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Stories by Ian Pike

Overpriced underperformer

Gaslamp sushi contender Full Moon plays at being upscale, delivers mediocre quality at elevated prices

Gaslamp newcomer, Full Moon Sushi, spent extra time in the buildout phase, but that’s OK, since the restaurant ended up with a very chic look. Mid-century American cues combine with Japanese-ish touches, like the shōji-inspired ...

Is Common Theory a better beer bar?

Convoy's new hipster beer garden could be more than just another trendy pub

San Diego needs another restaurant serving craft beer and tarted-up pub grub like it needs another mayoral scandal. But there’s one neighborhood that’s remained more or less free from badge logos, kale, and people sticking ...

Blush Desserts makes Convoy .5% more French!

New cupcake and macaroon shop offers tea, snacks, cute decor, and reasonably late hours

Blush Desserts, new kids in Kearny Mesa, are pushing out cupcakes and French macaroons (all in the $2-$4.50 range) like the end times draw nigh and only a massive influx of glorious, sweet sugar will ...

Kato Sushi open in Hillcrest

PB sushi joint expands uptown, brings all the TVs and rolls you can handle

After a protracted remodel, Kato Sushi Hillcrest (a spin-off of the original PB restaurant) opened in time for Pride. The budget-minded sushi joint replaces the failed Pita Jungle, which had already sunk a surprising sum ...

Piacere Mio gets menu, remodel, thumbs up

Former South Park coffee shop becomes cute, neighborhood trattoria

“A lack of coziness.” That’s what I identified as Piacere Mio’s “main weakness,” fourteen months ago, when the place was just a coffee shop. Fast-forward through a prolonged closure/remodel, and the place has transformed into ...

Too bad about Peri-Peri

South African restaurant can't quite pull it off

Eater — armed with nothing but a single, snarky graphic — fairly well explained the collective sigh of resignation so many of us heave on entering a new restaurant: we hope to see something inspired ...

Scoops and flights come to North Park

Hammond's Gourmet Ice Cream open for greedy, hip munchers.

It comes as a surprise that North Park didn’t have a hipster ice cream shop before Hammond’s Gourmet Ice Cream opened in the past couple of weeks. But — sporting yet another badge-style logo, minimalist ...

Lame jokes made funny

Just add alcohol!

I love craft cocktails because they’re the great American drinking innovation and because they make all my lame jokes seem wicked funny. Coin-Op There’s much fun to be had at this arcade/bar, feeding quarters into ...

Tom n Toms activates Downtown

Korean café heads south from LA, fails to wow

Tom n Tom’s Coffee enjoys minor popularity in LA, where Korean communities opened the door to the originally Korean-owned chain of coffee shops. Now, it’s open in San Diego, in the East Village and at ...

Quei Bravi Ragazzi open in Encinitas

Italian cafe joins the peloton with sandwiches, pizza, panini

North County’s new kid on the block shares space with the luxurious Lofts at Moonlight Beach and the excellent Lofty Coffee Company. Quei Bravi Ragazzi, in addition to being the new cafe’s name, is the ...

Things to do

What do you mean you’re bored?! An anti-ho-hum compendium.

Jetpack America Want to feel like Superman? After a training video and in-office instruction, strap on a jetpack and take to the air. During the 15- to 60-minute ride, the water-jetting pack can go as ...

Wild simplicity at TBL3

The greatness of the special tasting menu at George's California Modern

“We pride ourselves on not being too stuck up,” explained my server before the first course of TBL3, the exclusive tasting menu at George’s California Modern in La Jolla. “If someone wants plain fish with ...

Cravory's permanent location open in Point Loma

Cookie purveyors claim to have the "ultimate cookie experience," maybe not so much.

Brick-and-mortar location for the formerly farmers' market only cookie business that grew out of 410 Degrees. Some people seem to like the Cravory's cookies (which include flavors like "pancakes and bacon" and "rosemary-balsamic"), but the reality is that they are little more than underbaked sugar bombs. The price is fair enough ($2 for a cookie), and the people who work there are always super nice, but the cookies just aren't that good, more hype than anything else.

The Patio on Lamont Street is worth a little drive

PB restaurant serves good enough grub to bring snobby Uptown types to sea level.

Decent wine list. Cool cocktails. Tasty, cold beers. A few inventive dishes, executed with skill, and some more pedestrian fare for the less adventurous. Nice ambiance, though too dark at night. Competent servers. Really, everything about the Patio on Lamont is what you'd look for at the price point. No disappointments. Worth a drive from outside PB, for sure.

Ballast Point successfully tweaks Little Italy menu

Local brewing titan gives us a menu the kitchen can actually deliver on.

Selective and careful tinkering of the menu at this massive tasting room has made the food offerings from the local brewer a better match for the atmosphere and style of the cavernous beer hall. Prices run on the steep side considering the small portions, but the food has been dialed in to the point where (instead of making a poorly thought-out bid for sophistication) it makes the best out of being honest bar snacks, burgers, and sandwiches.

Lucky Liu's comes to the Gaslamp

New Chinese restaurant plays with old favorites without trying to make them more than what they are

After a few months of operation, Lucky Liu’s still hasn’t gotten a license to sell alcohol. Either the ABC is trying for restaurant infanticide, or owner Alex Thao and his associates were overly optimistic about ...

Savoie Eatery hits Otay Ranch

An unexpected bid for fine dining supremacy from a Mexican seafood dynasty

Coming from the group behind the Karina’s Mexican Seafood restaurants, Eastlake’s new Savoie Eatery is...interesting, to say the least. Savoie has prime real estate in the Otay Ranch Town Center mall, which puts it in ...

La Bonne Table open in Hillcrest

French bistro replaces Voyou, delivers disappointment and high prices

Hillcrest’s Voyou Wine Bar is no more. Following a quickie remodel, the restaurant has re-opened as La Bonne Table. Where Voyou aimed at a modern look, the new place looks to evince a kind of ...

All Things BBQ, the final results: San Diego's best barbecue

The need-to-know essentials

Well, this is it. All Things BBQ is (for now) at an end, and the results painstakingly analyzed. It was never meant purely as a contest, more as an extended lecture on one of the ...

100 Wines making its mark in Hillcrest

Cohn restaurant proves itself worth of a full-time chef and a committed menu

100 Wines looks like it’s going to be OK. The Cohn Restaurant Group has never been afraid to shutter an ailing property — just look at what happened to Kemo Sabe after 15 years — ...

All Things BBQ: Best of the rest

With the series coming to a close, here are a few, final entries that merit mention

All Things BBQ is just about at an end. Here’s a few spots that didn’t get a solo treatment, but bear mentioning as the “best of the rest.” Bull’s Smokin’ BBQ: Good, solid, Texas-style ‘cue. ...

All Things BBQ: Cali Comfort

The second-best barbecue on the Bancroft Road exit off the 94

What’s a Kamenitza beer, from far-off Bulgaria, doing in Cali Comfort? Long story short, the owner is Bulgarian. The place has been in his family for some time. Used to be a breakfast place, but ...

Bagels in RB

Rancho Bernardo has some of the best bagels around

A small-but-vocal contingent of bagel fanciers like to raise their common battle cry: that San Diego has no delicious bagels, and that, if only they were back in NY/DC/Kalamazoo/Boston/Walla Walla/Philly, or wherever their favorite bagel ...

Encore Champagne Bar open downtown

With its late-night happy hour, Encore fills the niche between club and restauarant

What a cool idea is Encore Champagne Bar. Decked out in white leather and crystal chandeliers, it has a vaguely Russian sensibility; the kind of cheesy opulence that’s earnest, retro, fun, and attractive all at ...

Ian Pike's Beachtastic Happy Hour Spectacular 2014

Sea 180 The view from this bar is so good, it makes IB worth driving to. Happy Hour, which fills the gap between lunch and dinner service, runs 2:30-5:00pm every day. There are half-price cocktails ...

Shino Sushi + Kappo is a true sleeper

Fine dining hidden in Little Italy without glitz or glamor

Rumors of Shino Sushi + Kappo have percolated up through the usual channels. People say that chef Robert Nakamura —brother of Hane Sushi’s Roger Nakamura — produces elegant and indulgent sushi, having learned a trick ...

Recent lawsuit raises questions about libelous Yelping

Yelpers could be liable for defamatory statements, but what does that include?

Eater did a good job of summarizing the recent case against a Yelp user found guilty of defamation for posting fraudulently negative reviews. The case amounted to “nothing done,” as the plaintiff in the case ...

All Things BBQ: Smitty's Taste of the Bayou

Surprise, surprise, this North Park newcomer produces some good ribs!

It turns out that BBQ 81 isn’t North Park’s only barbecue restaurant. Smitty’s Taste of the Bayou opened up quietly at the end of last year, sharing kitchen space two days a week with the ...

La Jolla seal advocates win at hearing

Children’s Pool to close during pupping season

Seal-protection activists achieved their main goal February 24 when the San Diego City Council voted 6-3 in favor of closing the La Jolla Children’s Pool between 15 December and 15 May. The ruling, which accommodates ...

Local diver brings us "Adventures in a Cafe"

Scott McGee's underwater photography captures nature normally hidden from view

Scott McGee’s photography exhibition, a collection of dive and dryland photography called “Adventures in a Cafe,” opens at Vinaka Cafe in Carlsbad with a morning reception on March 9th from 8AM to 2PM. McGee’s collected ...

Serious changes bode ill for Saltbox restaurant

With a dumbed-down menu and a reduced dining room, Hotel Palomar restaurant isn't the spot it once was

Pity about Saltbox at the Hotel Palomar. The place used to have something going for it when Simon Dolinky wore the big hat in the kitchen. His dishes weren’t always mind blowing, but they had ...

Carlsbad's Blue Ocean Sushi + Robata

The Love Boat Sushi group takes it to the next level

The Love Boat sushi restaurants aren’t upscale. They’re fun, in an “eat sushi till you drop” kind of way, but there’s nothing special there, and that’s using the word “sushi” in its broadest sense. Blue ...

"Albert and the Black Hearts" open for Valentine's Day and beyond

New show at Low Gallery depicts love's many faces with original artwork and prints from Albert Reyes

The new installation from Albert Reyes at Low Gallery in North Park pays tongue-in-cheek homage to Valentine’s Day. “Albert and the Black Hearts,” which features a series of illustrations from the artist, is “a celebration ...

The art of the spoon

Local twosome hope to bridge gap between art and commerce, one spoon at a time

Where does the line between art and industry lie? Rachel Eva and Shawn Michael, a Hillcrest couple who together make up Work of My Hands, are in the midst of a Kickstarter campaign to fund ...

All Things BBQ: Valley Farm BBQ Stand

An out-of-the-way shack in Spring Valley serves up delicious 'cue at a fair price. What more could you ask?

Part of the Valley Farm BBQ Stand’s charm is its utter lack of ambiance. The place is nothing but a shack in a grocery store parking lot, with a few patio tables for “seating.” Hulking ...

San Diego chick-lit author runner-up for MARSocial Author of the Year

Sarka-Jonae Miller's novel, Between Boyfriends, finishes strong in contest for film rights

San Diego author Sarka-Jonae Miller was recently named as a runner-up in the MARSocial Author of the Year contest for her novel, Between Boyfriends. Had she won, her book would have been on the fast ...

All Things BBQ: BBQ 81

The lowdown on North Park's only barbecue restaurant, and just what are baby back ribs, anyway?

When the short-lived branch of the Barbecue Pit on University Avenue closed, North Park remained without ‘cue for a good while, until BBQ 81 opened up with the promise of ribs and tri-tip on El ...

SEA180 looking good at Pier South

Imperial Beach hotel project houses a winner

The Cohn restaurant empire has seen more successes than setbacks in recent memory, and landing the restaurant spot at Imperial Beach’s Pier South Resort fits smartly into the former category. SEA180 — so named for ...

Barleyanfigs open in La Jolla

New Greek restaurant improves Windansea's flavor profile

Some restaurants open with fireworks and frenzied PR campaigns. Others do so with extreme quietude. Barleyanfigs, a new Greek restaurant near Windansea, chose the latter option after a prolonged period spent refurbishing a former pizza ...

Big score for IDW

Local comics publisher to release Angry Birds comic, among other projects

“We’re essentially one-third the size of DC Comics, as far as our market share is concerned,” says Chris Ryall, editor-in-chief at San Diego-based IDW Publishing, the fourth-largest comic book publisher in the country . The ...

All Things BBQ: Kim's Texas BBQ

Mt. Hope barbecue joint shows the true meaning of "hole in the wall"

A lot of people will tell you that their favorite restaurants are “holes in the wall,” or “hidden gems,” or at the very least, “obscure.” It’s seldom true. Then, there’s Kim’s Texas Barbecue, down in ...

New menu, new patio for Ballast Point Little Italy

Tasting room expands menu to include more substantial fare, opens patio to relieve mob mentality

The kitchen at Ballast Point’s Little Italy tasting room unveiled an updated menu last week to coincide with the opening of a monstrous (as-yet-undecorated) patio. It’s not a total replacement of the former menu, but ...

Bino's Bistro adds full dinner service

Hillcrest crêperie lands beer and wine license, expands menu, still makes lots of French pancakes

As happens with so many restaurants, Bino’s Bistro fell victim to protracted delays as the Hillcrest crêperie sought a beer and wine license. Kudos to the restaurant for soldiering through a drawn-out permitting process (which ...

I'll Take Care of You in stores now

New true crime story from San Diego author, Caitlin Rother, available now in book stores and online

I’ll Take Care of You, the new true-crime story from Caitlin Rother, is on bookstore shelves throughout San Diego. The exhaustively researched book recounts the murder of Bill McLaughlin, shot in his Newport Beach home ...

All Things BBQ: Abbey's Real Bar-B-Q

Proving once and for all how important it is to get your Abbeys' straight

Little differences matter. Imagine hobnobbing with a group of hoity-toity snobbish types, drinking port and discussing great matters of Western Civilization. They’re talking about Richard Burton and how he helped get the Kama Sutra first ...

All Things BBQ: Abbey's Real Texas BBQ

Longstanding Miramar BBQ joint has all the Texas charm of a Toby Keith video, but offers little in the way of delicious 'cue

Abbey’s Real Texas BBQ makes bold moves, claiming “Best BBQ Brisket In San Diego” at the head of its website. Well, says who? These kinds of claims always beg for upholding or debunking. The restaurant ...

"Eternal Spring" open at Low Gallery

North Park gallery's first show of 2014 centers on life and rebirth

Low Gallery’s new show, “Eternal Spring,” opened with an artists’ reception and live performance on January 17. The ongoing show features work from Portland-based photographer, Colin Manning; LA visual artist and psychic, Marcella Kroll; and ...

Pepe's Produce is the must-stop spot

Ramona grocery store has (maybe) East County's best tacos

If Ramona has one must-stop spot, it’s Pepe’s Produce, a grocery store in an ex-Pizza Hut. The place may be the king of dingy little holes in the wall. It’s a little country store, with ...

Te Mana Café has cozy style, island food

Ocean Beach coffeehouse is exactly that...a house, with coffee, and some Hawaiian food, too.

If there were some sort of Reader coffee shop design award, Te Mana Cafe (4956 Voltaire Street) would be on the short list to win. This OB newcomer proves just how right it can be ...

Students Kickstart food and film truck

Local high school students and teachers raising funds to add mobile film and lunch truck to school resources

If they can raise $35,000 through a Kickstarter campaign, a group of high school students and their teachers want to purchase a food truck and retrofit it to include mobile film screening alongside basic food ...

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