3667 India Street, Mission Hills
Blackened shark sandwich — Blue Water
They do lots of things well at Blue Water. Grace says the shrimp taco has the best shrimp she’s had anywhere in the city. But they have to be offering something pretty special to keep me from biting the shark sandwich ($7.25.) Shark is not quite the steak of fish — that would probably be swordfish. More like the pork cutlet — a touch more delicate, a shade more tender, but still meaty. Blackening picks up the flavor. Avocado mellows the red onion. Tartar sauce makes it tingle. And oh that Boleo roll: how can something so soft still provide exterior support? Pair with some of San Diego’s better onion rings ($4.25) — on the big and crispy end of the spectrum. The line can get silly, but they keep it moving.
4030 Goldfinch Street, Mission Hills
Chicago dog or meatball sandwich — Lefty’s Chicago Pizzeria
It’s so easy to just get the pizza. The pizza is very good; you won’t find better sausage on top. But you’d be remiss to miss the dog, because there’s love in a Chicago dog ($4.75). Two types of pickle — the minced relish and the long spear, each making their textural additions. Poppy seeds on the toasted bun. The heat of onions and peppers. The trail of mustard. The absence of ketchup and the presence of tomato. “It’s all here,” said Grace as she paused halfway. “It’s a meal in a basket.” (There were fries, of course — the tender, skin-on kind.) But I go for the meatballs ($8.50). They’re ground so fine they’re almost balls of softly packed pate. And don’t let the bright red sauce fool you — those puréed tomatoes are anchored by of the dark weight of sweet grease. No cheese required.
7604 Linda Vista Road, Clairemont
Bánh mì: K Sandwiches
The bread is the star here — a narrow length of sweet, airy, cracker-crusted baguette. Inside is a melange of cilantro, daikon, jalapeños, pickled carrots, and house mayo. After that, you pick the meat. The house special #1, made with three varieties of Vietnamese ham, is the most popular, and for good reason. Of course, it is also possible to get a standard club sandwich on your baguette, or on one of the oversized croissants (there’s an in-house bakery). Nothing will cost you over $4.30. Special bakery bonus: crisp, just-sweet fried crackers, $2.50 a dozen.