Brave the beer crowds at Hamilton's Tavern (1521 30th St., South Park) for their 2nd Saturday Event, this time featuring 24 taps, including some special rare beers from Oregon-based Rogue Brewery. They're all just $3.50 each from 5 to 8 p.m. on Saturday, May 9. Hamilton's always generously offers up some free food on these afternoons and this weekend's menu is Northwest-inspired, with alder wood smoked salmon, skirt steak, artisan cheese and brownies made with Rogue stout.
This week, farm-to-table restaurant Whisknladle opens PrepKitchen (7556 Fay Ave.) a casual café, takeaway shop and gourmet market in La Jolla. Salads, sandwiches and complete dinners made with seasonal and local ingredients will be available to go or for eat-in, or you can pick up a selection of their homemade antipasti, house-cured meats and artisan cheeses to take home. You can find a menu at www.prepkitchen.com.
A new Whole Foods Market is coming to Pacific Station, a new development on Coast Highway in Encinitas. The market will share space with other retail shops and a second location for the owners of North Park's Urban Solace, scheduled to open in spring of next year.
A former taco shop in the East Village is now Market 32 (1000 Island Ave.), a new produce market that sells some locally grown flowers, vegetables and fruit, as well as citrus and dates from their own family farm in Arizona. For other options for fresh produce in the downtown area, the East Village Farmer's Market, on Eighth Avenue and Market Street, is scheduled to start up again on Saturday, May 16 at 9 a.m.
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Santouka Ramen. (in Mitsuwa Marketplace), 4240 Kearny Mesa Road, Suite 119, Kearny Mesa. 858-569-6699. The ramen shop, located in Mitsuwa's food court, turns out the real version of the college-student-noodle staple. Options range from the basic shio, or salt, ramen, topped with mushrooms, bamboo shoots and green onions to the add-your-own-pork tokusen toroniku ramen.
Blind Lady Ale House. 3416 Adams Ave., Normal Heights. 619-255-2491. This pizza and beer spot playfully refers to itself as “BLAH,” but it's anything but, serving up creative and traditional pies, plus a carefully chosen selection of craft beers.
Alchemy. 1503 30th St., South Park, 619-255-0616. The new restaurant describes its food as “cultural fare,” a re-working of traditional dishes from around the globe. Standouts include the pork-stuffed piquillo peppers and halibut cooked sous vide. And, of course, the cranberry bread pudding.
Avenue 5. 2760 Fifth Ave., Bankers Hill. 619-542-0394. The sleek Uptown restaurant boasts an equally sleek bar, where, from 5 to 8 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday, specialty drinks are offered at special prices and tasty items from the bar menu are $2 off. Standouts include the broiled shrimp and burger topped with brie and pickled onions.
Que Huong. 4134 University Ave., City Heights. 619-283-1792. Tucked away in a strip mall, Que Huong is the gathering spot for local Vietnamese-Americans, which means the food's good and authentic. Don't fear the wild boar with sautéed peppers—it's a unanimous favorite.
Don Carlos Taco Shop. 737 Pearl St., Suite 113, La Jolla. 858-456-0462. The Mexican-food joint serves up a mean potato rolled taco, as well as tasty tamales and lots of vegetarian and vegan options.
Tender Greens. 2400 Historic Decatur Road, Point Loma. 619-226-6254. Don't be put off by the Truman Show-esque environs of Tender Greens' Liberty Station location. The restaurant has a comfortable outdoor patio and, inside, lots of healthy, fresh-made foods to choose from. Plus points: Sandwiches are made on bread from neighbor Con Pane.
Costa Brava. 1653 Garnet Ave., Pacific Beach. 858-273-1218. A great place for tapas-snacking with a great dishes under $5 during happy hour. Sublime sauces on dishes like the sautéed mushrooms and the Patatas à la Brava make for perfect bread dipping, while the creamy-centered croquettes are the ideal, handheld cocktail food.
Tapas Picasso. 3923 Fourth Ave., Hillcrest. 619-294-3061. A quaint, neigborhood vibe complements flavorful dishes like the Tortilla Espanola and the cantimpalitos (mini-chorizos in red wine sauce). Combined with a smooth sangria and excellent happy hour prices make for a great small plate experience.
Pizza Port. 571 Carlsbad Village Drive, Carlsbad. 760-720-7007. One of the locations for Port Brewing's brews, it's near enough to the train tracks to be a “staycation” stop. The beer-crust pizza's the best; also tasty are the baked-not-fried spicy chicken wings.
Sipz Fusion Cafe. 5501 Clairemont Mesa Blvd., Clairemont Mesa. 858-279-3747. Sipz caters to vegetarians and vegans, but even hardcore meat eaters might be fooled by their selection of faux meats that adorn traditional Asian dishes like Thai curry and wok-fried drunken noodles.
Babbo Grande. 1731 University Ave., Hillcrest. 619-269-8038. The new spot, located where Crepes de Paris used to be, kept the French chef and supplemented an Italian menu with a variety of crepes. Plus points for the covered outdoor terrace and excellent service.
Cam Ky BBQ. 4141 University Ave., City Heights, 619-285-1855. This unassuming spot specialized in Chinese barbecue and noodle soups. Or, grab some items for take-out and pick up accompaniments at nearby Hoa Hing Asian market.
Kitchen 1540. 1540 Camino del Mar, Del Mar. 858-793-6460. This newish North County spot is nice without being overly fancy. They've got an extensive drink menu that includes one named after a Prince tune ('Purple Rain'), A tasty beet salad and an excellent seafood stew.
Q'ero Restaurant. 564 South Coast Hwy., Encinitas. 760-753-9050. Q'ero specializes in Peruvian and South American cuisine, serving favorites like empanaditas and papa relleno—a golden-crusted mashed-potato shell filled with savory ground beef. It also does an excellent tres leches cake.
Nine-Ten. 910 Prospect St., La Jolla. 858-964-5400. If the main dining room at this upper-class spot seems too stuffy, you can order off the main menu at the bar—try the excellent Jamaican jerk pork—and, if you're lucky, have your drink prepared by bartender Mike. Just don't order a Budweiser, please.
El Comal. 3946 Illinois St., North Park. 619-294-8292. This family-run spot might be a little shaky when it comes to specialty cocktails, but is spot-on with authentic Mexican dishes like mulitas, barbacoa and tasty tlalpeno soup.
Wa Dining Okan. 3860 Convoy St., Kearny Mesa. 858-279-0941. Okan means “mom” in Japanese, and this unassuming spot, located in a strip-mall, serves the kind of Japanese comfort food you'd most likely find only in Japanese homes. Standouts include the grilled sanma (a North Pacific fish) and, for dessert, purin.
Con Pane. 1110 Rosecrans St., Suite 100, Point Loma. The bakery and café rolls out regular bread specials, as well as standards like the Point Loma sourdough and tasty cinnamon rolls. The Sweet Bread Bakers Plate lets you taste specialty breads, or you can order up a sandwich (like a turkey or veggie cobb), for a picnic near the water.
Cowboy Star. 640 10th Ave., East Village. 619-450-5880. The spot is all about the meat: bison burgers, perfectly prepared strip steaks, venison sausage and tasty charcuterie plates. Save room for the Julian apple cobbler with homemade brown-butter ice cream or hit up the adjoining butcher shop for some take-home cuts.
El Pescador, 627 Pearl St., La Jolla, 858-456-2526. The fish sold here is among the freshest in town. You can buy your seafood pre-prepared or fresh from the case, and if you need cooking tips, the staff is more than happy to help. Try the seabass, the yellowtail or the opah and don't skip the $2.75 cup of clam chowder. The wooden tables are usually claimed during busy lunch hours, but you can grab your meal to go and head to the beach, just a few blocks west.
Shanghai City. 3860 Convoy St., Suite 105, Kearny Mesa, 858-278-5883. The closest you'll come to experiencing traditional Shanghainese cooking without going to China, the menu includes favorites like xiao long bao (steamed pork buns) and Jiangsu crispy chicken.
Tapenade. 7612 Fay Ave., La Jolla. 858-551-7500. If you're looking for an affordable-yet-nice spot for dinner, the bar area at this eatery has generous, wallet-friendly happy hour that runs from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Sunday through Thursday. Menu items include escargot, a homemade ravioli in a white-truffle foam and chocolate-drenched profiteroles for dessert. Glasses of wine are $2 off, too. www.tapendaderestaurant.com.
Olive Tree Marketplace. 4805 Narragansett Ave., Ocean Beach. 619-224-0443. The popular corner market sells a variety of locally produced foods (like Jackie's Jams and La Salsa Chilena salsa) and also whips up tasty sandwiches at the deli. Definitely give in to the impulse-buy fresh-baked cookies at the register. www.olivetreemarket.com.
Kous Kous. 3940 Fourth Ave., Hillcrest. 619-295-5560. Kous Kous prepares classic Moroccan cuisine—like the flaky, savory and sweet b'stilla—in a cozy and cool, subterranean Hillcrest spot. www.kouskousrestaurant.com.
La Fachada. 20 25th St., Logan Heights, 619-236-8566. You can opt to sit inside the restaurant, or outside near the taco truck, where last-meal-worthy Mexican staples are served. Every corn tortilla is made fresh, as is the salsa. Standouts include the carnitas and the melt-in-your-mouth gorditas.
Kaito Sushi. 130-A North El Camino Real, Encinitas, 760-634-2746. Owner Kazuo Morita has lots of local fans who flock to Kaito for his classic Edo-style sushi. Check the restaurant's blog to see what's come in fresh and, even, where it's coming from: www.sushikaito.com.
Surati Farsan. 9494 Black Mountain Road, Mira Mesa. 858-549-7280. Located in the Little India Center, this spot specializes in vegetarian South Indian Cuisine served as small snacks or “chaat.” Stand-outs include the masala dosa, delhi chat and pani puri.
Sab E Lee 2405 Ulric St., Linda Vista, 858-650-6868. One meal at Sab E Lee is enough to captivate—this is Thai food like you've never tasted. New discoveries are found here, including raw beef salad and catfish larb, while familiar dishes—curries and noodles—rival those found anywhere else.
Jack & Giulio's Italian Restaurant. 2391 San Diego Ave., Old Town, 619-294-2074. J&G's does it old-school with classic dishes served amid endearingly dated decor. Pace yourself so that you'll have room for the homemade ricotta cheesecake at the end of your meal. www.jackandgiulios.com.
Roseville 1125 Rosecrans St., Point Loma, 619-450-6800. Laurel transplant Chef Amy DiBiase has a hit in this newish upscale-yet-casual brasserie. Standouts include the watermelon salad, duck confit and, for dessert, lemon chiffon parfait. www.rosevillesd.com.
Noodle Town. 4647 Convoy St., Kearny Mesa, 858-565-0403. Grab some friends and claim one of the round tables with a center grill out on the patio. There, cook up a delicious selection of meats while munching on traditional Korean side dishes. You may end up wanting one of the special grills for your own backyard.
Farmhouse Cafe. 2121 Adams Ave., University Heights, 619-269-9662. Owned and operated by the husband-and-wife team of Oliver and Rochelle Bioteau, the cute, quaint Farmhouse does surprisingly inventive dinners and tasty weekend brunches—the ricotta pancakes are especially good.
Sea Rocket Bistro. 3382 30th St., North Park, 619-255-7049. The eatery that took over The Linkery's old space focuses on fresh, locally caught seafood. Fisherman will occasionally drop by to chat, and the owners are pros at pairing dishes with local craft beers. www.searocketbistro.com.
Mariscos German. 2802 Ocean View Blvd., Logan Heights, 619-239-3782. The Mexican seafood purveyor has a couple different incarnations, from a taco truck that parks at University Avenue and 35th Street to the Logan Heights ship-shaped restaurant. Everything's fresh and tasty, especially the seafood cocktail and the shrimp cooked in a garlicky sauce.
Neighborhood 777 G St., East Village, 619-446-0002. The place to get a good burger (the signature burger's a hit) and a craft beer in a hip unpretentious setting. Be sure to include a side order of the sweet potato fries.
Cafe Athena 1846 Garnet Ave., Pacific Beach, 858-274-1140. The casual Greek eatery with an outdoor patio does all the standards well: tzatiki, baba ghanuj and a tasty spanakopita—flaky filo dough layered with a spinach and feta mixture. If you're feeling indecisive, there are lots of appetizers and entrée samplers to choose from.
San Diego Wine & Culinary Center. 200 Harbor Drive, Suite 120, Downtown, 619-231-6400. The fact that Dizzy's jazz club has taken up residence here makes this one of the cooler spots in San Diego. The wine choices are affordable and well-picked, and the menu features plenty of tasty accompaniments. www.sdwineculinary.com.
The Restaurant @ The Pearl. 1410 Rosecrans St., Point Loma, 619-226-6100. The lovely Pearl Hotel has a hit with new chef Trey Hartinger. The house burger and Kurabota pork are standouts for dinner. If you're a morning person, try the Sunday brunch with “bottomless” mimosas and incredibly fresh, creative dishes. www.thepearlsd.com.
Pauly's Pizza Station. 1050 Park Blvd., East Village, 619-231-0300. This new pizza spot, located at the “Smart Corner” transit station, won us over with fresh, creative toppings (like the house special—a white pie with strips of roasted bell peppers, fresh spinach and ricotta cheese) and sublime crust. www.paulyspizzastation.com.
Sushi Ota. 4529 Mission Bay Drive, Pacific Beach, 858-270-5670. Among the best sushi restaurants in San Diego, true sushi fans should belly up to the bar and ask for Mr. Ota's omakase (chef's menu). Expect a wait, even for regular seats, but it's worth it.
Asmara Eritrean Restaurant. 4155 University Ave., City Heights, 619-677-3999. Eritrean cuisine is similar to Ethiopian, with food served on (or with) tangy, sponge-like injera bread. Use the bread to scoop up delicious vegetable stews and flavorful meat dishes at this cozy, family-run spot.
Northgate Gonzalez Market. 1410 S. 43rd St., Southcrest, 619-266-6080.The 60,000-square-foot Mexican market houses a taqueria, where you can order freshly prepared tacos; a pasteleria, selling fresh baked cakes (such as tres leches); and specialty Mexican food items. www.northgatemarkets.com.
Tango Wine Company. 2161 India St., Little Italy, 619-564-7700. This small wine bar offers a variety of favorite vinos at affordable prices with no corkage fee. They don't serve food (except when they host tastings), but they don't mind if you bring your own. www.tangowine.com.
Phil's BBQ. 3750 Sports Arena Blvd., Point Loma. 619-226-6333. Arrive very early, or very late, because if you pull up right around dinner time, there'll be a line out the door. This popular restaurant serves tasty Texas-style barbecue that's worth any wait. www.philsbbq.net.
Blue Water Seafood Market & Grill. 3667 India St., Middletown, 619-497-0914 A no-frills but fabulous spot for fresh local seafood. The grilled-fish sandwich is always a good choice, as are the oysters and outstanding ceviche.
Yumeya. 1246 N Coast Highway 101, Encinitas, 760-633-4288. Yumeya serves ippin ryori, or small à la carte plates akin to tapas, plus houses an outstanding selection of sake, like the smooth, crisp ginyu shizuku. Stand-out dishes include potato croquettes and tempura udon.
Bonnie Jean's Soul Food Café. 1964 54th St., Oak Park. 619-262-8854. The café offers authentic soul food, from the red velvet cake all the way to the sweet tea. Other Southern specialties include catfish, fried chicken and waffles and oysters.
Villa Manila. 500 East Eighth St., National City, 619-477-8512. Meat heaven for meat lovers, this Filipino restaurant features favorites like pata (pork leg simmered to tenderness, dried overnight then deep-fried) and nilagang baka, a mild but long-simmered soup of beef shanks and vegetables in an onion broth.
Jayne's Gastropub. 4677 30th St., Normal Heights, 619-563-1011. This classy step above your average pub serves standards like burgers and wiener schnitzel, plus more creative takes on traditional pub grub. It also features a nice selection of ales and wines. www.jaynesgastropub.com.
Yoshi Sushi. 6755 Mira Mesa Blvd., Mira Mesa. 858-587-4755. Features inexpensive, fresh sushi and all-you-can-eat lunch and dinner menus.