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Feast! Beach Towns

Ocean-side eateries are stepping up their game

Gourmet tacos and the Margarita Zanahoria at Galaxy Taco
Gourmet tacos and the Margarita Zanahoria at Galaxy Taco


If BEACH TOWNS never offered better than fish tacos and carne asada fries, we'd all be fat and happy. But gentrification always brings a taste for something more, and even the Beaches Ocean and Pacific are stepping up their games. La Jolla remains in a class of its own.

Place

Galaxy Taco

2259 Avenida de La Playa, San Diego

Galaxy Taco

Trey Foshee’s Galaxy Taco takes its gourmet tacos seriously. Enjoy the fresh, fun takes on libations, like the Margarita Zanahoria, carrot, orange, and lime juices, tequila, black pepper and a celery salt rim using locally harvested wild celery. If you’ve been meaning to try mezcal, take advantage of one of the better collections in the area here. Masa, ground fresh daily for the handmade tortillas, utilizes heirloom corn sourced from Masienda Mexican landrace corn. Pork shoulder is marinated, braised, and seared for the Tacolandia, a jalapeño slaw provides heat, chicharron adds crunch. Carne Asada has an unctuous spicy smoked bone marrow salsa macha, and the delectable Baja Fish Taco features maximum chomp under minimal toppings. — Mary Beth Abate

Place

Vanoos Grillette

4614 Mission Boulevard, San Diego

Vanoos Grillette

It is the quantity you get that keeps you coming back to this tiny, exotic sandwich place. Try the plate-bulging chicken shawarma salad. Sal and Hadil, the Israeli couple who run it, say they import spices from Israel to rub into the gyro (shawarma) meat to give it its flavoring. Warning: nothing is quick because they make everything from scratch, just like back home in Nazareth. Even a simple flatbread like Za’atar (basically dried herbs, olive oil and labne, a kind of yogurt) has flavors that seem different. These guys are a refreshing change from PB’s franchise-heavy dining choices. — Ed Bedford

Place

A.R. Valentien

11480 N. Torrey Pines Road, San Diego

AR Valentien

A feeling of great ease makes this Lodge at Torrey Pines hotel restaurant the quintessential San Diego fine dining experience. It starts with the serenity of tree-lined Arts & Craft architecture overlooking greens of the famous golf course and blues of the Pacific below. It’s echoed in the food, which puts the focus on fresh, high quality ingredients rather than showy technique or the elaborate fusion of ideas. From the amuse-bouche through the intermezzo course and on to dessert, each dish is deceptively effortless, whether a house-made pâté, prime meat, or hand-rolled pasta. Wine pairings are a must. — Ian Anderson

Place

Zgara Greek Grill

1730 Garnet Avenue, San Diego

Zgara's pork gyro

Zgara Greek Grill

Processed, mystery meat gyros need not apply at this tiny shop tucked into a corner of Pacific Plaza. Everything but the pita is made in-house. The standards, such as souvlaki and the kebabs, are good, but it’s the pork gyros that stand out. Folks who have been to Greece know: thinly sliced, marinated pork stacked on a vertical spit topped with a knob of fat to baste the meat as it cooks, is how it’s done there and at Zgara as well. The pork is sliced off, a mixture of tender meat and crunchy bits, the flavor not overpowering, working in harmony with the tzatziki, lettuce, tomato, and onion. For those averse to pig, a chicken version is available. The owner is from Rhodes, so you can chat about places like Lindos and Stegna as you eat. — Kirk K

Place

Nine-Ten

910 Prospect Street, San Diego

Nine-Ten

For a fine-dining lunch experience at a fraction of dinner prices, check out Nine-Ten’s three-course lunch special. Begin with a soup or salad, choose from among any of the usual lunch entrées, and finish with either cheese or dessert, all for only $26. I like to add a glass of champagne or rosé for the full-on fancy dining effect. Here they give as much attention to service and style as the food itself, which is consistently delicious. For dinner, a three-course meal is $58 or $78 with wine pairing. One day soon I hope to experience the “Mercy of the Chef” tasting ($80 or $120 with wine pairings). — Barbarella Fokos

Place

Stake Chophouse & Bar

1309 Orange Avenue, Coronado

Stake Chophouse and Bar

Open a little less than a year, Stake combines the elegance of an old-school steak house with modern design and realistic expectations of its Coronado customer base. That’s why you’ll see folks in suits at one table and a family in flip-flops at another. All the steaks are high-quality, but the Wagyu skirt steak has an especially nice flavor-to-chew ratio. The sweet corn in a spicy butter is an excellent side — just pops in the mouth. The blueberry muffin bread pudding is a great way to end the meal. — Patrick Henderson

Place

Tracy & Trixie’s Twisted Truck Stop

978 Garnet Avenue, San Diego

Tracy & Trixie’s Twisted Truck Stop

What started as food truck “It’s a Dog’s World” is now a brick-and-mortar snack shack on Garnet. The joint focuses on hot dogs, sliders, po’ boys, and breakfast dishes with an emphasis on Southern-style seafood and fresh vegetables. But an unexpected highlight comes in the form of a Portobello and sweet potato jambalaya, which is sautéed in a spicy tomato sauce. The balance of soft potato and chewy mushroom give the appetite something to latch onto without risking the meat sweats in summer heat. Anyway, try the andouille sausage, a smoked Louisiana dog with sweet peppers and marinated cabbage. — Chad Deal

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Gourmet tacos and the Margarita Zanahoria at Galaxy Taco
Gourmet tacos and the Margarita Zanahoria at Galaxy Taco


If BEACH TOWNS never offered better than fish tacos and carne asada fries, we'd all be fat and happy. But gentrification always brings a taste for something more, and even the Beaches Ocean and Pacific are stepping up their games. La Jolla remains in a class of its own.

Place

Galaxy Taco

2259 Avenida de La Playa, San Diego

Galaxy Taco

Trey Foshee’s Galaxy Taco takes its gourmet tacos seriously. Enjoy the fresh, fun takes on libations, like the Margarita Zanahoria, carrot, orange, and lime juices, tequila, black pepper and a celery salt rim using locally harvested wild celery. If you’ve been meaning to try mezcal, take advantage of one of the better collections in the area here. Masa, ground fresh daily for the handmade tortillas, utilizes heirloom corn sourced from Masienda Mexican landrace corn. Pork shoulder is marinated, braised, and seared for the Tacolandia, a jalapeño slaw provides heat, chicharron adds crunch. Carne Asada has an unctuous spicy smoked bone marrow salsa macha, and the delectable Baja Fish Taco features maximum chomp under minimal toppings. — Mary Beth Abate

Place

Vanoos Grillette

4614 Mission Boulevard, San Diego

Vanoos Grillette

It is the quantity you get that keeps you coming back to this tiny, exotic sandwich place. Try the plate-bulging chicken shawarma salad. Sal and Hadil, the Israeli couple who run it, say they import spices from Israel to rub into the gyro (shawarma) meat to give it its flavoring. Warning: nothing is quick because they make everything from scratch, just like back home in Nazareth. Even a simple flatbread like Za’atar (basically dried herbs, olive oil and labne, a kind of yogurt) has flavors that seem different. These guys are a refreshing change from PB’s franchise-heavy dining choices. — Ed Bedford

Place

A.R. Valentien

11480 N. Torrey Pines Road, San Diego

AR Valentien

A feeling of great ease makes this Lodge at Torrey Pines hotel restaurant the quintessential San Diego fine dining experience. It starts with the serenity of tree-lined Arts & Craft architecture overlooking greens of the famous golf course and blues of the Pacific below. It’s echoed in the food, which puts the focus on fresh, high quality ingredients rather than showy technique or the elaborate fusion of ideas. From the amuse-bouche through the intermezzo course and on to dessert, each dish is deceptively effortless, whether a house-made pâté, prime meat, or hand-rolled pasta. Wine pairings are a must. — Ian Anderson

Place

Zgara Greek Grill

1730 Garnet Avenue, San Diego

Zgara's pork gyro

Zgara Greek Grill

Processed, mystery meat gyros need not apply at this tiny shop tucked into a corner of Pacific Plaza. Everything but the pita is made in-house. The standards, such as souvlaki and the kebabs, are good, but it’s the pork gyros that stand out. Folks who have been to Greece know: thinly sliced, marinated pork stacked on a vertical spit topped with a knob of fat to baste the meat as it cooks, is how it’s done there and at Zgara as well. The pork is sliced off, a mixture of tender meat and crunchy bits, the flavor not overpowering, working in harmony with the tzatziki, lettuce, tomato, and onion. For those averse to pig, a chicken version is available. The owner is from Rhodes, so you can chat about places like Lindos and Stegna as you eat. — Kirk K

Place

Nine-Ten

910 Prospect Street, San Diego

Nine-Ten

For a fine-dining lunch experience at a fraction of dinner prices, check out Nine-Ten’s three-course lunch special. Begin with a soup or salad, choose from among any of the usual lunch entrées, and finish with either cheese or dessert, all for only $26. I like to add a glass of champagne or rosé for the full-on fancy dining effect. Here they give as much attention to service and style as the food itself, which is consistently delicious. For dinner, a three-course meal is $58 or $78 with wine pairing. One day soon I hope to experience the “Mercy of the Chef” tasting ($80 or $120 with wine pairings). — Barbarella Fokos

Place

Stake Chophouse & Bar

1309 Orange Avenue, Coronado

Stake Chophouse and Bar

Open a little less than a year, Stake combines the elegance of an old-school steak house with modern design and realistic expectations of its Coronado customer base. That’s why you’ll see folks in suits at one table and a family in flip-flops at another. All the steaks are high-quality, but the Wagyu skirt steak has an especially nice flavor-to-chew ratio. The sweet corn in a spicy butter is an excellent side — just pops in the mouth. The blueberry muffin bread pudding is a great way to end the meal. — Patrick Henderson

Place

Tracy & Trixie’s Twisted Truck Stop

978 Garnet Avenue, San Diego

Tracy & Trixie’s Twisted Truck Stop

What started as food truck “It’s a Dog’s World” is now a brick-and-mortar snack shack on Garnet. The joint focuses on hot dogs, sliders, po’ boys, and breakfast dishes with an emphasis on Southern-style seafood and fresh vegetables. But an unexpected highlight comes in the form of a Portobello and sweet potato jambalaya, which is sautéed in a spicy tomato sauce. The balance of soft potato and chewy mushroom give the appetite something to latch onto without risking the meat sweats in summer heat. Anyway, try the andouille sausage, a smoked Louisiana dog with sweet peppers and marinated cabbage. — Chad Deal

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