Ichiro's Sushi Restaurant (4344 Convoy St.) does nice things with fish, but it's the Japanese bar bites that really amaze-the flawless fried chicken wings will fly you straight to snack-food heaven. The lunch and dinner combos are better than most, too. Be prepared to wait for a table, night or day, at Dumpling Inn (4619 Convoy St.), but the homemade tender shrimp-and-chive dumplings and crispy-bottomed pork dumplings are well worth it. Late-night cravings are fulfilled cheaply and deliciously at Imperial Mandarin (3904 Convoy St.). The savory rice porridge with sliced fish fillets is comfort food at its most satisfying.
Bay Park/Linda Vista
Above and beyond a typical taco shop, JV's Mexican (1112 Morena Blvd.) offers a huge menu of traditional favorites, including a killer chicken tortilla soup and burritos the size of a small baby. Afternoon thirsts can be quenched at Ballast Point Brewery's tasting bar (5401 Linda Vista Road), hidden at the back of the brewery's retail outlet, the Home Brew Mart. Four-ounce tastes of their microbrews can be had for $1 or $1.50, or get a growler to go. Lightning-fast service brings steaming bowls of richly spiced Vietnamese noodle soup at Pho Hoa (6921 Linda Vista Road). Dinner will arrive before you set down your menu.
Days begin at friendly Leilani's Café (5109 Cass St.), a family-run place that serves up Hawaiian specials. The spicy sausage fried rice topped with an egg is a most delicious hangover cure. Lunch at Liberty Pizza (4634 Mission Blvd.), is two crackly crusted slices of authentic, New York thin-crust pie. The owners will treat you like family as long as you can tell your ricotta from your feta. Nights end happily at the Liar's Club (3844 Mission Blvd.), where drafts of the city's best beer cool mouths numbed by the incendiary but delectable Fuego steak sandwich.
Each weekend, fresh coconuts spill out onto the street running along Las Playas de Tijuana. Coconut vendors wait patiently, rusty knives in hand, ready to chop up a coconut faster than you can say "coco-."Bam! The guy's done, and in your pale hands is a rough green shell with a red straw poking out. After you've sucked up the refreshing, earthy-tasting juice, take the coconut back. The man carves out the white flesh. Cover it in fresh lime juice, salt and chile powder and breakfast is done. Kick it at the beach, and when your stomach starts rumbling, stop by the beachfront restaurant Terraza Vallarta (343 Avenida Pacifico 343, Playas de Tijuana). Locals recommend the Entero Sarandeado, a whole fish barbequed in "special sauce."For dinner, check out Tijuana's Tai Ki Shi (10589 Sanchez Taboada, Zona Rio), for a selection of Japanese noodles and sushi with Tai curries dishes and appetizers.
Testimony given is that Villa Del Mar Mexican Food (3531 Adams Ave.) breakfast burritos are the best in town-make sure to dip in the crimson hot sauce. And Mexican Cokes in hourglass bottles, for breakfast-oh yes. The closet-sized Café Zahir (3200 Adams Ave.) serves daily curries and falafel, as well as American lunches, including The Tristan Wrap, a cylinder of turkey, cheeses, 'cado, onion, tomato and blueberry jam so good your tongue will do anything you ask. Country Kabob Greek Kitchen (3375 Adams Ave.) serves grilled tender chicken kabobs with two kinds of rice and veggies on the side, manly gyros and, for more delicate taste buds, the flakey tyropita and a wonderful retsina.
The brothers who own Stardust Donuts (698 Hwy. 75), the run-down donut shack with the walk-up window, keep erratic hours, but they bake the perfect cinnamon roll. Hot and supple, the buttery rolls strike the perfect balance between sugar and cinnamon. The flaked coconut and pecan-topped donuts are light and delectable, each for less than a buck. Size matters at Seacoast Pizza (807 Seacoast Drive), where $3 will get you one piping hot and deliciously cheesy giant slice-emphasis on giant-served up with a killer ocean view. Seriously, it's enough pie for two pizza lovers. Order the fat, crispy tempura shrimp and tangy hot and sour soup at Silver Sea (600 Palm Ave). Plates hearty enough to share will set you back less than $10, the sake's good and cheap and an unexpected scoop of sorbet joins the fortune cookies when it's all over.