As CityBeat's new restaurant writer, let me introduce myself. Food has been my beat for more than 25 years as a teacher, caterer, television personality and author. In this column, I'll share my passion for terrific food, no matter where it's cooked-a hole in the wall, a place with white tablecloths or at home. Expect the unexpected as I travel near and far to keep you up to the minute on what's good (or why it's not). In the Tidbits section you'll find late-breaking news about chefs, restaurants (opening and closing) and perhaps a little gossip about our food scene.
Now that that's been dispensed with, let's get on with it:
Ocean Beach is fast becoming a hip spot for food and wine. One of my favorites for both is The 3rd Corner Wine Shop and Bistro. Owner Ed Moore's concept is unique: retail wine store, full bar and short bistro menu.
Cruise the store for a bottle, pay a $5 corkage fee and order a bite to eat with your wine. Unfinished bottles are corked and bagged for you to take home (in the trunk of your car, of course). Best of all, you can sip and nibble long after most places close as the kitchen is open until 1 a.m.
The small bistro menu is what it is. Nothing fancy, nothing costing more than $13-just basics like an artisan cheese plate, olive and paté samplers, a smoked salmon plate and a very good classic whole-leaf Caesar that includes white anchovies and homemade garlic croutons with bread from Point Loma's Con Pane bakery. Substantial dishes include well-flavored and tender short ribs with mashed potatoes, a fresh fish of the day and spicy pasta with fresh tomatoes, mushrooms and pesto all balanced with a squeeze of lemon. It hit my spot on a chilly afternoon.
The prime-time weekend wait for a table can stretch to an hour or more because of limited patio, sofa and banquette seating, and no reservations are accepted. But the service is knowledgeable and attentive. I particularly love that wine is served in proper glasses similar to the Spiegelaus that you can buy there for $35 (six in a box). 2265 Bacon St., Ocean Beach, 619-223-2700. Open from 11 a.m. to 1:30 a.m., closed Monday. www.the3rdcorner.com
Just down the street is another spot, The Vine. This comfortable corner restaurant has large picture windows and seating that faces Bacon Street at Niagara Avenue. It's a wine bar with a short menu of savories and other foods that complement a worldwide selection of beers and wines by the glass or bottle.
The white tablecloths don't mean high prices for food-lamb chops with a cabernet reduction sauce top the list at $13.95. Try the grilled bacon-wrapped scallops that aren't overcooked, ahi tartar with black and green olive tapenade and garlic toast and the mixed board of cheeses and meats. 1851 Bacon St., Ocean Beach, 619-222-8463. Open 4 to 10 p.m. Sunday and Tuesday through Thursday, and 4 to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Closed Monday. www.theobvine.com
For $2 beers, $3 shots, a pool table and no food, I joined friends at Pacific Shores, a trippy Ocean Beach bar that opened Dec. 8, 1941. Its quirky interior, with neon sea-animal paintings on the black walls behind the booths, is unusual and fun. Three huge white scallop shells adorn the ceiling over the long bar. Black lights shine on the walls and near the booths, making drinks containing quinine eerily light up-like I said, it's a trip.
On Sunday and Monday, Ruth effortlessly tends the bar with a quick wit and gravelly voice; it seems like she's been there forever. You don't have to ask for another beer; she wordlessly checks your bottle and pops another up. 4927 Newport Ave., Ocean Beach, 619-223-7459. Open daily from 10 a.m.
Big news: Ed Moore's Thee Bungalow, the well-known Ocean Beach restaurant, will join the Cohn family of restaurants (Indigo Grill, Island Prime and others) in late March. The sale will allow Moore to concentrate on The 3rd Corner and other ventures in the area. For now, expect few changes as the Cohns plan to keep the concept as is.
In Hillcrest, Rannoosh Leban-ese Cuisine opened New Year's Eve. They serve traditional Lebanese dishes, including hummus and kebabs, all made from scratch. I'll be trying it soon. 3890 Fifth Ave., 619-325-1360. Open daily from 11 a.m.
À La Française, the longtime breakfast and lunch place in Mission Hills, will relocate in the next few weeks to Normal Heights at the historic building that houses Rosie O'Grady's. Owner Peggy Novick plans to keep the menu as is with a few new additions. 3416 Adams Ave. 619-294-4425.
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