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Stories by Ian Pike

Now Try This: Chi Chocolat's Cafe Mocha

Made with real chocolate! And some apple pie candy, to boot.

Until contrary information comes to light, the wildly energetic proprietor’s claim that Chi Chocolat’s mocha is “the only one in town with liquid couverture chocolate in it” will have to stand. And what a mocha! ...

Overpriced and unappealing

Bird Rock Oyster and Sushi Bar wants too much for too little

Bird Rock Sushi and Oyster and Sushi Bar took over the old Station Sushi, opening at the end of the summer. On paper, it seems like a great idea. Who doesn’t love mariscos and sushi ...

¡Ay chapulines!

University Heights tapas bar joins the thin ranks serving up bugs

Would you look at that. Insects are popping up just everywhere! The Reader’s other Ian gagged on some crickets at Tacos Perla over the summer. Recently, little fried bugs crawled onto the specials board at ...

Can the Buffalo Public House work in Hillcrest?

Brazilian-influenced restaurant faces stiff conceptual challenges in competitive neighborhood scene

Brazilian cuisine receives little exposure in the US. Churrascaria restaurants, like Rei do Gado and Fogo de Chao, contribute to the popular image of South American carnivorism, where diners disappear beneath mountains of roast meat. ...

Circa tries to fill some big shoes

Neighborhood bistro faces memories of Farm House Cafe, and holds its own in the process.

Tempting as it is to mourn the Farm House Cafe’s departure from Adams Avenue until the prophesied reappearance of Olivier and Rochelle Bioteau’s restaurant in larger quarters somewhere far from University Heights, uptown diners ought ...

Pillbox Tavern's good look, cold beer, and typical eats

Solana Beach bar and grill puts a nice face on a good location, even though the menu's a bit dated.

No big-name design firm attached itself to Solana Beach’s Pillbox Tavern, but the group that opened the bar and grill includes plenty of restaurant industry vets, and their collective expertise turned out a nice looking ...

Are you Santa enough?

Gift’s got stamina Hillcrest Craftsmen at the Planet Rooth Design Haus make heirloom-quality furniture out of reclaimed wine and bourbon barrels. Elegant in the way that overstuffed classic American furniture will never be. Sturdy and ...

Reserved fare for modest brunchers

Bankers Hill's remodeled Royal Cafe expands breakfast menu with some lighter options.

The doorway between the Royal Cafe and the Royal Food Mart in Hillcrest disappeared during the recent remodel. In its place, a bigger menu materialized, replete with more substantial breakfast items (about $6-$10), and some ...

Primus rocks the Chocolate Factory

Claypool and crew put on "kind of a play" at Cal Center for the Arts Escondido

“I know we’re Primus and we suck,” said frontman Les Claypool, to cheers from the packed California Center for the Arts in Escondido. “But if you want to yell and scream, get it out of ...

Now Try This: Frozen Custard at Bruxie

Waffle sandwich emporium provides College Area with exceptional ice cream.

SoCal waffle sandwich chain, Bruxie, has carved out its niche by stuffing lunch meats and fried chicken between slender waffles, marketing the result as, “a new take on The Sandwich.” The most popular item, fried ...

East Coast Pizza open in Hillcrest

Successful North County pizza joint expands to Hillcrest, sells OK pizza, stays open late on weekends.

Cardiff-based East Coast Pizza’s Hillcrest location is up and running regular hours now, including moderately late-night service (till 2:30 a.m.) on Fridays and Saturdays. ECP closes before midnight other days, but being able to get ...

Iron Pig Alehouse open in PB

Pacific Beach barbecue joint goes full hipster with craft beer and 'cue.

Are those….Edison bulbs I see hanging from the exposed rafters at Iron Pig Alehouse? The beer and barbecue spot opened in Pacific Beach last month, with decidedly hipster trappings throughout. The wood appears suspiciously “reclaimed,” ...

Now Try This: Vegan donuts at Donut Panic

Grantville's eggless doughnuts worth eating, even by non-vegans.

Six months after taking over the old Sunshine Donuts, Donut Panic still doesn’t have a proper sign. One was delivered, but it didn’t fit, so it had to go back to the manufacturer. Nevertheless, the ...

Now Try This: Aguas frescas at Tortas and Beer

Hillcrest torta shop makes excellent aguas, and damn-good everything else, too.

Yes, Tortas and Beer has killer sandwiches ($5-$7). Pitching superlatives isn’t my style (though fellow local critic Michael Gardiner thinks the house special Cubana sandwich is a contender for best sandwich on the planet, loaded ...

Sunny seating, drab dinners at La Jolla bistro

Shorehouse Kitchen OK for morning coffee, lax for dinner

The people who built the Shorehouse Kitchen did a fine job consolidating a handful of separate spaces into one, unified whole. Sitting probably a quarter of a mile from La Jolla shores, the dining room ...

Not-half-bad dinner is also not half good

Swami's North Park Café starts dinner menu with unspectacular results.

North County stalwart, Swami’s Cafe, must have been dreaming big when they moved into the cavernous space left behind by Casa de Luz following the macrobiotic restaurant’s swift shove-off from North Park. Swami’s Encinitas location ...

Now Try This: Duck Wings at the Rabbit Hole

Normal Heights' new sports bar does a tough dish right

Duck wings can suck. Compared to chicken wings, they’re scrawny, and filled with connective tissue, which makes them hard to cook. The extra fat lurking beneath the skin makes it borderline impossible to achieve the ...

Now Try This: Sledgehammer at the OB Warehouse

Don't kick the habit. Don't shed your skin. This is the new stuff!

Considering how most “craft cocktails” fail to live up to their own audacious recipes, it’s no surprise that beer cocktails suffer the same fate, perhaps even worse. That’s what makes the OB Warehouse’s “Sledgehammer” ($10) ...

Le Parfait Paris open Downtown

French pastry and minimal style from a local caterer's new brick-and-mortar

Totes-adorbs, Euro-chic café, Le Parfait Paris, grand opened for business in the Gaslamp earlier this month. Depending on one’s viewpoint, the decor is either cold and cheerless, or stylish and minimal. One thing is certain: ...

Now Try This: Hambāgu at Wa Dining Okan

Japanese burger? Yes, please!

Drop what you are doing for yet another trip to Convoy Street. This time, it’s the hambāgu from Wa Dining Okan that ought to drag you out of your hiding place for an extended lunchtime ...

Exit Sloppy's, enter Bearitos

Hillcrest Mission-style burrito joint changes names, stays mostly the same.

Somebody pulled a burrito switcheroo in Hillcrest. 86 Sloppy’s Burritos, sub Bearito Republic. Allegedly, Sloppy’s owners decided to move to Utah, and the Bearito crew flipped the place over and changed up the concept, albeit ...

Blue Smoke drifts in from Blue Ocean

Love Boat pig-out spot sets sail as North County concept comes to Fashion Valley.

Love Boat Fashion Valley is no more. The former K-pop sushi pig-out spot (best known for gargantuan “Love Boat” platters) shut down for a remodel period, and recently reopened as Blue Smoke Sushi Lounge. Ooooh. ...

A rare jack for San Diego

Adding another warm-water fish to the counts in this bomber year.

Whether the weathermen decide it’s an El Niño year may be perpetually debated, but with reports of wahoo and blue marlin caught off shore, and the confirmed sighting of a whale shark near Catalina Island, ...

British invasion in La Jolla?

Hint: it's milkshakes.

San Diego is a fro-yo town. We know this, and we love it. We are a health-conscious people, and the words “fat free” shine like a beacon, drawing in the yoga/gym/triathlon crowd from miles around ...

Hateful Harriet on the Wrench and Rodent Seabasstropub

North County sushi haven epically fails to live up to its own hype.

Tucked in the back of Oceanside Bull Taco, Wrench and Rodent is the brainchild of Davin Waite, local sushi guy who came up through the ranks of La Jolla’s Cafe Japengo. The name allegedly means ...

Best soda ever spotted at Bev-Mo!

Go for the 5-cent wine sale, but don't forget to pick up a few bottles of this classic pop.

Bev-Mo, home of the 5-cent wine sale, stocks plenty of nonalcoholic beverages. Some of those are sodas, and one of those sodas is Moxie, which claims to be the original carbonated soft drink, produced since ...

Now Try This: Oxtail ramen at Rakiraki

Kearny Mesa ramen shop kills it with noodles and beeftail

Rakiraki, Kearny Mesa’s hipster noodle house, has an oxtail ramen dinner on the menu that’s an absolute must-grind. The ramen part is more of the same: Rakiraki’s chicken-based ramen, with its light and surprisingly fatty ...

Now Try This: Shave Ice at Angels and Hearts

Clever riff on Hawaiian dessert is a winner

Even if we live in a sick, sad world where Hello Kitty isn’t actually a kitty at all, there’s always Angels and Hearts, a new dessert shop in Kearny Mesa, to inject a bit of ...

Now Try This: Napa Valley burger at Cali "O"

Hillcrest burger joint wraps a good patty in Napa cabbage for a novel take on protein style

1290 University Avenue has been a half a dozen restaurants in as many years, but the current business has a thing or two going for it. Cali O Burgers takes the basic In n Out ...

The crushing weight of an epic food day

One does not simply waltz through a perfect food day with nary a care in the world. No, sir. A day of eating requires hard work. Down and dirty stuff, with much elbow grease, and ...

Now Try This: Negroni in the Rye from Social Experiment

Name and menu change for Blue Ribbon Rustic Kitchen, and a fine version of the Negroni to boot!

Everyone should try Social Experiment’s Negroni in the Rye ($10) at least once. Hints of spicy rye whiskey hang out behind a veil of bitter Campari and Nonino, served with a twist of lemon on ...

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 ...

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