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Stories by Naomi Wise

Ya Gotta Have a Gimmick

Too much, too soon? Bencotto, a new Northern Italian restaurant in Little Italy, launched sometime this winter (the earliest Yelp raves I’ve spotted were posted in early February). The management didn’t tell me about the ...

The Maine Event

King’s Fish House’s announcement of its May–June Maine lobster event (ending July 4) set the gears spinning: I realized that my last review was eight years ago — pleasant memories, but high time for a ...

Your Deliverance Is at Hand

Some nights, you don’t want to dress up for a restaurant or, worse yet, keep wearing that same stiff corporate outfit for 14 hours straight. But you don’t want to cook, either. You just want ...

Sensual Spa

The ever-enchanting Mistral (née Azzura Point) has been remade again with a renovated dining room and new chefs. The executive chef for the whole resort property is Marc Ehrler, a hotshot direct from France. The ...

From Texas to Argentina

This restaurant is closed. SOHO, which opened on Saint Patrick’s Day, instantly offered one of the most interesting, eccentric menus in San Diego, combining tastes from the South, the deeper South (Mexico and South America), ...

Easy Does It

This restaurant is closed. Still no alcohol license, still no menu on the website, but I finally gave in — whether it was ready or not, I had to try the Big Easy. The chef/co-owner ...

Pecks of Pickled Peppers

Who’ll be the winner of Szechuan Idol? The two local finalists for the most authentic Szechuan food in San Diego are Ba Ren and Dede’s. After thoroughly enjoying Dede’s (reviewed 10/22/08), I was eager to ...

Upside Down in the Crescent City

About six months ago, “Tin Fork’s” Ed Bedford reviewed Indigo Café and liked it. He mentioned that half the dinner menu consisted of New Orleans classics but tried none of them, sticking to the real ...

Early Report: High Dive

The menu calls Quality Social “a bar with food.” It’d be more accurate to say “a serious casual eating place with a bar.” You could call the menu “pub grub,” but that’d be like calling ...

Your Neighborhood of Azerbaijan

Cafe 2121 began as a quiet little breakfast/lunch place a few blocks west of Cafe 21 at 2121 Adams. The neighborhood adopted it warmly, so owners Leyla and Alex Javado moved to a more copasetic, ...

Tapas on Tokyo Time

An izakaya is the Japanese equivalent of a tapas bar or gastropub — a place where salarymen flock after work to snack on a variety of small dishes (or some big comforting ones) for a ...

From Disneyland to Ducasse

As my posse and I settled down and looked at the latest menu at Blanca, I sang out happily, “Thank God, it’s not the same old food again!” There’s a new gunfighter in town; he’s ...

Neighborhood Mom

When chef Amiko Gubbins left her pioneering eclectic-fusion restaurant Parallel 33 to go cook for a rock star, local foodies gasped. She finally shut Parallel 33 down permanently after taking a gig with Specialty Produce ...

Close, So Close

Oh, so embarrassing! I’ve known for a long time that Soleil @ K had changed chefs (the opening chef moved on to another local restaurant), but it took an abominable snow job by Wolfgang Verkaaik ...

To the Lighthouse

“Oh, Oysters, come and walk with us!” the Walrus did beseech. “A pleasant walk, a pleasant talk, along the briny beach.” — Lewis Carroll Aagh, Valentine’s Day coming again — probably the worst night of ...

Sour Grapefruit

Can you judge a chef’s palate by a single dish if that dish represents how he cooks when he’s showing off for his peers? Before moving to San Diego, ten years ago I came down ...

A Taste of the Tropics

Planning a trip to India years ago, I set my sights on the south of the country (Kerala and Tamil Nadhu). Why? To eat. I’d heard that the southern food was really spicy and really ...

Golden Oldie

Last week’s search for great soups brought me to Dobson’s famed mussel bisque and thence to their website, where I discovered a well-kept secret, their 25th-anniversary special of a three-course prix fixe (weekdays, 3:00–7:00 p.m.) ...

Soup of the Evening

So, holidays are over, all the fun is gone. All the money’s gone. Sorry, Gate, but you got here late, all the jive is gone. What now? Drown your Visa bill in a nice hot ...

The Year in Restaurants

Famous Chinese curse: “May you have an interesting life.” It’s been an interesting year, the financial weather a perpetual windstorm batting restaurants around along with the rest of the economy. Newspapers are flapping in that ...

Milan Modern

Bice (pronounced “BEE-chay”) had been open only five weeks when I ate there, because I didn’t have the patience to wait the standard, tactful three more weeks before trying it — not just because the ...

The Native Quarter

Oh, boy, has Paris Hilton ever left the building! Khloe Kardashian (as they say in N’awlins, “Who dat?”) may or may not show up at the Ivy Hotel’s nightclub, Envy, but Quarter Kitchen’s celeb hangout ...

Seafood and Splendor

Let’s have one more chorus of “The Times They Are a-Changin’.” The hellish economy is kickin’ out the jams in the restaurant biz, especially in upscale hotel restaurants that locals tend to overlook, thinking they’re ...

Mystic Revelations

Word spread from foodblog to foodblog until it reached my friend Lynne, who reads loads of ’em. She emailed me: “This place sounds interesting.” The encomiums were for a newish Middle Eastern restaurant in La ...

Annual Dysfunctional Family Thanksgiving Dinner

Many ways of giving thanks

To Be Thankful Requires Humility To be thankful for anything much at all requires humility, I believe. I have little enough of it; in fact, I have a dichotomy common to alcoholics, and that is ...

Back to Kathmandu

Why would a one-time Nepal trekker ever want to eat Nepalese food again? Is it masochism — or is it just that Nepal casts such a powerful spell? You just know there must be better ...

Gobble Well

It’s starting to become a new tradition: celebrating Thanksgiving with “dinner out” or with home dinners utilizing restaurant takeout. More and more restaurants have jumped on this cash, uh, turkey. The list below begins with ...

American Revolutionary

Food can be a deeply political issue, but in this case it’s the merely skin-deep question of the restaurant’s name that’s bugging me. (Didn’t Shakespeare say, “A grill by any other name would smell as ...

Fiesta for Friends

It’s weird that right on the border here, we’re so slow to catch up with the rest of the country on real Mexican cuisine. We’ve got lots of “Mexican” food but hardly any Mexican cuisine, ...

The Golden Coast

The Lynnester has ways to make men talk. When Mark and I arrived to meet her at Iris, she was having a drink and pumping the charming manager, Edd Golden, younger brother of chef-owner Tommy ...

99 Years of Seduction

The U.S. Grant Hotel, completed in October 1910, is one of the city’s grandest old hotels. Its signature restaurant, the Grant Grill, is equally historic. For its first 90-some years, it was a clubby, old-fashioned ...

Rare Burgers? Rarely

Trekking in Nepal involved 25 grueling vegan days of rice, lentils, mustard greens, noodles, barley stew, and boiled potatoes (and one glorious night of smoky yak steak and real mashed potatoes from the best darned ...

Have It Your Way

Don’t cry for Laurel. It has gone to a far better place. Reincarnated as Cucina Urbana, you can now hang your hat (on the back of your chair) without a preprandial wardrobe change or bank-balance ...

Free-Range Grazing

Alchemy doesn’t turn lead into gold, but its kitchen does turn good ingredients into palate-pleasers. Open seven months and well populated since Day One, it was bound to be a hit, given all the starving ...

Feasting on Olympus

Looking at the $20 menus for upcoming Restaurant Week, the sole temptation was Apollonia — but clicking to the website menu, I realized I wanted a whole lot more than $20 would buy. Here, finally, ...

Crab Bag

Truluck’s is a Florida-based surf-and-turf house specializing in crabs — above all, Florida stone crabs, but also Maine Jonahs, Pacific Dungeness, never-frozen (they claim) Alaskan King, and even a bit of Maine Peekytoe and blue ...

Sail Away

“Hotel restaurant” used to be shorthand for “What’s that slop you’re eating?” — back in the era of moldy “colonial” inns and all-one-mold “family” chains (remember Howard Johnson’s Motor Inns?). But not now, and certainly ...

Seasonal Bouquet

What a difference nine years makes, just 80,000 little hours. Over those years, Mille Fleurs has mellowed markedly, adapting to leaner times. This major mood change takes the restaurant out of the big-occasion realm of ...

Over the Airplanes

A few months ago, some guy from some burg like Dubuque emailed the paper, asking which restaurants he should try during a few days’ visit here, price no object. Bertrand at Mr. A’s was one ...

Half a Glass

Everything about Glass Door makes it a delightful, entertaining restaurant — except the food. On the fourth floor of a new hotel in Little Italy, it’s a long, narrow room with a bar on one ...

Top of the World, Ma!

La Valencia is a sheerly gorgeous hotel. Walking through that Spanish-Moorish tiled lobby en route to the Sky Room elevator, you want to sell your shack and move right in. A small, old-timey operator-run lift, ...

In the Realm of the Senses

Marine Room kicks off this summer’s unofficial series on “Rooms with a View — and Bargains, Too.” The small tradeoff that recession brings to visitors and staycationers alike is that some of San Diego’s most ...

Oh, Tempura, Oh, Morels!

I’ve got stripes, stripes around my shoulders, I’ve got chains, chains around my legs…— Johnny Cash (based on Leadbelly’s “On a Monday”) For months I’ve been meaning to eat at Kitchen 1540, formerly the more ...

Gimme More Turkey

Pasha drew my eye with an ad in this paper, including a coupon for a freebie appetizer platter. Hmm...a new bargain destination? Worth trying? I scurried to the website and found that the restaurant wasn’t ...

Another Side of BBQ

And now, for a completely different style of barbecue: Japanese yakiniku. Sensei Shima, Samurai Jim’s martial-arts teacher, favors Suzuya for it; Jim and his fellow students often eat there with the master after class. Jim ...

The Restaurant Issue

We eat to live, they eat for a living.

It’s Hard to Eat With a Paper Bag Over My Head by Naomi Wise I arrived in San Diego nine years ago, a well-spoiled food snob coming down (pun intended) from San Francisco like the ...

It’s Hard to Eat With a Paper Bag Over My Head

I arrived in San Diego nine years ago, a well-spoiled food snob coming down (pun intended) from San Francisco like the culinary marshal sent in to clean up an untamed border town. Now, I find ...

Smoking or Non?

Is it myth or truth that white men can’t “Q”? (Got your attention? Kickle kickle.) Barbecue — meaning Southern-style barbecue — is a black art indeed, requiring a magical confluence of technique, timing, and taste-buds ...

Arias on the Plate

Old-time San Diegans remember when the Gaslamp Quarter was getting over its “Hey, sailor” sleaze-phase and Horton Plaza was new. Italian restaurants serving affordable food suddenly peppered the neighborhood — but once the rising entertainment ...

Cook Like a Chef — but Fast

As the economic climate has turned even the well employed into the “working worried,” people accustomed to eating most dinners out are cooking at home — despite the long hours and killer commutes that initially ...

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