Traditional fast food isn't something I eat, so I seek out places with light, quick and easy takeout. This week I share a few eateries with casual counter service worth a try, should you need a quick bite that doesn't involve a drive-through.
One of my favorite drop-in places (where you can call ahead if you're in a hurry) is Con Pane Rustic Breads & Café in Point Loma. My idea of a great sandwich is one with substantial bread holding a bundle of good, fresh ingredients. Given that bread is an integral part of a sandwich, Con Pane is a bakery first and then a café. The windowed corner room is bright and airy, where many locals begin their day with espresso and an addictive butter-rich cinnamon roll that's gooey and large enough to share. Catherine Perez's bakery makes baguettes, kalamata olive bread, a hearty multi-grain, an addictive chive-and-Gruyere and a slew of other artisan breads. Restaurants that feature her bread include JRDN in Pacific Beach, 3rd Corner in Ocean Beach and Region in Hillcrest.
Con Pane's sandwiches are simple yet creative. My favorite is the turkey cobb on sourdough or rosemary and olive oil bread with turkey, applewood bacon, lettuce and blue cheese. There is an almost-grilled cheese sandwich with Brie and Gorgonzola and a PB & J for kids (and adults, too). For an afternoon pick-me-up, get a chocolate chunk or butter toffee peanut butter melt-in-your-mouth cookie. Sandwiches range from $3.75 for a half to $6.25 for a whole. 1110 Rosecrans St., Suite 100 (corner of Canon and Rosecrans), Point Loma. 619-224-4344. Closed Wednesday.
Sandwiched between a tattoo parlor, tailor and psychic reader, Chalkboard Deli in Pacific Beach is a sliver of a room, wallpapered with snapshots of customers and a faded poster from the 1981 Rolling Stones tour. Inside, there are eight counter stools and on the street side, a wood patio has room for a couple of tables. Open since 1995, it's a local hangout where owners Bill and Phyllis Thomson greet regulars by name while they prepare and serve the food.
Come here for the hefty sandwiches that feature high-quality Boar's Head meats. The squishy bread (not a favorite of mine) sandwiches have cute names such as the Yule Gibbon (all veggies) or the popular Fred Flintstone's Club (triple-decker with ham, turkey, Swiss cheese and bacon). While I waited for my club to go, I had a double dose (2 ounces) of very sweet, just-pressed wheat-grass juice-there's also fresh pressed orange and carrot juices. The homemade chicken salad comes with greens or as a sandwich, which I chose. I like chunky chicken salad and here it is smooth in the manner of tuna with lots of mayonnaise and the crunch of chopped celery. With 23 sandwiches to choose from, and additions such as sprouts, tomato, cucumber and avocado, everything but the bread worked. Great bread from any of our local bakeries would have made an outstanding sandwich. 1146 Garnet Ave., #1, Pacific Beach. 858-274-8819. Closed Sunday and Monday.
In Encinitas' Plaza Shopping Center at the corner of Encinitas Boulevard and El Camino Real is Rico's Taco Shop. Rico's single carnitas taco is filled with soft, moist and flavorful meat, a handful of chopped lettuce and a bit of guacamole, wrapped in two tortillas for $1.85. Burritos and other standard items are on the menu, including a California burrito with carne asada, cheese, potatoes and sour cream. The place is a favorite with the high school crowd, who call in their order and then eat at the inside tables. 165 South El Camino Real, Encinitas. 760-944-7689. Open daily.
In the Kearny Mesa area, I go to Mitsuwa Market Place for take-out sushi that is high-quality and made right there in the supermarket. Mitsuwa is like a mini trip to Japan without getting on an airplane. The supermarket carries all types of Japanese foods and the sushi and sashimi are perfect for a light meal at your desk. Yes, English is spoken. 4240 Kearny Mesa Road in the Staples/CompUSA shopping center. 858-569-5599. Open daily.
Modus, a bar, lounge and supper club, opens this week in Bankers Hill. Partners Nathan Coulon (he grew up in the kitchen of his grandparents' restaurant, The Belgian Lion), and Scott Johnson (ex-general manager of Nine-Ten and Region) have done a major re-do of the dated space, and it looks to be a comfortable gathering place to try Coulon's modern European food. What that means is a "Slow Food" approach (www.slow food.com) that uses locally grown and organic foods to make everything from duck confit and French onion soup to Japanese-inspired (not fusion) dishes. The bar will feature boutique spirits, fresh sweet-and-sour mix and a worldwide eclectic wine list. 2202 Fourth Ave. 619-236-8516.
Updates on Old Town favorites: Gone from the scene completely: Casa de Bandini, Rancho El Nopal and Lino's. Casa de Pico has moved to La Mesa's Grossmont Center. 5500 Grossmont Center Drive.
Saturdays at Savory in Encinitas feature afternoon tea with finger sandwiches, scones and miniature pastries, available from 1:30 p.m. to 4 p.m. for $18.50 plus tax and tip. 267 El Camino Real. Reservations a must at 760-634-5556.