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Stories by Ed Bedford

Italian comfort food — plus Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin — on Palm Ave. in Imperial Beach

I just want to eat, drink, not think.

Cool evening. Aboard the 934. Swinging east along Palm in I.B. Cruising past 10th, 11th, Florida. I’m craning my neck. “Know any good places to eat along Palm?” I ask the driver. “Like, good, but ...

Get control of the spice at Aaharn Thai

Street nuts

Nuts make you talk. Nuts make you cry. I’m chewing Thai nuts while Phon, Cheri, Lynn, and I talk on about the king of Thailand. King Bhumibol Adulyadej. He died six months ago, but for ...

Chomps dogs by the seashore

The sun’s last horizontal rays make my hot dogs look especially red and delicious.

"Never?” “Never.” The three of us stand, jaws on the floor. Cameron, me, Lavonn. “Trust me,” says Eoghan, “Michaela has never eaten a hot dog in her life. Me neither.” We’re standing on a deck ...

Two-dog night

Low-budget scarf trawl in the Gaslamp

Gaslamp. Monday night. It’s a concert, for one. Sarah the street violinist has got me glued to her spot on the sidewalk at Fifth and F. Because, hey, she’s playing Umm Kulthum’s “Enta Omri” — ...

How to drink tea in Tehran

Taste thrill downtown at Darband

“Well, look around you,” she says. “It’s real. Close your eyes and we could be in Tehran.”

Snack, song, and friendly people at Chiquibaby’s

Splot on

"Siempre doy gracias al cielo de ser/ Tan afortunado! The Queen of Chiquibaby belts it out with Joan Sebastian. (“I always give thanks to heaven to be/ So fortunate!”) Everybody belts it out with her, ...

Sweet, cushiony cakes in National City

“The aunt of the first owner. It’s her secret recipe we use for our pancakes, still.”

"Attack of the Killer Pancake. Now Showing.” It’s this movie-house marquee in a painting that hangs above the welcome desk. I’m in this very ’60s coffee house. All stone, glass, and wood. Just got in ...

Beereakfast at Craft Kitchen leaves me wanting a morning nap

A steamy, spicy mess

Hmm. Chilaquiles. Coffee. Beer. Beer. My Sunday brunch. Not just me. Guy on my right is downing a pint of “Dank & Sticky IPA,” think he says. Couple on my left is full-chomp into steaks, ...

Pulled-pork sandwich hunted down in Hillcrest

“Yes, it’s our smoker. We have it going pretty much all the time.”

Huh. A smoker. And smoking away right now. Not some guy — a wood-burning meat smoker. I’m loping up Indiana Street. Where it forks into Park and Robinson, and right beside a li’l ol’ bungalow, ...

Take your tongue on a side-trip to East Africa

By way of Burundi

"Whooo! Whooo!” This is Mary Beth and her friend Jef. Waving their arms, pointing their fingers, whooping like werewolves, doing a dance in place here in row 32 at SDSU’s Viejas Arena. Confession: This is ...

La Jolla grub-hunt started out innocently enough

“Hey, we’re helping the earth. You’re not against that...are you, Ed?”

Lord. Trying to concentrate. Ten percent, double it, aargh! Sixteen bucks. And that’s just the tip. Total for this lunch, $105.97. I try not to let it show as I usher the two ladies out. ...

Go Biga downtown, mop the plate

“He keeps that batch of ‘live’ dough from one day to the next. It’s the life of the bread.”

I look at my chunk of bread. Just think, Napoleon ate this. Could have. Really. This bread. That’s how long it’s been going. Back in 1815, Battle of Waterloo and all that, this exact same ...

Fill your piehole Japanese style

Grilled squid, sautéed pork ginger, lemon chicken, sautéed pork kimchi, on and on, $3.95 each.

"Hi! Welcome! Yókoso!” It’s this lady at the cashier desk. Love that about Japanese eateries. I know it’s just business, but welcomes like this kinda make you feel good. I had just hopped off the ...

Engulf the Garlic Shack

The powers of garlic

"Soju!” says my buddy Ernesto. “Au jus?” “No, soju. What’ve you been talking about, on and on? Soju? Korean sake? Then it clicks. ’Cause I have been going on about soju and how it’s gonna ...

New Zealand in Little Italy, Spain in the Gaslamp

Overseas outposts

Water. Adam’s Ale. Hobo cocktail. Sky juice. Call it whatever, it’s one of the few things around that’s still actually free. And — hey hey! — today, water made it possible for me to finagle ...

Healthy happy hour in La Jolla

Greed cometh

New year resolution time: gonna eat healthy. Gonna eat less. Gonna live on nuts and twigs. Or...eat Thai? ’Cause I keep seeing Thai cuisine on lists of the world’s healthiest diets. And especially my all-time ...

As tilapia goes by

“Oh, wow!” says Mary Beth. “Ed, you’ve gotta try this shrimp soup. It’s the best.”

Oh, boy. Fish looks up at me from the plate. His open mouth seems to be saying something. “Help!” “See that?” I ask Mary Beth. “Your imagination,” she says, “is running rampant. It’s a tilapia. ...

Party with a platter of carnitas at El Pachanguero

Leona's lush carnitas

"I need a novio!” This is Leona. She’s standing by as I chow into her lush carnitas, basically slow-cooked pork on a plate loaded with frijoles, grated cotija cheese, avocado slices, pico de gallo, and ...

Goat is my game

Bleat-worthy meats in National City

"Se habla English!!” That’s what it says on the menu I’m checking out, here in National City. It also says “Birrio de Chivo, Guadalajara-style, perfected in Tijuana and imported into the USA.” Perfect. Because tonight, ...

Sunday chow

Out of the rain in City Heights, scarfing two rambunctious tacos

"Sorry about your leader.” “Thank you. But it’s been a long time. Thirty years since I left.” Raul’s from Cuba. I want to ask what he feels about Fidel. But conversation drifts. We happen to ...

San Diego Guide to Holiday Fun

Even if yuletide music burns your cochlea on contact ... something for you

I read somewhere that the reason you’re sad around Christmastime is because it’s a reminder of what you’ve lost since childhood: the belief that the world is a magical place that is interested in your ...

Gateway drug to Indian cuisine

Zing follows every crunch at Bawarchi Dosa

They’re lining up to get in. The wedding party. Actually, not the wedding party. These are the aunts and uncles and parents who’ve come to sample dishes for their daughter’s wedding breakfast they’ve booked here ...

The Bar One sausage saps Ed's resistance

“That one is really good,” says Alex. “I like the spicy.”

We’re walking, walking — hold it! Swear this used to be a hair salon. But now we’re looking at a kind of Italian bar that spills out onto the sidewalk. I try to figure out ...

Straight into bed

Caramelized onion and short rib make crazy love together between the buns

"Uh, is that Russian you’re speaking?” Long silence. “Not Russian. Romanian.” The guy looks at me. “Excuse me for saying so, but next time you are not sure, it is better to suggest Czech, or ...

Fill up on tamed-tiger kung pao at Imperial Express

“True kung pao should have only ‘facing heaven’ chili peppers and Sichuan peppercorns.”

"Midnight, dude.” This guy and I just happen to fall in step walking away from Father Joe’s, into the dusk of Imperial Avenue. “Midnight?” “Everybody’s waiting for midnight. Look around you,” he says. “There’s a ...

Sophisticated stuff at the Dog Haus

Dawgs off the chain

"Go!” This is Carla. “You can make it!” Eight. Friday night. Tapped out. Cupboard’s bare. Broke, broke, pelado. Except, heh-heh, just saw an ad that says free hot dogs today and tonight only, at the ...

From Paris to the I.B. pier

“Marc started this as Pretzels and More in 2008. By 2013 he was exhausted, about to sell up.”

This is your brain on veggies. I mean, look at it. You’d swear that’s what this was. It’s brain-shaped. It has all the wrinkles and bulges, the bike-helmet shape. Except it’s not a brain, it’s ...

Meet the sake master

“Drink out of the corner or you might get some...spill.” Too late.

Am I seeing things? Like, I notice a gal at the entrance of a crowded eatery, speaking Japanese, and giving elaborate bowing farewells to two customers. We’re near 13th and Market. A sign says “BeShock ...

Kebabs and the Dark Side

From Turkey, by way of the Hyatt

One thing about East Village’s Quartyard: they have a good turnaround of food trucks. Tonight it’s this flashy Ford F-350 towing a trailer into the space off Market Street where people, dogs, and bars and ...

The whole half-yard at Hungry’s

“You San Diego guys wimp out that easy? Drink! Drink! Drink! Drink!”

"Milwaukee.” “San Diego.” “Milwaukee!” “Saan Diy-egow!” “’Scuse me. Ever hear of Miller? Schlitz? Pabst? Old Milwaukee? And you’re trying to tell me San Diego is the beer capital of America?” Did I mention Saf is ...

Jump into a viper pit of ramen noodles

Island of goodies at Ramen Yamadaya

Wow. Downtown. This scuzziest part of Broadway, around Fifth, is suddenly taking off. Guess the facelift started with the opening of the park at Horton Plaza, but now eateries are opening one after the other, ...

Big on jork

The ancients called Chinese porridge the “first healthy food under heaven.”

The Eight Immortals are Crossing the Seas. They float by, riding paper mules, lotus flowers, flower baskets, aboard feather fans, storks, even a discarded crutch. People love the Eight Immortals. They represent prosperity and long ...

Something fat and juicy from the El Rorro taco truck

"The shrimp are from the ocean, not farmed. And my wife and I made all the recipes.”

"My latest review?” says Justin, “I got — see here? — 71,816 views.” OMG. He’s right. I’m staring at his phone. It shows stats from Yelp. He’s a Yelper. Has reviewed about 200 places he’s ...

Jazzed on the mango sauce at Bourré Southern Bistro

Southern enough

“This is the downtown of your dreams. All of the music and food, none of the parking hell.”

Happy hamburgers

Eat for a fraction of what regular customers pay

Hey, all this talk about how the rich are shutting out the rest of us? How come in the past ten years happy hour has increased by, oh, 3 zillion percent? No self-respecting luxury eatery ...

Beloved Egg Nazi

Six-dollar bacon, eggs, and toast

“Now I have taken over this place. And that will soon be my mobile kebab business.”

Skip the steak; leave Garden Kitchen happy

"Our customers are big on vegetables."

Peppers as dinner? Never would’ve done this, except for one fact. It’s a Friday. Not a payday. Low on dough but high on peppers. I’ve just spent four bucks on “blistered red shishito peppers, in ...

Tear off and eat the blanket covering Bosnian street food

“If we could bring in young calves and lamb from Bosnia, we would.”

"Dobro vecé!” This is me, greeting Ismet Sahic beside his truck. It’s 8 p.m., and Quartyard, here at Park and Market, is Sunday-night mellow. A floodlit rack of people sits drinking and chatting at the ...

A week to finish a stack of Du Par's hot cakes

This could take awhile. Turns out I’m his first full-stack order since they opened.

Uh-oh. Last Chinese restaurant in Chinatown just bit the dust. Lucky Liu’s has closed. And before Unlucky Liu’s, Red Pearl came unstrung. Silver lining? Today, where Red Pearl used to be, I discover a brand-new ...

Israeli food is drenched in history at 2Brothers

Genuine Mediterranean

“Our pita bread? We import it from Israel. U.S. pita is made from different flour.”

Eat your torta

Overdoing it at Oscar's in Baja La Jolla

"Where are we?” I really want to know. Lord knows I’ve bounced by here often enough in the #30 bus. Mike and his lady Rachel and me and a dozen other people are sitting on ...

This human thing going on

Small, original restaurants with real people

Could there be classier places than the ones on this list? For sure. Cheaper? Yes. Cooler? Of course. But the places I find myself going back to have this human thing going on. They’re small, ...

At Jimmy's Famous, stuffed like an overnight bag

Zing to it

Just imagine: A shipload of starving, scurvy-ridden Spanish sailors struggling ashore through the tidal mud flats and seeing...this? A deck full of tourists and well-heeled Diegans scarfing away at ribs, burgers, and cervezas? They missed ...

Like the real chitlin

“They’re pasta, not actual pork rinds,” Amy warns. But, three bucks, so I get them anyway.

It’s Winona! Winona Ryder! You would swear. Straight out of The Age of Innocence. Those eyes, that quizzical smile. Okay, Winona turns out to be Amy. She’s helping run the bar of this terrazza in ...

Tender is the meat at Center Cut Steakhouse

“Chef Ramon ages each steak for two weeks and slow roasts it for six hours.”

At first, I’m thinking Tacos El Gordo, because it’s near Chula Vista’s H Street trolley. Then I go in. Wall-to-wall! Three lines stretching right to the doors. Fuggedaboutit. And, actually, a steak’s what I’ve got ...

Dumb and tender

“Maine lobster’s sweeter. West Coast lobster can be downright chewy.”

"Over here!” It’s the beautiful Carla. Fresh from her frou-frou session at Diane’s salon (“Diane is the only person in this world who understands my coiffure needs, darling”) here on the Emerald Isle of Coronado. ...

A shrimp taco at the Market Hall

Greed is good

This was where I learned to appreciate the humble carrot. It started simply enough. I was heading along Market past that cool newish condo tower Strata, when I came across this sign: “Café Now Open.” ...

Pupusa ceremony

“These foods we cook are ancient and more healthful than Mexican or American food.”

"You can sit over here if you like,” says this guy over in the booth. He’s noticed me craning my head to catch the Costa Rica game. Against mighty Colombia. Copa América. David and Goliath. ...

No mashed gristle

Tomato and lettuce are nice and crisp. Cheddar’s sharp, onions give it sweetness.

Hmm... Which whiskey? The Glenfiddich 40-year-old costs $1049 per shot. A jigger of Benchmark costs $1. I hesitate. “Gimme the Gl…Glenfid…d’uh, no. I guess I’ll take the Benchmark,” I say. The $1 Benchmark is part ...

Too much deliciosity

“You should come back any night during this Ramadan season. We have a special feast.”

I arrived too early. For Ramadan, that is. This was before last Sunday, when Ramadan began. I came because I was curious about what you eat if you are Muslim and fasting for the month. ...

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