Inventive small dishes at Bracero Cocina de Raiz
  • Inventive small dishes at Bracero Cocina de Raiz
  • Story alerts
  • Letter to Editor
  • Pin it

Food provided by Juniper & Ivy


These days Little Italy offers some of the best food in town, or at least the most photographed. The neighborhood keeps serving up hits, almost eclipsing the tried-and-true eateries that sit between its shiny new trendsetting hotspots and Old Town.

Meanwhile, spacious opportunities have made Liberty Station the city's fastest growing dining destination.

Romesco Mexiterranean Cocina

1490 Kettner Boulevard, Little Italy

Bracero Cocina de Raiz

Javier Plascencia made Tijuana a culinary destination promoting Baja Med cuisine. Little Italy’s sidewalks were already stacked deep with trendspotting foodies when he opened Bracero in July, but it leapt immediately to the top of the hot list, a concrete and steel triumph of Mexican fusion’s success. Inventive crudo and small dishes include oyster topped by beef tartare and a huitlacoche (corn smut) tamal. Tantalizing lamb and pork entrées slow roast in a custom built caja china. It’s enough to make tacos sound boring. Until you try Bracero’s tacos. These fantastic creations are instantly in contention for the city’s best. —Ian Anderson

Kettner Exchange

2001 Kettner Boulevard, Little Italy

Kettner Exchange

Kettner Exchange continues to deliver in Little Italy, where they are having a bit of a new restaurant frenzy. Small plates, perfect for sharing, are my usual choice. Luxurious Hudson Valley Foie Gras sits in a nest of Brussels sprout leaves under frizzled shallots; crisp buttered toasts and garnet-hued pluots offer texture and tangy-sweet balance. Cauliflower Tempura is well executed and stays crisp under drizzles of tangy blue cheese and beurre rouge. Fried Chicken is a popular choice, and it’s easy to see why. The crust is deeply caramelized and flavorful, the chicken is juicy and tender, the spicy aioli adds a creamy, piquant counterpoint. —Mary Beth Abate

Civico 1845

1845 India Street, Little Italy

Civico 1845

This is a fantastic place for vegans and non-vegans alike. The kitchen serves up a flavorful steak cooked in olive oil and lemon, but non-meat eaters will enjoy the vegan ravioli with pink vodka sauce (there’s just enough fake cheese to add flavor but not enough to remind it’s not really cheese). The Tri Colori salad with arugula, cherry tomatoes, and fennel tastes like the veggies were harvested that day. The wine list is substantial and food friendly. Save room for dessert: Even meat eaters will enjoy the vegan tiramisu —Patrick Henderson

Rubicon Deli

3715 India Street, Mission Hills

Rubicon Deli

With locations in Middletown, Mission Beach, and one on the way in La Jolla, Rubicon has two decades in the business of making damn good sandwiches. They offer a variety of freshly baked breads, house-cooked meats, and farm-fresh produce. Oh, and the ’wiches are gigantic. The Dapper Dipper is a house celebrity, spotlighting slow-roasted Harris Ranch tri-tip, crispy onion, Swiss cheese, horseradish, and au jus for the soak. On the fresh end, the Whales Veg places pesto goat cheese beside avocado, cucumber, tomato, carrot, alfalfa sprouts, spring greens, Dijon, and balsamic vinaigrette. —Chad Deal

Isola Pizza Bar

1526 India Street, Little Italy

Isola Pizza Bar

I love to pull up a seat with my favorite person on the patio at Isola and watch all the dogs parading by as their owners walk them to and fro. First, I order a bottle of Vino Nobile de Montepulciano (a recent version here was fairly priced at $49) and my favorite pizza on the menu, the Salamino Piccante ($16), with spicy salami and fresh basil. Taste the difference of Doppio Zero flour dough that has been hand-tossed and left to rise for two days before it’s smothered with the toppings of your choice, and thrown into a wood-burning oven that was imported from Napoli. —Barbarella Fokos

Sushi Tadokoro

2244 San Diego Avenue, Old Town

Aji at Sushi Tadokoro

Sushi Tadokoro

Easily my first choice when it comes to sushi in San Diego. Perfect, bite-sized Edomae style sushi is created by Take-san in this little but popular shop on the outskirts of Old Town. Make reservations and request a seat at the bar. Put yourself in the hands of Take-san, who will feed you whatever is fresh and in season. Some of the best Ankimo, monkfish liver, is to be found here. If you keep an open mind and stomach, you’ll be able to sample expertly prepared, Aji (Spanish mackerel), Hobo (robin-fish), Mebachi-zuke (marinated big eye tuna), Ikura, and even Shirako (cod milt). —Kirk K

Harbor Breakfast

1502 India Street, Little Italy

Harbor Breakfast

Two reasons I love Harbor Breakfast: it looks like the kind of joint a tugboat skipper would hang out at, and their Hangtown Fry is awesome. Okay, expensive at $15, but still an authentic hark back to Gold Rush days. This is the dish California gold miners would order after they’d struck it rich. Combo of crunchy-coated oysters, eggs, bacon, green onions, King Oyster mushrooms, plus thyme-soaked rough toast, and interesting fruit like persimmons. Tons of other breakfast-lunch choices. Most basic item, two eggs with toast, home fries/hash browns or fruit, costs $8. —Ed Bedford

  • Story alerts
  • Letter to Editor
  • Pin it

Comments

Sign in to comment

Win a $25 Gift Card to
The Broken Yolk Cafe

Join our newsletter list

Each newsletter subscription means another chance to win!

Close