho Santa Fe, Mille Fleurs offers a seasonal menu of French-inspired California cuisine, featuring the freshest ingredients available at local farms and markets. For the Restaurant Week menu, chef Woesle has whipped up delectable options that beg to be seen as much as savored. Always artfully presented, a meal here is as much a feast for the eyes as it is for the palette. With entrée options like the Quenelles of Trout and Grilled Shrimp with Brocco Flower Risotto finished with Nettle Leaf Champagne Sauce, or the Pork Tenderloin Stuffed with Prosciutto, I may need to go back a few times to try every dish of each course. Then again, this just may be the perfect opportunity to brush up on my French while savoring all they have to offer.
Which Restaurant Week options will you try in North County San Diego?