Best place to update that lame Palin 'do
Talk about prescient. Salon Tonic's opening date was 01-01-01—as in, Number One, which it has been with its customers since Day One. The salon was among the first businesses to open shop in Little Italy (1532 India St., www.salontonic.com) after the neighborhood's architectural revitalization. Housed in a Rob Quigley-designed building, Salon Tonic's interior—white-and-wood modern with small pops of color, stylish product displays (Bumble & Bumble, Bion)—keeps pace with the eye-catching exterior.
Thirteen stylists work there, two who have been onboard since the get-go, in addition to owner Sharon Daddi. All can help create a brand-new you. (Need liquid courage? They have Ballast Point on tap!) After all, as Hillary Clinton once remarked: “If I want to knock a story off the front page, I just change my hairstyle.” Same goes for breakups, new jobs, etc. A new 'do can change your outlook on everything. Bad economy? Who cares—check out my eye-grazing bangs!
Salon Tonic clients have included singer-songwriters Anya Marina, Steve Poltz and AJ Croce, a couple of the guys from Louis XIV and Grand Ole Party's Kristin Gundred. There's also an older lady who rolls up near-weekly in a chauffeured Rolls. —AnnaMaria Stephens
Best Miles worshipers
Using an original template to create jazz is not exactly something that San Diego is well-known for, but the Seesaw Ensemble (www.myspace.com/seesawensemble) might change that. They're all young, extremely talented cats carving a niche for themselves in the scene by performing in dives and playing free jazz that's somewhere between Ornette Coleman's “harmolodics” and, as Seesaw puts it, the “Pharoah Sanders Ensemble with Sun Ra sitting in.” The core unit consists of Manny Vega (bass), Zuri Waters (sax), Preston Swirnoff (piano, percussion) and the multi-talented David Hurley (mostly on drums, but he also plays a ton of other instruments, such as flute and Bulgarian bagpipes), but they're known to collaborate with poets at the Kava Lounge or with Mira Cook Dance performers at Qualcomm Hall. You could call it hipster jazz, but think of them like The Bad Plus, except without the random Nirvana and Rush covers. —Seth Combs
Best weird circus folk
Zirk Ubu has been around for only a year, but the collective of stilt walkers, fire dancers, clowns, performance artists, sword swallowers, trapeze artists, object manipulators and stand-up comedians has already reached the top rung of the circus ladder.
“When I think of Zirk Ubu,” says Derrick Gilday—aka “Dango the Kid,” who specializes in juggling, stilt walking, acrobatic balancing and more—“I think of us combining all of the circuses in San Diego, taking out all the best parts and colliding it into one crazy new show.”
Many of the performers in Zirk Ubu (www.zirkubu.com) come from the Barrio Logan-based troupe, Technomania Circus, but a falling-out inspired the formation of the new circus collaborative, which Iain Gunn, another Zirk performer, describes as more rehearsed and concept-based than Technomania.
“Pretty much,” Gunn explains, “we've based it on absurdist theater and surreal performance art, and we've been researching the history behind it all.”
In fact, the group spent six months of their first year coming up with ideas, writing and envisioning new elements. The last six months, they've seen the completion of five new shows.
Zirk Ubu does a monthly, adult-themed nighttime show at Rich's in Hillcrest every third Tuesday of the month (next show: 9:30 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 18). In various acts throughout the night, they amaze the audience with acrobatics and gross it out with the seemingly painful self-inflictions of Murrugun the Mystic, a performer who specializes in sword swallowing, fire and glass eating, yogi flossing and the sort.
“We go from topical one minute to absolutely ridiculous the next,” Gunn says. “We like to keep the audience moving from one emotional state to the next.”
When they're not being hired for special events, Zirk Ubu can be found performing the occasional kid-friendly show in Old Town or a cabaret-themed show at Sweetwater Saloon in the Hard Rock Hotel.
Whatever the context of the performance, when it comes to Zirk Ubu, it's safe to say it will be strange, deranged and wildly and weirdly entertaining.—Kinsee Morlan
Best interpretations of the taco
Enthusiasts agree that the world's best tacos can be found at Tacos Salceados on Ermita Street in Tijuana, but if you can't make the trip to the mecca of gourmet tacos, the following establishments take arresting approaches to this San Diego staple:
Tacos de Cachete—There's nothing exotic or creative about beef cheek tacos, which are standard fare south of the border, but at Romesco's Baja Mediterranean Bistro (4346 Bonita Road in Chula Vista), they're transformed into a fine-dining experience. The meat is steamed and served in a pot to trap the flavor. You may never go back to fried tacos again.
Queso Taco—At Calaco Grill (732 Fourth Ave. in the Gaslamp), first the cheese is put on the grill and then the ingredients (steak, shrimp, etc.) are enfolded in the queso. The result is a crispy treat that looks like a miniature enchilada served with sliced avocado. Just one of many extraordinary tacos on the menu. Warning: extremely addictive!
Sausage Taco—The Linkery (3794 30th St. in North Park, www.thelinkery.com) serves a daily selection of handmade sausage links made from farm-raised pork served with queso fresca, ranch dressing and a side of Santa Maria-style pinquito beans and nopales. Unexpectedly light and not the least bit greasy. Portobello tacos are available for vegetarians.
Surf 'n' Turf Taco—It's pretty hard to mess up a steak and shrimp taco, and the gang at Lucha Libre Gourmet Taco Shop (1810 W. Washington St. in Mission Hills, www.tacosmackdown.com), a Mexican-wrestling-inspired joint, does a commendable job. The fare isn't quite as impressive as the décor, but it's worth a visit.
Fried Oyster Taco—An aphrodisiacal alternative to fried white fish, compliments of South Beach Bar & Grille (5059 Newport Ave. in Ocean Beach, www.southbeachob.com). Served with a healthy amount of cabbage, the only flaw is the cheese, which doesn't belong on a fish taco. Where else would you expect to find deep-fried bottom feeders but in Ocean Beach?—Jim Ruland
Best use of chocolate—period
Since opening Eclipse Chocolat in North Park last year, Will Gustwiller's lost a significant amount of weight—surprising because he's making more chocolate concoctions than ever, though he likely expends a lot of calories simply on thinking about new creations, like sweet potato spice truffles or the white chocolate roasted corn pudding he made for a recent tasting dinner (held monthly).
“I think about it all the time,” he laughs.
Gustwiller, who has a master's degree in sculpture from San Diego State University, says he'd always had an interest in cooking, but it wasn't until he was finishing his degree that he started to think about chocolate as a material and, as he puts it, “going from making art for the eye to making art for the tongue.”
He started Eclipse four years ago with only $500, selling chocolate bars online and in local stores. With each order, he kept just enough money to live on and invested the rest back into the business until he was able to open the North Park shop and café (2121 El Cajon Blvd.).
For each month's chocolate-tasting dinner, he comes up with several dishes, based on a cuisine theme, that somehow incorporate chocolate. A roasted asparagus soup, for instance, is topped off with a white-chocolate cream; traditional Vietnamese spring rolls come with a black-bean-and-chocolate dipping sauce.
“It takes a lot of recipe testing,” he says, “taking a standard concept and throwing chocolate at it to see if it sticks.”
Gustwiller blogs about his creations, new menu additions and upcoming dinners at eclipsechocolat.blogspot.com.—Kelly Davis
Best use of soft cheese
When they arrive at the table, ricotta pancakes don't really seem all that exciting. In fact, the six beige rounds lying on the white plate only seem to mock you for ordering them. This is the Farmhouse Café (2121 Adams Ave. in University Heights, www.farmhousecafesd.com), after all, a French restaurant with entrée prices well into the “special date” range. Even for brunch, pancakes should look more enticing than that.
But then the first bite erases all doubts. Crispy on the outside, rich and citrusy on the inside, these pancakes have something to say, something profound and important and marvelous. With every bite, the words of the pancake becomes clearer, but they are still elusive, demanding more bites.
And then there's the orange sauce, the magnificent orange sauce poured over the pancakes. With that fine sauce, these pancakes rise above mere prose to angelic song, each bite enlivened by the sweetness of California citrusy sunshine. By the time the last bite is eaten, the pancakes fall silent, their song ended, the lyrics faded from memory, but the tune of the song of the pancakes is unforgettable.—Eric Wolff
Best non-Mexican food in Old Town
For many tourists, the abundant Mexican restaurants lining Old Town's San Diego Avenue are probably the closest they'll ever get to the real deal. Sure, a few of the spots are relatively authentic, but natives know better than enduring hour-long waits for carne asada when they can get comparable eats at their local hole-in-the-wall.
Even for locals, it may come as a surprise that Old Town's best inexpensive food can be found at an Italian restaurant. Steps away from the trolley stop, Pizza Bella (2707 Congress St.) has been around since 1970 and bakes the finest pie I've had during my 16 years as a San Diegan. It seems slightly pricey at first glance, but a 12-inch pizza is more than enough to fill two bellies, and coupled with a fresh salad, dinner for two costs only about $20.
What makes the pizza so tempting is the crust. While I'm also a fan of the wheat crusts served up at casual California-style places like Pizza Port and Woodstock's, Bella's crust has an edge on both, and I've sat confounded by its crispy, biscuit-like flakiness. Despite loads of cheese, a generous portion of ham and subtly blended pesto / marinara sauce, the pizza resisted sogginess through a 45-minute meal.
It doesn't hurt that the staff is incredibly friendly and the restaurant exudes a warm, home-style feel. Honestly, it's the kind of place that I'd expect Tony Soprano's goons to inhabit, but I haven't been there during the day yet. They deliver, too, so if you live nearby and haven't given Bella a shot, it qualifies as a must. You'll probably never stoop to Domino's again.—Todd Kroviak
Best baubles from abroad
Cindy McCain rocked a $280,000 pair of diamond earrings when her husband accepted his party's presidential nomination. You likely don't have the bucks for such bling, which is why the budget-minded baubles at Encinitas' DEEPfling (466 N. Coast Hwy. 101, www.deepfling.com) win our pick this year.
Everything in the charming little boutique (brainchild of a Swede, Malin Lovqvist Doyle, and her American husband Kevin) comes from Scandinavia. Turns out those Scandinavians have a flair for more than furniture—whether minimalist or maximalist, the jewelry sold at DEEPfling is gorgeously designed and totally unique. Forget glittery studs. How about a bold, leaf-engraved cuff or unforgettable fairy-charm pendant?
DEEPfling stocks the Norwegian line Bjørg (925 silver and precious stones), the Danish line Pilgrim (Liv Tyler models its sophisticated, organic styles stateside) and the Swedish line KumKum (handcrafted and elegant), among others. The boutique also carries a few items by darling Swedish clothing line Odd Molly—the quirkily patterned knits will keep you as cozy and fashionable as any fjord-hailing beauty.—AnnaMaria Stephens
Best best-friend owned clothing store
Like most good ideas, Mimi+Red was dreamed up at the kitchen table. Long-time friends Michelle Knudsen and Rhondda Begley met almost a decade ago when Begley owned the Pacific Beach clothing shop Basement (which she sold in 2000). She'd wanted to give the retail-shop-owner thing another go, and Knudsen provided the push she needed. The store opened in April 2007—only a few months after they first talked about it. The name comes from Begley's red hair and her son's nickname for Michelle (Mimi).
Mimi+Red (3032 University Ave. in North Park, www.mimiandred.com) is cozy without being crammed and eclectic without being unfocused. You'll just as easily find a vintage-inspired sweater for your office day job as you will a deconstructed black-and-white striped top to wear to a club.
“We bring a different perspective to the table,” says Begley, adding, about Knudsen, “She's young and cooler.”
Their goal, Knudsen said, was to blend higher-end items with affordable pieces—there are Betsey Johnson purses but also $12 puffy-sleeves T-shirts and under-$20 handbags that could easily pass for something four times as much. Easy-on-the-wallet necklaces and bangles hang from display racks in little nooks throughout the store.
Mimi+Red is part of the small network of North Park retail stores that support each other (they try not to overlap what they sell) and the community, too. It was Kate Ross (owner of the eponymous women's and men's clothing store just across the street from Mimi+Red) who found the location for Knudsen and Begley, and now, both stores, along with Mesh, Material and Rubber Rose, do a monthly event called Pay It Forward where proceeds from sales go to a designated charity (November's is the Princess Project, which provides prom dresses to underprivileged girls).—Kelly Davis
Best heir-apparent to Tim Mays
Having a conversation with Jackson Milgaten is similar to stepping into the eye of a hurricane—it's chaotic. At any given moment, he's apologizing for a call he has to take, or breaking, mid-thought, to say hello to someone, or dashing full-speed to save a crying kitten from a tree. Not really, but it certainly wouldn't surprise anyone.
Milgaten is a busy man. Since moving to San Diego in 2005, he's co-fronted the band The Vision of a Dying World and his new project, The Paddle Boat, created and managed Single Screen Records, once the home of punked-out super-rippers The Sess, and built a successful booking / promotion company under the moniker “Action Jackson.” Milgaten has become one of the go-to guys for bands to hit up if they need a show in San Diego. He started off organizing a few shows at the Che Café; he's now booking spots at venues all over town, including The Casbah. And at just 25, he's not stopping there. He has his eye on a few spots for an all-ages venue somewhere in the North Park / South Park area, something that San Diego is surely lacking, as the kids can attest.
Is Milgaten San Diego's new Tim Mays, (owner of The Casbah)? Only time will tell. But with the momentum he has going and his tight connection to the San Diego music community, things are looking bright. He's a testament to the powers of the D.I.Y. spirit. —Jason Bow
Best urban performer
To refer to Jennifer Quest as a street performer would be like calling John Cena just another wrestler. Her displays of fire fingers (poi), fire nunchucks and fire hula hoop have earned her the nickname Hoop Charmer, and her flaming endeavors have left her with the battle scars to prove it. “It's not that apparent now, thank God,” she said as she showed me a scar she sustained from a burn to the chest.
Quest, 24, has performed at the Playboy mansion and Burning Man and as part of Cirque du Soleil's street team.
I met up with her at the grassy area at the end of Newport Avenue in Ocean Beach for one of her flame-free “Hoop Jams” events, during which she brings enough hoops to share for some twirling fun.
Techno blared from a boombox as she hooped and contorted her body with Shakira-esque belly-dancing moves. “Anyone can do it. I just hope to inspire people and make them try new things,” she said as she gyrated, never putting her hoop down.
Just don't expect to see her hoop shopping at Wal-Mart; her colorful circles are all handmade. “It takes me about three hours each,” Quest says. “The main component is irrigation tubing; I find that it has the best PSI [pounds per square inch].”
The end product speaks for itself. “This undoubtedly is voted the best hoop that ever existed!” one Jam attendee said of her Quest-made pink-neon-striped creation.—Enrique Limon
Best creative atmosphere
Swiv Tackle Circus (530 S. Coast Hwy. in Oceanside, www.swivtacklecircus.com) first opened its doors with an art show by local artist and skateboarder Ben Horton. Since then, the gallery and boutique has held monthly art shows featuring young California artists like Horton and has carried clothing labels like Obey, artist Shepard Fairey's label; Lovewright Company, a label by San Diego skateboard Danny Reyes; and jewelry and other handmade goods by local artists and crafters.
“And we're always on the lookout for new underground, DIY stuff,” says Jeff Black, who, with his girlfriend Shaney Jo Darden, opened Swiv Tackle's doors in March.
The space is also home to artists' studios and the office of Keep-A-Breast, a nonprofit organization started by Darden that spreads the word about breast cancer.
Sometimes, like with the recent San Diego's Finest show—which featured a pin-up fashion show, breast casts painted by local artists that are now up for auction on Keep-A-Breast's website, jewelry by local artist Ginger Che, clothing by local designer Carla Manuel, burlesque performances, DJs and more—Swiv Tackle Circus becomes a center where all of Darden and Black's interests and creative facets come together.
“We wanted to combine all these different dreams into one thing,” Darden says.
“And it's become a collaboration of misfits with skills,” Black adds. “It's a new lifestyle that we're pushing.”—Kinsee Morlan
Best place to be on Tuesday evenings
For the past eight years, trumpeter Gilbert Castellanos has been blowing his horn every week at Onyx Room, the subterranean Gaslamp club (852 Fifth Ave.), for appreciative, jazz-hungry music lovers (be careful not to talk too loud—I got shushed a few weeks ago).
It's the Tuesday Night Jam Session, and it started roughly a decade ago at Ole Madrid. For the past seven months or so, Castellanos has been playing with the New Latin Jazz Project: Irving Flores on piano, Dylan Savage on drums and Danny Weller on stand-up bass, plus frequent guest musicians. They play what Castellanos calls “post-modern-bebop-slash-Afro-Cuban” and they make you feel, however briefly, that you live in a city that appreciates jazz.
“It's my baby. It's my place to work my stuff out. It's the laboratory,” he said of the session, which is sponsored by KSDS 88.3-FM. “It's a place for people to experience something unique and completely different from what San Diego has to offer.”
And the best part is that it's free. You're only out the cost of your beverages (so please tip your bartender). “At this point, it's a service,” Castellanos said. “It's the way for me to give back to the community.”
The New Latin Jazz Project will have a new album out sometime around the beginning of the year.—David Rolland
Best one-stop shopping for Moroccan goatskin lamps and stripperobics
The weird thing about Rock Paper Scissors International Galleria is that it doesn't seem to stock a lot of rocks, paper or scissors. Then again, you can find those items at a lot of places—and after its first two years, this Ocean Beach retailer (4976 Newport Ave., www.obrps.com) has found a formula for success that includes way more exotic fare. Handmade gifts and accessories from Hawaii; hand-blown glass sculpture; fashion jewelry made everywhere from Chile to Africa; Moroccan goatskin lamps: Rock Paper Scissors is truly a look-no-further venue for the best in international goods, and it's garnered a reputation for strict adherence to fair-trade practices. There's even a patio out back and a visual art studio available for rent—and if you've ever thought you have a talent for this kind of artistry (or several others), the store can help you find out. It offers classes in glassblowing, silversmithing, kick-boxing, yoga, pole dancing and even something called stripperobics. We'll leave stuff about that last one to your imagination.—Martin Jones Westlin
Best places to see public art
Aside from colorful utility boxes, San Diego has a rich tradition of artistic expression beyond the confines of museum and gallery walls.
On the support structures of the Coronado Bridge in Chicano Park can be found a series of rich and vibrant murals that describe nothing less than the history of the Latino experience in North America.
Fieldtrip Entertainment is a group of underground artists who collaborate with DJs, club promoters and hipsters to showcase live art in unconventional settings. Check them out at www.myspace.com/field tripentertainment.
In addition to the popular Urban Trees installation, now in its fifth series, the Port of San Diego is currently showcasing eight massive steel sculptures by Bernar Venet. Plus, there are plans to light up the Coronado Bay Bridge this winter.
Snake Path, Alexis Smith's 560-foot collage / sculpture takes the shape of a serpent leading to the Central Library on the UCSD campus. —Jim Ruland
Best place to purchase salt-water taffy and become a famous playwright along the way
ACT ONE: On a layover, Jeff Bushnell meets aspiring playwright Summer Golden during an improv theater class. The chemistry is instant and they fall in love.
ACT TWO: While most people their age pack up and move to Boca, they take a risk and open up a business they call North Park Vaudeville & Candy Shoppe, a vintage candy-store-meets-theater, and stage the North Park Playwright Festival (2031 El Cajon Blvd., www.northparkvaudeville.com). With 35 seats, theirs is the smallest theater in town, but it's been playing to sell-out crowds since 2004.
“We started out with 12 local plays then; this year, we're putting on 28 productions selected from over 290 entries received from as far away as Russia and Australia,” Bushnell boasted.
One of this year's selections, The Hearse by Coronado scribe Richard Markgraf, revolved around an odd love story that develops between a corpse and his funeral-coach driver—it's a play that helps cement the festival's reputation as a place for experimental theater and a breeding ground for local talent.
And even though she's in with the boss, don't expect Golden's work to be put in the production fast track. “I submitted an entry this year under a fictitious name, but it didn't get selected,” she said. “Oh well, there's always next year.”—Enrique Limon
Best place to feel the pulse of the underground
Wedged in a shoebox-size storefront on Garnet Avenue in Pacific Beach, Access Hip-Hop (1537 Garnet Ave. www.accesshiphop.com) is easy to miss. But hip-hop fans and vinyl trolls know it's there.
The place bulges with underground sounds from the genre and, best of all, features free performances by the artists that small, independent record stores support.
The first time I saw a show at Access, it turned into one of those supremely gratifying musical experiences. That day, the Grouch and PSC—members of underground hip-hop gods Living Legends—came down to Earth to spit lyrics at a crowd crammed in the tiny store like pilgrims at a holy site. The sound system broke down, but it didn't matter; the duo, performing songs from their then-new album All Over, rapped a cappella and threw the crowd into a frenzy. Afterward, they stuck around to autograph posters and talk music with fans.
Shows go down intermittently throughout the year with artists playing at Access during the day, before their night show at a local venue. The next free show at Access is on Nov. 13, when Raashan Ahmad of Crown City Rockers comes to town to plug the release of his solo debut, The Push.—Jared Mason
Best way to give power to the people
Yeah, everyone's pretty sick of elections, but if you want to see fashionable democracy in action, hit up Collarfree.com, a local T-shirt company that lets customers vote on which designs are worthy of selling. Artists and designers from across the country have submitted ideas for designs that are distinct enough to have hipsters rocking them at U-31.
Collar Free was created by local boys Patrick Dillon and Jimmy Hendricks, two former corporate (fashion) slaves who wanted to bridge the gap between consumers and designers so that both could learn from the other. “We saw that most large companies lost flexibility when all creativity was internal and realized the power of collaboration,” Hendricks said. “Most great ideas come from a designer in their studio, two guys in a garage with a computer or customers and companies working together.”
Check out Aaron Gilmore's “Words of Hope,” a tee that presents a rather unique take on the otherwise generic Obama tee with excerpts of his speeches laid out so as to resemble a picture of him. —Seth Combs
Best local bands under the radar
Astra, recent signees to U.K.-based Rise Above Records, specialize in a super-uncool vein of progressive rock, the kind played by Emerson, Lake and Palmer, Yes and post-Syd, pre-Dark Side Pink Floyd. By some miracle of the retro gods, not only does it not suck, but the band manages to make prog sound kinda good. They've been kicking around town for awhile, and as stylistic kinfolk to fellow local shredders Earthless, it's a high priority to catch them live when they're done recording their debut.
The first and only time I saw Fantastic Magic live was last December at the Tower Bar during a torrential rainstorm, and I must've been in a bad mood, because I didn't enjoy their set. But the recordings up on their MySpace page have shown me that I need to reevaluate them. Like a less-primal, more-sedate Animal Collective with Vini Reilly pitching in on guitar, it's dreamy stuff with disturbingly beautiful atmosphere to spare.
Fantastic Magic's Nathan Williams has some other tricks up his sleeve, too, and his Wavves project brings the goods with lethargic lo-fi trash-punk that's more blown-out than the surf on a windy summer afternoon at Scripps Pier. True to the current DIY revival, Wavves' aesthetic is almost as important as the music itself, and Williams' art adds significantly to the “skate or die” feel of the proceedings.—Todd Kroviak
Best local etsy-ers
Etsy is an online site where you can buy and sell handmade stuff. You can get lost for hours on Etsy, but if you want to stick with the shop-local spirit of do-it-yourself goods, head straight to the two top San Diegans on the site: www.jessyq.etsy.com, where you'll find dainty and cute handmade jewelry in the form of wise-owl necklaces, vintage mesh-bow necklaces and bird bracelets, and www.peppermintdaydreams.etsy.com, where you'll find affordable prints of the artist's original pop paintings and drawings.—Kinsee Morlan
Best place to get into the act
OK. So La Jolla Playhouse's recent Tobacco Road, about a Georgia family's fight for survival during the Great Depression, wasn't the swiftest show in the company's noteworthy history. Facts be told, the play's clumsy construction would make it read less than compellingly no matter where it was staged.
But a halfway decent venue can do something for even the most unremarkable script—and at least Tobacco Road was mounted at this region's best. The Mandell Weiss Forum, one of three major theaters in UCSD's performing-arts district (www.lajollaplayhouse.org), is a marvel of interior design. Not only does the 76-foot-wide stage thrust invitingly into the 400-seat gallery; whoever designed the performance platform didn't skimp on the area further back. There's a river of open space there for secondary sets and easy access to the quick-change areas—and lo and behold, the two greenrooms sport toilets (don't laugh; several around here don't). You can do just about anything with the Forum—and the Playhouse usually takes advantage accordingly. —Martin Jones Westlin
Best mix master (cocktails division)
Margaritas made from coconut milk? A cocktail garnished with house-cured bacon? Sometimes that stiff price for a drink is worth it, especially when ultra-creative Whisknladle bartender-in-chief Ian Ward is at the helm. The unassuming Ward sowed his spiritual oats in New York and Atlanta before heading to La Jolla, where he's known to obsess over his craft by puréeing his own juice, infusing the liquors in-house and growing and making his own ingredients. He can spend up to 10 minutes crafting one cocktail.
Don't think it's worth it? Try the crazily smooth “Smoked Pear and Vanilla” (be careful, though—they may taste as right as rain, but they're dangerous). Or forgo the usual Sunday morning bloody mary for the Thai chile-garnished London's Burning, with Tanqueray and lime juice mixed with a puréed mix of avocado, cilantro and roasted jalapeños. –V.H. McLoughlin
Best store for your thrifty home makeover
Following a recent move, I made the usual rounds through Pacific Beach's myriad thrift stores, looking for inexpensive furniture for my new place. It might have been poor timing (local college students were in the middle of their fall matriculation), but I didn't find one suitably priced table, chair, drawer or bookshelf.
A friend suggested El Cajon, especially given that it's not saturated with beach rats and poor university kids looking for a good deal. She was right. The El Cajon Salvation Army store (101 E. Main St.) is one of the largest and most meticulously maintained thrift stores I've ever seen. The warehouse-sized space is a two-level godsend for cheap furnishings. I picked up a simple, sturdy coffee table for $25, and had I been driving an F-250 Super Duty, I might have taken a couch home, too.—Todd Kroviak