The restaurant that I'm most anticipating in 2009 is the Blind Lady Ale House, which is aiming to be open and ready to feed people by the end of January. A partnership between locals, including writer Clea Hantman and beer guru Lee Chase, the Blind Lady is housed in a 1920s brick building in Normal Heights and will serve Neapolitan-style pizza topped with fresh-made mozzarella, local veggies and sustainably produced meats. The aim is for a family-friendly food spot, with a finely curated lineup of local and craft brews, plus house-made root-beer floats made with ice cream from Adams Avenue neighbors Mariposa Ice Cream. www.blindladyalehouse.com.
I kicked off last New Year's Eve with a delicious meal at The Better Half, which I recommend as a nice spot for a cozy, unhurried dinner. This year's possibilities include the very-budget-friendly option at Sea Rocket Bistro, whose three-course dinner is only $25, with draft beers at just $3. Café Chloe is doing a 6 p.m., five-course dinner for $65 and a 9:30 p.m., six-course feast and a Champagne toast for $85. The Pearl is serving a $99, three-course dinner for two with a no-cover after-party and midnight Champagne toast. But the most fun New Year's Eve dinner might be at Starlite. Three seatings of its three-course dinner are available: at 6 p.m., 8 p.m. and 10 p.m. All dinners come with a glass of bubbly, and the 10 p.m. seating includes admission to an after-party, with music by DJ Ratty.
Many of Starlite's staff and regulars are popping up at the newest addition to Tim Mays' family of local eating and drinking spots, the Riviera Supper Club and Turquoise Room in La Mesa. The '60s-inspired restaurant, a graduation from Golden Hill's DIY steakhouse, Turf Club, features more of everything, including an expanded menu, enhancing the Turf Club's meat offerings with a list of side dishes, from mac-and-cheese to horseradish and garlic mashed potatoes. For dessert, there's the devastating-sounding bacon-chocolate layer cake. There's more room to move, too—the space features bigger booths, a larger grilling surface and a separate bar. Even better is the giant parking lot. www.rivierasupperclub.com.
Book your seat for the Tuesday, Jan. 27, cheese-pairing class at Taste Artisan Cheese in Hillcrest before the end of this month and save $5 off the $40 fee. The cheese-pairing challenge will pit wine versus beer in an interactive, 90-minute class to test which beverage is the better partner to a variety of cheese. Call 619-683-2306 to reserve a space.