Soho, the classy-without-being pretentious restaurant that opened earlier this year at 3025 El Cajon Blvd. is now serving brunch from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. Menu items include vegan rice and lentil maple pancakes, banana-strawberry foster french toast with a vanilla-bean syrup and a “Southwest Benedict”—a twist on traditional eggs benedict with poached eggs, smoked ham and avocado hollandaise on top of a chipotle polenta cake. sohorestaurantandlounge.com UPDATE: Soho closed in early 2011.
Craft & Commerce (675 W. Beach St., Little Italy), the latest venture from the folks behind Neighborhood, Noble Experiment and El Dorado, opened on Aug. 8. With an interior designed by Paul Basile, the décor is part Old West, part cool secondhand bookstore. While the menu lacks in the vegan and vegetarian options, the cocktails are mighty good, and we dig the M-Theory-curated tunes and books-on-tape playing in the restroom.
Barely a year old, Julian Hard Cider has already developed something of a cult following for its nottoo-sweet brew. You can hoof it up to the Julian / Wynola area and hit the oldtimey tasting room (4470 Julian Road, julianhardcider.biz), or save some gas and head to Starlite (3175 India St.), where its now served on tap.
If civic duty isn't motivation enough to show up for jury duty, Currant American Brasserie, at the bottom floor of the Sofia Hotel (140 West Broadway, Downtown) is offering 10 percent off your lunch tab if you show your server your juror's badge. currantrestaurant.com
We're hearing that Stone Brewing has plans to open a tasting room and shop on 30th Street in South Park, around the corner from Whistle Stop and Station tavern, though we didn't get confirmation from Stone by press time. Currently, Stone's only tasting room is at its headquarters in Escondido.
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Spicy City. 4690 Convoy St., Suite 107, Kearny Mesa, 858-278-1818. Fans of traditional Sichuan cooking, this is your spot, where folks line up for dishes that manage to be both tasty and mouth-numbingly spicy.
25 Forty Bistro & Bakehouse. 2540 Congress St., Old Town, 619- 294-2540. Europe-trained chef / owner Mark Pelliccia turned this Old Town cottage into a sophisticated bistro with front- and back-patio seating. Dishes include creative takes on Italian (like eggplant parmesan ravioli) and tasty baked goods (croissants, tarts, cakes and breads), Pelliccia's specialty. 25fortybistro.com
Mariscos Los Koras. 4297 Market St., Mount Hope. 619-264-1180. This nautical-themed restaurant's owner is from the coastal Mexican state of Nayarit, which means seafood is the strong suit. Specialties range from grilled Baja lobster to Nayarit-style paella. Mariscos Los Koras' sauces are excellent, as are the empanadas de camaron, fried turnovers filled with chopped shrimp.
Enoteca Style. 1445 India St., Little Italy. 619-546-7138. The paninis at this wine bar are tasty and named after nearby streets (the Laurel is akin to a tuna melt, while the Cedar pairs roast beef with caramelized onions, gruyere and a truffled mushroom spread). Also good are the salads—the owners also own Downtown restaurant Salad Style.
Korea BBQ & Tofu House. 4425 Convoy St., Suite 218, Kearny Mesa. 858-277-2220. Formerly known as Halmouny (“grandmother” in Korean), the new name came with a new location but the same Korean comfort food, like bibimbap, an everything-but-thekitchen-sink rice bowl, and soondubu, a Korean version of seafood stew served in a chili-pepper broth.
Ranchos Cocina. 1830 Sunset Cliffs Blvd., Ocean Beach, 619-226-7619. A good spot to go if you're a fan of Mexican food who falls into the vegetarian or vegan diet category. Standouts include eggplant enchiladas, tamales made with soybean oil and tofu-stuffed taquitos. (There are plenty of meat options for carnivores, too.)
Mama Testa Taqueria. 1417-A University Ave., Hillcrest. 619-298-8226. Known for its signature fish tacos that beat chef Bobby Flay's version, Mama Testa Taqueria features an eclectic salsa bar. For vegetarians, the poblano tacos are tasty, and the wine selection includes Guadalupe Valley's Santo Tomas.
Girard Gourmet. 7837 Girard Ave., La Jolla. 858-454-3321. Run by Diana and Francois Goedhuys for the last two decades, the small shop offers soups, sandwiches, pre-cooked entrées to go and baked goods like pies stuffed with fruit from the Goedhuys' farm. Highlights include the gingered corn and zucchini soup and roasted eggplant and pesto sandwich, served on homemade bread.
Sab E Lee. 9159 Mission Gorge Road, Santee. 619-328-1568. The owner of the popular Linda Vista Thai restaurant sold it to a friend and moved east to a more spacious spot that's worth the drive. Standouts on the 80-item menu include miang-kum (a build-it-yourself spinach-leaf and chutney taco), tom yum soup and gai yang, a Thaistyle barbecued chicken.
The Smoking Goat. 3408 30th St., North Park, 619-955-5295. Designed by locals Bells & Whistles (Starlight, The Loft at UCSD) and owned by Cordon Bleu grad Fred Piehl, newly opened Smoking Goat features a menu that rotates monthly with a focus on seasonal sides, homemade pasta and locally procured meats. Always on the menu is the burger—so popular that it sometimes sells out.