As you are all very aware, I am a big foodie (and wino). Nothing sounds better to me than a relaxing night with good friends over a delicious, authentic meal and some delicious drinks that go down smooth. Well with a tight budget comes sacrifice, and now that I am back in the corporate trenches taking grenades, I have had to cut much of the delectable joy out of my life that I have previously indulged in.
But as my mother always taught me, MODERATION, not deprivation, is key in indulgences. So when the wallet dries up, you find ways to make money so you can still enjoy your simple pleasures. Mine just happen to be new, unique foods. And thankfully, San Diego is the perfect place to find an array of such treats. Below, find some of my freshly plucked picks from all around the map of this wonderful city.
El Camino- Cucina Mexicana in Little Italy
What was long time known as the infamous Airport Lounge on Juniper St., with its stewards and stewardesses behind the bar and modern lofty design, has been completely transformed into a contemporary, rustic, Mexican joint where the 80’s Karaoke night is almost as sought after as their famous taco’s and Sangria combo. With genius local designer Mauricio Couturier vamping up the space into something more funky, the ambiance has completely changed tone: forget the acrylic white light bars you previously leaned on at Airport, and think warm rich wood fixtures with vintage news articles plastering the surface. Instead of geometrically sound furniture, cozy banquettes line the walls to accompany the dimly candlelight tabletops. And the back patio with the awkward “rock garden” in the center? Replaced by tall tables full of barstools sitting under beautiful twinklelights separating diners from the passing flights landing at Lindburgh Field. The food is hearty and flavorful, and the Sangria is the best north of the border.
Pizzeria Bruno Napoletano- Park Ave. between Normal & El Cajon Blvd.
For those of you who love nothing more than a perfect pizza and glass of red wine in a quiet café, then this IS IT. Set in a quaint neighborhood somewhere between the throws of Normal Heights, North Park, and El Cajon is this new little gem that makes the most authentic Napoletano pizza in the city. If you are unfamiliar with the style of pizza us foodies are talking about, think thin, crispy, rustic, fresh, salivation inducing, mind blowing pizza. What makes this spot so authentic? How bout it’s basic menu of only about a dozen pizzas, all inspired by different Italian favorites like lasagna, fradiavlo, or even the simply delightful meats Italy is known for (salami, prosciutto, Italian sausage, oh my!). Or maybe its their certified Naples style pizza oven, that cooks pizza’s at a sweltering 1200 degrees in only 2 minutes. Either way, this place is not to be overlooked by the pizza afficianado. It may be in a random location, but even for me driving from Del Mar, this drive is definitely worth your while. Make sure to get the Margherita Pizza with the Mozzerella di Bufala, it is the tastiest thing in the world! And not to be missed, Peroni’s for only 3 bucks! Now you can’t beat that.
Bankers Hill Bar + Restaurant- the newest addition to chef Carl Schroeder’s arsenal of top picks among San Diego’s elite
Anyone who knows Carl’s food knows their stuff. The brains behind Arterra at the Del Mar Marriott and the mastermind behind the menu at the infamous Market in Del Mar (pictured below) has opened his third eatery in the hip neighborhood of South Park, completing his hat trick and hopefully covering all demographics that make up the lush foodies of San Diego. Known for using only the freshest ingredients to create the most complex forms of casual comfort food, Carl is rapidly gaining notoriety for being THE best chef in San Diego. But don’t be fooled by the list of junkie foods, “This is refined casual. Nothing tastes ordinary” , states Michele Parente of Sign On San Diego. It is all in his details, and any of his thousands of local fans can contest that his comforting menu is anything but mom’s cookin’. If you haven’t been to Market yet, it is a personal local fave of mine, but this new opening is sure to turn heads and make anyone a lifelong follower.
This year, with the recession slowing and entrepreneurs really using their cajones to follow their dreams, there are hundreds of new restaurants out there for you to explore. And the only way to share the love of food and wine is to dive right in! For more picks, check out 944’s May Issue for their top picks around town.