The Prado Restaurant
2619 National Avenue, San Diego
My day always starts with coffee from Cafe Moto (2619 National Avenue), whether it ends up being a dream day or not. It’s usually in my own kitchen, but my fantasy morning would have me transported, sans rush hour traffic, to their counter in Barrio Logan, sipping a perfect cortado or a flat white while chatting with the baristas, perusing their collection of brewing apparati, or just gazing at the lovely foam art atop my beverage for a few minutes before I get my caffeine buzz. As often as I try at home, I can never duplicate the naturally sweet richness they coax from the beans, or the silky, “white chrome” microfoam they lather out of the steamer, but that doesn’t stop me from picking up a pound or five of beans on my way out.
5119 Cass Street, San Diego
416 University Avenue, San Diego
2400 Historic Decatur Road #103, San Diego
My favorite breakfasts are big plates of eggs, meat, and potatoes, so Fig Tree Eatery (5119 Cass Street, Pacific Beach; 416 University Avenue, Hillcrest; 2400 Historic Decatur Road, Liberty Station) is my next stop on my dream day. Meat Loaf Hash combines big, savory chunks of meat loaf, baby spinach, red-skin potatoes, and fragrant pesto, topped by three sunny-side-up eggs, golden yolks streaming out to sauce it all, and toasted house bread to sop up every bit. Of course, bennies are always a treat, so I might go with a lox benedict, smoky and unctuous, playing off crisp asparagus and velvety hollandaise on fresh focaccia instead. It’s rare that my early-morning reveries include sweet items, but when they do, I’m all over the cinnamon and brown sugar apple french toast, a smooth, eggy, warmly spiced brioche creation that can be ordered gluten-free at no extra charge.
4647 Convoy Street #101A, San Diego
My food brain thinks lunch equals Convoy Street, and not just because it’s a five-minute drive from my apartment. It’s because Friend’s House Korean (4647 Convoy Street, #101A) beckons me with dol-sot bibimbap, that delectable bowl of rice, seasoned beef, namul, gochujang, and a fried egg. The sound and fragrance of sizzling rice crisping up golden brown on the bottom of the screaming-hot stone vessel as I’m munching from little bowls of banchan makes even the most demanding morning melt away.
1549 El Prado, San Diego
When happy hour rolls around, I’m on my way to San Diego’s jewel, Balboa Park, for drinks and snacks at the Prado (1549 El Prado, Balboa Park). Luckily, happy hour at the Prado is really happy hours — there’s an early one on Tuesday through Friday from 4 till 6 and a late one from 8 till 10 (11 on Friday and Saturday), when great deals can be had on liquid stress-relievers of all manner. Despite my usual disdain for sweet “martini” drinks, I’ll admit to being seduced by the hot apple cider tini — a caramel apple-, vanilla-, and cinnamon-spiked decadence. My favorite snacky accompaniments are the complementary lavash chips with hummus (ask for it) and the crunchy crispy green beans dunked in creamy Point Reyes blue-cheese sauce.
741 W. Washington Street, San Diego
I like to start the dinner hour with a round of capsaicin roulette via the Red Door (741 West Washington Street) and their yummy seared local shishito peppers, napped with soy and honey and showered in toasted hemp hearts and sesame seeds. Shishitos are typically a mild, sweet pepper, but every so often you’ll bite into one that delivers an unexpected kick. The Burger is always a temptation — I’m never not in the mood for the well-seasoned, perfectly medium rare Meyer beef patty tucked between a toasted house-made bun, melty cheddar, caramelized onions, and lemon aioli — the hot, salty shoestring fries are perfect alongside. I’m also enamored with the cedar-planked duck, succulent under its honey-soy glaze and nutty seed garnish; sautéed garden vegetables and quinoa round out the plate.
114 North El Camino Real, Encinitas
All my dessert dreams come true at Elizabethan Desserts (114 North El Camino Real, Encinitas), from the pretty mint-green walls and milk-glass cake stands to the modern takes on old-school favorites. My cupcake love is unshakable, no matter how uncool the food faddists have declared them, and the Sunshine cupcake is wonderful, scrumptious moist white cake topped with tangy, exotic passion fruit buttercream. I’d also have to indulge in the Prickly Pear cupcake, a seasonal edition combining piquant lime cake and gorgeous pink prickly pear buttercream, a cute green sugar cactus pokes out of the top. My favorite treat is the peanut butter caramel s’mores bar. Miles away from the usual backyard s’more, this delightful dessert includes a buttery, crunchy graham-cracker base, layers of chocolate, caramel, and homemade peanut butter, slathered in a thick layer of tender homemade marshmallow. It’s an outrageous combination that works beautifully and a most fitting conclusion to my dream day. Unless, of course, I save half of it to go with my morning Cafe Moto coffee, so I can start the fun all over again.
Coffee: Zumbar Coffee and Tea (10920 Roselle Street, Sorrento Valley)
Breakfast: Wow Wow Waffle (3519 30th Street, North Park)
Lunch: Mama’s Kitchen (3960 Home Avenue, North Park)
Happy Hour: Bleu Boheme (4090 Adams Avenue, Kensington)
Dinner: The Hake (1250 Prospect Street, La Jolla)
Dessert: Swoon Dessert Bar (3139 University Avenue, North Park)