Foodie news

By Candice Woo

Beer Week'nd is upon us, cheesesteaks will soon be dished out in Mission Valley, Kensington Grill undergoes a menu makeover—and more tasty bits of information

San Diego's annual Beer Week returns in November, but for those of us who can't wait that long, there's San Diego Beer Week'nd, happening Thursday through Sunday, June 10 through 13, with beer events around town, including a Beginning Brewing Class at Home Brew Mart on Thursday and a beer-and-food event at The Lodge at Torrey Pines on Friday. Dubbed “Beer Hall,” the evening features seven restaurants and breweries, including The Grill at Torrey Pines, Ritual Tavern, Blind Lady Alehouse and Small Bar and local breweries Green Flash, Ballast Point and Stone, serving craft-food and -beer pairings. Tickets for the event are $60, a percentage of which will go to support the San Diego Brewers Guild.

This month, BICE Restaurant in the Gaslamp (425 Island Ave.) is offering free valet parking to parties of two or more who come in to eat dinner before a Padres' home game (Saturday games excluded). Just drop off your car at 5 p.m. and pick it up before 11 p.m. Best bites from the menu are an octopus salad with fennel and arugula and homemade buckwheat pasta topped with potatoes, Swiss chard and a melted Italian cheese called Bitto.

The Gaglione Brothers shop, family-owned and famous for its Philly cheesesteaks and sub sandwiches, already has two locations—near the Sports Arena and in Mission Beach. This July, a third spot will open in Mission Valley, near San Diego Brewing Co.

The Adams Avenue Farmers Market has found a new permanent home at John Adams Elementary School at 4674 35th St. The bustling Wednesday-afternoon market has lots of food vendors, from Suzie's Farm and Sage Mountain Farm to cheese from Taste and fruit pops from Normal Heights' Viva Pops (try the strawberry-rhubarb or creamy key lime). A delicious new find is SoNo Trading Company, selling homemade flavored mustards and pickles and grilling up Cuban sandwiches and steak sliders using grass-fed local meat.

Kensington Grill (4055 Adams Ave.) has given its menu a makeover, with a new selection of affordable small plates and easy-to-share dishes like bruschetta boards with sweet and savory toppings, salads served family-style and small bites such as lamb meatballs, truffle tater tots and edamame with smoked sea salt. Chef Hanis Calvin is a pork aficionado, evident in his Hog Bar offerings of house-cured snacks like candied bacon and spicy pork rinds.

Coming in July to La Jolla is Tikul Coastal Mexican, a sister restaurant to Tikul in Puerto Vallarta. Located on Prospect Street, the new restaurant will feature a fresh ceviche bar and dishes like braised short rib flautas, duck enchiladas and adobo-marinated fish. Seasonal fruit will be highlighted in cocktails, from margaritas to sangrias, and the restaurant plans to stock a good selection of tequila and also hold educational tequila seminars. The owner is a musician, so live Latin and jazz music is definitely on the bill.

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Recent Reviews

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.

Pho Lucky. 9326 Mira Mesa Blvd., Mira Mesa. 858-586-7979. A pho's only as good as its broth, and Pho Lucky's base is rich and meaty-tasting. If you're not in the mood for the traditional soup, try the bo kho, a fragrant beef stew served with bread for dipping, and the shrimp-filled spring rolls.

Bencotto. 750 West Fir St., Little Italy, 619-450-4786. Bencotto serves Northern Italian dishes but also experiments with things like “Pasta Your Way” (you select the pasta and sauce pairing). The sbrisolona, a cookie-tart hybrid, is so popular that it's served to-go.

The WineSellar & Brasserie. 9550 Waples St., Suite 115, Mira Mesa. 858-450-9557. WineSellar recently brought in Chef Matt Smith, who did time at Taillevent, the famed Parisian restaurant. His menu combines classical technique with a focus on local produce and seafood. He's also working to become a certified sommelier and every Saturday afternoon offers a pairing menu.

Pozoleria Dona Maria. 1660 Broadway, Chula Vista, 619-425-8820. Dona Maria specializes in the iconic Mexican dish pozole, a hearty pork-based soup that comes with an abundance of add-in items. Also good here are the sopes—griddle cakes topped with stew—and, for dessert, the flan is a don't-miss item.

Bud's Louisiana Café. 4320 Viewridge Ave., Suite A, Kearny Mesa. 858-573-2837. The former Little Italy eatery's moved to Kearny Mesa, but still serves NOLA favorites like crawfish (when they're in season), po' boy sandwiches, étouffées and an excellent, deceptively simple, red beans and rice.

Annapurna 10606 Camino Ruiz, Suite 6, Mira Mesa, 858-578-0100. For fans of Indian food, especially Southern Indian, you'll find dishes here that are available nowhere else, like traditional dum biryani—a sort of pie that contains layers of marinated meat, basmati rice and a bunch of other tasty ingredients.

Bread & Cie. 350 University Ave., Hillcrest, 619-683-9322. The longtime Hillcrest breadmaker might be ubiquitous (you can find B&C bread at local grocery stores and restaurants) but serves items in-shop that you can't get anywhere else, like housemade granola and pastries, and sandwiches for which the variety of bread's paired with its filling (like smoked salmon on a lemon pugliese bread).

Huynh Hoa Tuu. 4660 El Cajon Blvd., City Heights, 619-280-4999. The menu at this Vietnamese restaurant is more than 100 items long, but quantity doesn't seem to effect quality. If you're brave, try the frog legs in curry sauce. Less-adventurous eaters should opt for one of the broken-rice dishes, any of the curries or the sweet-and-sour shrimp soup

Claire's on Cedros. 246 North Cedros Ave., Solana Beach, 858-259-8597. Claire's—open only for breakfast and lunch—is worth a trip simply to see its environmentally friendly, award-winning design. The menu features made-from-scratch American standards like pancakes (or “Clairecakes”), a vegetarian twist on eggs Benedict and creative sandwiches on homemade bread.

Tea Garden. 4685 Convoy St., Suite 110, Kearny Mesa. 858-277-8988. With free wi-fi, comfy couches, magazines and board games, it's like a coffeehouse—only the specialty here is Asian tea drinks (like boba). The menu also includes savory dishes like fried popcorn chicken and pan-fried dumplings and Taiwanese three-cup chicken.

Pop's Jersey Style Cheese Steaks. 1730 Garnet Ave., Pacific Beach. 858-483-2600. Despite the “Jersey,” Pop's assembles Philly-native-approved cheese-steak sandwiches. “Mama” Francesca Guadagni brews up batches of homemade marinara sauce in addition to tiramasu and perfect cannolis.

Mariscos Godoy. 651 Palomar St., Chula Vista. 619-425-8594. Godoy serves cuisine from the Sea of Cortez-adjacent Sinaloa—ceviche, aguachile (raw seafood cooked in a chilled lime-juice bath) and torito chiles—kind of like jalapeño poppers, but better. If you're up for tacos, try the taco gobernador, a marriage of taco and quesadilla.

Ume No Ya. 8650 Miramar Road, Suite B, Mira Mesa. 858-271-6162. Mayumi Sato opened this restaurant more than 20 years ago with her chef husband and has since won over Japanese natives, who come here for the simple comfort food. Standouts include the donburi bowl, nabeyaki udon and eggplant-in-ginger-marinade appetizer.

Extraordinary Desserts. 1430 Union St., Little Italy. 619-294-7001. The Little Italy location is about more than the sweets, especially during happy hour, when half paninis with a side of house-made kettle chips are $6, as is the grilled cheese sandwiches, varities of which include fontina with roasted poblanos and pumpkin-seed pesto and aged cheddar with sundried tomato and green-olive tapenade.

La Puerta. 560 Fourth Ave., Downtown. 619-696-3466. It can get a little noisy when the DJs and Gaslamp crowds show up at night, so if you're looking for a slightly quieter meal, hit up La Puerta during happy hour (daily from 3 to 7 p.m.). The tequila selection is exhaustive, the street tacos and home-made guacamole excellent and no afternoon snack is complete without an order of tostaditas.

Chin's. 9355 Kearny Mesa Road, Miramar. 858-536-2300. Housed in a Holiday Inn, Chin's is an unlikely place to find traditional Chinese food. But from 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. on weekends, it serves dishes like zha jiang mein—sautéed pork with wheat noodles covered in a savory sauce—Shanghai rice cakes and various breads and pastries.

Pizzeria Bruno Napoletano. 4207 Park Blvd., University Heights. 619-260-1311. Owner Peter Lutz is not only a certified Verace Pizza Napoletana maker, but he also imported the custom-built wood-fired grill in which he makes his pizzas straight from Naples. Stop by during happy hour, Tuesday through Friday from 4 to 7 p.m., when wines are $4 and a small pizza is $5.

Mien Trung. 7530 Mesa College Drive, Linda Vista, 858-576-0962. Mien Trung is one of the few spots in town that serves bun bo hue, a noodle soup from the Hue province. Other varieties of noodle soups and rice dishes fill out the menu, as well as an assortment of Vietnamese snacks like banh bot loc (tapioca flour dumplings filled with bits of shrimp and pork and then steamed).

Fabrison's French Creperie Café & Boutique. 1425 India St., Little Italy. The Franco-American café is reminiscent of something you might find in the south of France and serves a full menu of the French filled-and-folded thin pancakes, from savory to sweet, in addition to sandwiches and salads.

Georgia's Greek Cuisine. 3550 Rosecrans St., Midway. Georgia and family have been running a restaurant for three decades, during which time they've perfected dishes like stuffed grape leaves, or dolmades, and the mousaka (layers of creamy béchamel sauce, meat, fried eggplant and zucchini).

Pinto Thai. 3381 Adams Ave., Normal Heights. 619-228-2298. The cozy restaurant is the latest addition to what's becoming Normal Heights' own restaurant row. While there are plenty of meat options here, veggies will love the variety of meatless items, like the pumpkin curry and green curry with eggplant. The homemade coconut ice cream's also a good bet.

Bull Taco. 2050 S. Coast Hwy. 101, Encinitas. 760-436-6601. What's basically a taco stand near San Elijo State Beach serves gourmet street tacos with fillings like shrimp curry and lobster, conch, duck confit and even calf's brains. Plans call for a second sit-down location in Oceanside, set to open in early 2010.

The Wrangler Family Barbecue. 901 El Cajon Blvd., El Cajon. 619-442-1170. Don't worry about getting lost on your way there—you'll probably smell Wrangler Barbecue before you see it. Opened in 1965, not much has changed at the East County spot in the last four decades, including the secret-recipe sauce. Recommended are the pork spare ribs and, surprisingly enough, the ham.

Siete Mares. 2234 Logan Ave., Barrio Logan. 619-234-3474. The family-owned restaurant, open for three decades, might seem humble in looks, but few locations in San Diego serve up comfort food like their tasty seafood soups with warm corn tortillas on the side. Afterwards, walk up a couple blocks to Latte Mi Corazon for a MexiMocha.

Station Sushi. 125 N Highway 101, Solana Beach. 858-481-9800. Located across from the Solana Beach train station (hence the name), Station packs 'em in with super-sized rolls with quirky names like the Monkey Stick, a no-rice roll loaded with spicy tuna, crab, avocado, albacore and tempura, or the Slippery When Wet, a shrimp tempura roll of crab, eel and avocado.

Enoteca Adriano. 4864 Cass St., Pacific Beach. 858-490-0085. Located in a charming cottage, Adriano offers friendly service, a great selection of Italian wines and well-paired snacks and a signature dessert called “The Pope's Pillow.” The initially small pasta menu, though, can be hit-or-miss.

OB Noodle House and Sake Bar. 2218 Cable St., Ocean Beach. 619-450-6868. Brothers Steven and Kyle Yeng followed in the family food-business tradition, opening this popular neighborhood spot in 2008. The drink menu includes creative sake infusions (like habanero chilies) while the food menu takes its inspiration from the brothers' mom's home cooking.

Elizabethan Desserts. 155 Quail Gardens Drive, Encinitas. 760-230-6780. Our food critic, Candice Woo, is “absolutely mad” about the pies served here. Need we say more? If pies aren't your thing, also good are the Diggity Dang (think Hostess Ding Don on steroids) and the gooey-good St. Louis butter cake.

Nazca Grill. 4310 Genesee Ave., Clairemont. 858-560-0873. Nazca takes chicken seriously, roasting it up Peruvian style—juicy with a crisp skin. Another good option is causa nazca, a light chicken salad sandwiched between layers of chilled mashed potato seasoned with yellow chilis. Wash it all down with a glass of chicha morada, made from purple corn, cinnamon and cloves.

RK Cafe Sushi. 334 W. Washington St., Mission Hills, 619-574-6630. The place that used to be called Rice King has reopened as a cozy “comfort” sushi joint serving reasonably priced, tasty rolls, noodle and rice bowls and can't-say-no drink specials ($5.25 for two large sakes).

George's at the Cove, 1250 Prospect St., La Jolla. 858-454-4244. You have three dining options: George's California Modern dining room or the more affordable George's Bar (bistro fare) and Ocean Terrace. The open-air seating area is where you can get George's famous fish tacos, topped with guacamole, mango salsa and jalapeño-lime crème fraiche.

Hudson Bay Seafood Restaurant. 1403 Scott St., Point Loma. 619-222-8787. It can be a little difficult to locate (look behind Point Loma Sports Fishing). The spot's been recently overhauled by its new owners, who've added a decent list of local and regional beers and serve up seafood tacos that have landed on our new “favorites” list. Other seafood options, all fresh and local, are served three ways: on a salad, in a sandwich or with a side of french fries or roasted red potatoes.

Big Joy Family Bakery & Café. 4176 Convoy St., Kearny Mesa, 858-627-0888. The Kim family has owned and operated Big Joy for the last five years, baking beautifully decorated cakes as well as Asian desserts, artisan breads (the petite raisin nut is the best) and traditional sweets from other countries.

Sitar Indian Cuisine. 9450 Scranton Road, Suite 114C, Sorrento Valley, 858-535-1941. Located in one of the better food courts in San Diego, Sitar is a favorite lunchtime spot for Qualcomm employees. If you can't make it for lunch, they also do a Saturday-night-only dinner buffet where traditional Indian favorites, including excellent biryani and veggie pakoras, are served.

Ranas Mexico City Cuisine. 9683 Campo Road, Spring Valley, 619-589-1792. CityBeat's Candice Woo says Ranas' mole sauce is the best she's had in town. Need we say more? The family-owned eatery has gained a solid reputation for its authentic, quality cuisine that makes its Spring Valley location worth the drive.

Café 222. 222 Island Ave., Downtown. 619-275-4114. Waffles are the draw here, and while the pumpkin variety could be more pumpkin-y, you can't go wrong with deliciously nutty-tasting cornbread waffle. Your pup will love chillin' on the pet-friendly patio.

Andre's Restaurant. 1235 Morena Blvd., Linda Vista. 619-275-4114. One of San Diego's few authentic Cuban restaurants, Andre's serves generous portions of favorites like pork marinated in Carribean spices (pierna de puerco asada) and arroz con gandules. For a snack, there's the tostones with mojo or a cup of café con leche.

Robataya Oton. 5447 Kearny Villa Road, Kearny Mesa. 858-277-3989. The “father” to Okan's “mother,” this Japanese joint offers delicious small plates of grilled delicacies. The short rib and mussels are perfectly grilled with just a little char on the edges, and the ever-changing desserts are worth saving room for. All that plus an exceptional sake menu, and you have an excellent guys night out.

Muzita Bistro. 4651 Park Blvd., University Heights. 619-546-7900. Owned and operated by a local Eritrean family, Muzita is elegant without being pretentious. The best bets here are the vegetarian dishes, which you scoop up with pieces of traditional injera bread.

The Fishery. 5040 Cass St., Pacific Beach. 858-272-9985. The dine-in location of seafood distributor Pacific Shellfish offers a weekly tasting menu on Tuesdays—in addition to a regular menu—that spotlights a fresh catch.

Churchill's Cigar Lounge. 2415 San Diego Ave., Old Town. 619-546-7758. The drink list is long and includes selections to complement your choice of smoke. There's no food here, however; for that, you'll have to head over to Old Town Gourmet Café next door, where you can order a cheese plate, chocolates or something more substantial that'll be delivered to your table.

Continent European Deli. 4150 Regents Park Row, La Jolla. 858-623-0099. The place to go for Eastern European specialties like caviar, smoked fish, Russian cheese and breads and a variety of stuffed eggplant. There are also home-made piroghkis and traditional candies, chocolates and pastries.

Sang Dao. 5421 El Cajon Blvd., Rolando, 619-263-0914. This family-owned and operated spot cooks up traditional dishes from their home country of Laos. If you're brave, order your dishes “Lao spicy”; the timid can opt for Thai style.

Downtown Johnny Brown's. 1220 Third Ave., Downtown. 619-232-8414. The pub-like eatery has an impressive rotating beer selection that complements grub like the Aztec burger (with jack cheese and a roasted Anaheim chili) and a tasty veggie burger.

Bianco Rosso / Arrivederci. 3841-45 Fourth Ave., Hillcrest. 619-299-6282. Arrivederci recently added a next-door wine bar where you can enjoy a pre-meal vino and nibble on tasty bruschetta while you await your table.

Min So Chon. 4620 Convoy St., Kearny Mesa, 858-560-8168. Good for late-night eats like kimchi tofu stew, spicy chicken wings and stone-pot bibimbap. The dining area is filled with folksy, lantern-lit wooden booths, but steps away are modernly equipped private karaoke rooms.

3rd Corner Bistro. 2265 Bacon St., Ocean Beach, 619-223-2700. Items like baked goat cheese, mussels in a white wine sauce and chocolate-chip bread pudding are complemented by the self-serve wine shop where you just fetch another bottle when you're done with the first, or the second.

Yakitori Yakyudori. 3739 6th Ave., Hillcrest, 619-692-4189. The restaurant is open only Wednesday through Sunday, but it stays open until 1 a.m. There are tasty specials like crackly crusted cubes of silken tofu or heads of fried garlic and skewers of meats and vegetables that get extra flavor from the smoking charcoal. Save room for the black sesame ice cream.

Super Sergio's. 4125 Convoy St., Kearny Mesa, 858-560-6902. One of San Diego's top drive-through Mexican joints, they do good renditions of all your taco-shop favorites, including an addictive hot sauce and nachos topped with pollo asada. They cook until 3 in the morning and reopen again at 6 a.m.

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 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. If you're into foie gras (and we hope you're not), they do a version covered in Pop Rocks. If you're looking for something more user-friendly, the beet salad and seafood stew are both excellent.

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.

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.

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.

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:

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.paulyspizzasta

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.

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.

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.