San Diego's little homegrown pop-culture event has turned into one of the the biggest nerd proms in the U.S., but it's possible that event organizers may move our beloved geekfest to a larger city after 2012. Comic-Con bolster's San Diego's tax revenue (something we sorely need right now) with much of those dollars coming from the food and drink consumed by the event's thousands of attendees. San Diego's restaurant community would surely miss all those eaters if they were gone.
And while I hope visiting event-goers will venture beyond the Gaslamp to experience the best edibles San Diego has to offer, there's more than enough deliciousness to discover Downtown, where, for one weekend each summer, the usual tight-shirted, short-skirted crowd gets flushed out and the sidewalks are packed with colorful characters in costumes of a different sort. So there's no need to move the big show; we can keep everyone very well fed!
Starting the day with a good breakfast is essential, since you'll be hustling from panel to panel all day long. On weekdays, grab a hearty bowl of oatmeal or a stack of pancakes at the Cheese Shop (627 Fourth Ave.). On Saturday, take a short trolley ride to Little Italy, where the neighborhood's farmers market, called the Mercato (at Date and India streets), opens at 9 a.m. Take a quick stroll and grab a breakfast panini or crepe and a coffee before the trolley drops you right in front of the Convention Center. Café Chloe (721 Ninth Ave.), with its Sunday brunch menu, is the perfect place to recuperate from Saturday night's Masquerade Party. Try the savory egg custard or a brie and herb omelette, or the truly righteous mac-and-cheese with pancetta.
The food options for lunch inside the Convention Center are pretty dismal— too many Starbucks and overpriced concession stands selling re-heated soft pretzels. You're not technically allowed to bring in your own food, but if you're wearing a homemade costume, you're probably crafty enough to figure out how to sneak something in. Maybe your Chewbacca get-up has a secret sandwich pocket? Mona Lisa Italian Deli (2061 India St.) does awesome Italian subs on homemade bread, filled with imported meats and cheeses. Just skip the optional oil and vinegar dressing, lest the sandwich get swampy before you eat it. If you want to venture out and take a break from the Con, Bread on Market (730 Market St.) has an outdoor patio and makes delicious sandwiches on freshly baked bread. Favorites are the best BLT on focaccia, or the Tuscany—mozzarella, roasted peppers, olives, tomato and arugula on a crusty roll.
By the end of the afternoon, you'll probably need a cocktail or two. Save cash for your expanding collection of indie art and check out one of Downtown's happy hours. Avoid the cheesy $2 well-drink-type joints; there are better spots for more worthy food and drink. La Puerta's (560 Fourth Ave.) daily happy hour lasts from 3 to 7 p.m., when all drinks and appetizers are half-off. Snack on mini tostadas topped with cochinita pibil (slow-roasted pork) and pickled onions and sip a margarita or a fine tequila by the glass. Across the street, Café Sevilla's (555 Fourth Ave.) happy hour is from 5 to 6:30 p.m. daily in its tapas bar. You can make a meal out of a bunch of the $3-to-$5 plates, which include grilled Spanish sausages, shrimp croquettes, garlic mushrooms and more. A few blocks east of Downtown's main drag is Neighborhood (777 G St.), an excellent place for gourmet burgers and craft brews. From 5 to 7 p.m., all local taps are half-off and the sweet-potato fries or fennel frites make fine bar bites. Write to firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.