Quantcast
4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs

Taste of the familiar

A sampling of standbys

Frequent Kensington’s Cucina Sorella for the ravioli and other pastas.
Frequent Kensington’s Cucina Sorella for the ravioli and other pastas.

While I enjoy trying new places, I still tend to gravitate toward the familiar. I don’t want to have to guess whether a restaurant will have friendly service, a comfortable space, and satisfying food — I want to know. So, when anyone asks me what I “feel like” for dinner, I draw my suggestions from around 30 top-of-mind establishments. Depending on the time of day and my mood, my options are numerous, from a bowl at my local fast pho peddler to a drawn-out, multicourse meal with paired wines. Here’s a sampling of my many standbys, from the recently opened to long-running mainstays.

Tofu House's dumpling stew
Place

Tofu House

4646 Convoy Street #116, San Diego

Tofu House

The interior always seems to be evolving (new tiles on the wall, new bench seats, new table arrangement, each addition another sign of subtle, gradual improvements), but Tofu House’s scalding cauldrons, with spicy, lava-hot soft tofu stew served at a roiling boil, are as deeply satisfying as my first bite here many years ago. David and I don’t look at the menu because we always have and always will order our respective favorites. Mine is the Dumpling Tofu Stew ($8.99), into which I crack one of the eggs from the tiny basket on the table. The parking lot is a nightmare during peak times, so I aim for early lunches here, closer to when doors open at 11 a.m.

Place

Cucina Sorella

4055 Adams Avenue, San Diego

Cucina Sorella

Unlike sister restaurants Cucinas Urbana and Enoteca, Sorella (which means “sister” in Italian) pushes pasta, and I don’t mean the spaghetti-and-meat-sauce kind. Here, each noodle is hand-crafted daily, a task overseen by chef Daniel Wolinsky, who trained under notable Italian chef/owner of a three-star Michelin restaurant, Massimo Bottura. The menu will frequently change, but my current favorite is the Triangoli — little pasta triangles filled with goat cheese and marscapone, with eggplant, fresh fig, and almonds in a sweet and savory brown-butter balsamic. David and I like to sit at the bar and watch the bustle as we share a bottle of rosé, a salad or the polenta board, and a pasta dish.

Beerfish fish-n-chips
Place

Beerfish

2933 Adams Avenue, San Diego

Beerfish

The fish and chips and lobster roll at Beerfish are on par with many of the good examples my Boston-bred man and I have tasted in New England, from Maine to Martha’s Vineyard. Thick, fresh cod filets are tender and moist inside the crispy batter, and the fries — satisfying crunch on the outside, creamy inside — are the kind you fight over. Instead of the cold-mayo version, the lobster roll here is served warm, the meat having been tossed with brown butter, and presented in a classic griddled bun with chives and lemon — technically “Connecticut-style,” save for the chef’s special sauce. The long picnic tables outside, along with the selection of premium beers on tap, make this patio one on which we could hang out with friends for hours.

Place

Sushi Bar Kazumi

10330 Friars Road, San Diego

Sushi Kazumi

This small space is family-owned and -operated, with a sushi master at the helm. Kazumi-san has been crafting gorgeous plates of nigiri and styling sushi rolls for 50 years. Here, pride is taken in the tiniest details, from the kawaii clock on the wall (that blooms into a flower every hour) to the placement of a dollop of tobiko on an expertly carved slice of yellowtail. The prices are surprisingly affordable for such high-quality fresh fish, but don’t let that deter you from sampling what comes out of the kitchen. The vegetable tempura is crispy and rich, and the bento boxes are plentiful and pristine.

Place

Brazen BBQ

441 Washington Street, San Diego

Brazen BBQ Smokehouse & Bar

Brazen’s Baby Back Ribs are by far the best that either David or I have tasted, and that includes BBQ joints in a handful of Texas towns. They’re tender and lean, with a beautiful smoke ring, the mark of authentic barbecue. The service is extraordinarily friendly, as though a contagious smile was a prerequisite for hiring. Platters are easy to share, and leftovers keep well. For dine-in or takeout, we always get those tasty ribs, along with a few sides to share, my favorite of which is the Cowboy Beans and the Texas toast, which I dip into the spicy/tangy B.R.A.G. sauce, an acronym we may never fully know, as it hints at the sauce’s secret ingredients.

Solare
Place

Solare Ristorante Lounge

2820 Roosevelt Road, NTC Promenade, San Diego

Solare Ristorante

Do not expect any semblance of typical Italian food when you step into Solare. Sure, chef Accursio Lota hails from Sicily, but his dishes reflect a refinement and artistry that transcends the regional fare. He likes to dabble with molecular gastronomy, and occasionally the menu reflects this (as with the cantaloupe infusion in a fish crudo appetizer). The pastas are made fresh in-house, and the flavor combinations can be delicate (paper-thin lasagna filled with grass-fed lamb, eggplant, and fresh mint) or bold (braised beef cheek and mushroom ravioli in a Vin Santo and Modica chocolate sauce).

Madison
Place

Madison

4622 Park Boulevard, San Diego

Madison

For fresh, Mediterranean-inspired share plates with friends, we pull up a seat on the indoor/outdoor patio at Madison. Here the cocktails are harmoniously blended (my favorite is the spicy and refreshing Umbrella, with St. George Green Chile Vodka, cucumber, lemon, and club soda), as are the ingredients on each plate. This place is also home to one of my favorite salads — the Heirloom Salad: ripe, juicy tomatoes and watermelon tossed with mint, capers, and feta, served atop bread croutons with a savory side of soppressata slices. David’s favorite dish is the Skirt Steak, which comes with guacamole, quinoa chopped salad, and a citrus yogurt sauce.

3rd Corner's chicken sandwich
Place

3rd Corner Wine Shop & Bistro

2265 Bacon Street, San Diego

3rd Corner Wine Shop and Bistro

This is my secret spot for buying wine by the case, because the selection is interesting, and the prices of my preferred labels are unbeatable (that is, for club members; it only costs an email address to join). The premium provisions make for a great pairing. We often time our visits for lunch (or brunch if it’s the weekend) with our need to restock the wine shelf. I vacillate between ordering a salad and a cup of soup (a creamy rich, wild-mushroom version) and the grilled chicken breast sandwich, a tender, generous breast with boursin, basil pesto, and sun-dried tomato tapenade on bakery-fresh baguette. All with a glass of rosé, of course.

Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all

Previous article

Margaret Fuller: wrote first major work of feminism in the US

An inspiration on Walt Whitman
Frequent Kensington’s Cucina Sorella for the ravioli and other pastas.
Frequent Kensington’s Cucina Sorella for the ravioli and other pastas.

While I enjoy trying new places, I still tend to gravitate toward the familiar. I don’t want to have to guess whether a restaurant will have friendly service, a comfortable space, and satisfying food — I want to know. So, when anyone asks me what I “feel like” for dinner, I draw my suggestions from around 30 top-of-mind establishments. Depending on the time of day and my mood, my options are numerous, from a bowl at my local fast pho peddler to a drawn-out, multicourse meal with paired wines. Here’s a sampling of my many standbys, from the recently opened to long-running mainstays.

Tofu House's dumpling stew
Place

Tofu House

4646 Convoy Street #116, San Diego

Tofu House

The interior always seems to be evolving (new tiles on the wall, new bench seats, new table arrangement, each addition another sign of subtle, gradual improvements), but Tofu House’s scalding cauldrons, with spicy, lava-hot soft tofu stew served at a roiling boil, are as deeply satisfying as my first bite here many years ago. David and I don’t look at the menu because we always have and always will order our respective favorites. Mine is the Dumpling Tofu Stew ($8.99), into which I crack one of the eggs from the tiny basket on the table. The parking lot is a nightmare during peak times, so I aim for early lunches here, closer to when doors open at 11 a.m.

Place

Cucina Sorella

4055 Adams Avenue, San Diego

Cucina Sorella

Unlike sister restaurants Cucinas Urbana and Enoteca, Sorella (which means “sister” in Italian) pushes pasta, and I don’t mean the spaghetti-and-meat-sauce kind. Here, each noodle is hand-crafted daily, a task overseen by chef Daniel Wolinsky, who trained under notable Italian chef/owner of a three-star Michelin restaurant, Massimo Bottura. The menu will frequently change, but my current favorite is the Triangoli — little pasta triangles filled with goat cheese and marscapone, with eggplant, fresh fig, and almonds in a sweet and savory brown-butter balsamic. David and I like to sit at the bar and watch the bustle as we share a bottle of rosé, a salad or the polenta board, and a pasta dish.

Beerfish fish-n-chips
Place

Beerfish

2933 Adams Avenue, San Diego

Beerfish

The fish and chips and lobster roll at Beerfish are on par with many of the good examples my Boston-bred man and I have tasted in New England, from Maine to Martha’s Vineyard. Thick, fresh cod filets are tender and moist inside the crispy batter, and the fries — satisfying crunch on the outside, creamy inside — are the kind you fight over. Instead of the cold-mayo version, the lobster roll here is served warm, the meat having been tossed with brown butter, and presented in a classic griddled bun with chives and lemon — technically “Connecticut-style,” save for the chef’s special sauce. The long picnic tables outside, along with the selection of premium beers on tap, make this patio one on which we could hang out with friends for hours.

Place

Sushi Bar Kazumi

10330 Friars Road, San Diego

Sushi Kazumi

This small space is family-owned and -operated, with a sushi master at the helm. Kazumi-san has been crafting gorgeous plates of nigiri and styling sushi rolls for 50 years. Here, pride is taken in the tiniest details, from the kawaii clock on the wall (that blooms into a flower every hour) to the placement of a dollop of tobiko on an expertly carved slice of yellowtail. The prices are surprisingly affordable for such high-quality fresh fish, but don’t let that deter you from sampling what comes out of the kitchen. The vegetable tempura is crispy and rich, and the bento boxes are plentiful and pristine.

Place

Brazen BBQ

441 Washington Street, San Diego

Brazen BBQ Smokehouse & Bar

Brazen’s Baby Back Ribs are by far the best that either David or I have tasted, and that includes BBQ joints in a handful of Texas towns. They’re tender and lean, with a beautiful smoke ring, the mark of authentic barbecue. The service is extraordinarily friendly, as though a contagious smile was a prerequisite for hiring. Platters are easy to share, and leftovers keep well. For dine-in or takeout, we always get those tasty ribs, along with a few sides to share, my favorite of which is the Cowboy Beans and the Texas toast, which I dip into the spicy/tangy B.R.A.G. sauce, an acronym we may never fully know, as it hints at the sauce’s secret ingredients.

Solare
Place

Solare Ristorante Lounge

2820 Roosevelt Road, NTC Promenade, San Diego

Solare Ristorante

Do not expect any semblance of typical Italian food when you step into Solare. Sure, chef Accursio Lota hails from Sicily, but his dishes reflect a refinement and artistry that transcends the regional fare. He likes to dabble with molecular gastronomy, and occasionally the menu reflects this (as with the cantaloupe infusion in a fish crudo appetizer). The pastas are made fresh in-house, and the flavor combinations can be delicate (paper-thin lasagna filled with grass-fed lamb, eggplant, and fresh mint) or bold (braised beef cheek and mushroom ravioli in a Vin Santo and Modica chocolate sauce).

Madison
Place

Madison

4622 Park Boulevard, San Diego

Madison

For fresh, Mediterranean-inspired share plates with friends, we pull up a seat on the indoor/outdoor patio at Madison. Here the cocktails are harmoniously blended (my favorite is the spicy and refreshing Umbrella, with St. George Green Chile Vodka, cucumber, lemon, and club soda), as are the ingredients on each plate. This place is also home to one of my favorite salads — the Heirloom Salad: ripe, juicy tomatoes and watermelon tossed with mint, capers, and feta, served atop bread croutons with a savory side of soppressata slices. David’s favorite dish is the Skirt Steak, which comes with guacamole, quinoa chopped salad, and a citrus yogurt sauce.

3rd Corner's chicken sandwich
Place

3rd Corner Wine Shop & Bistro

2265 Bacon Street, San Diego

3rd Corner Wine Shop and Bistro

This is my secret spot for buying wine by the case, because the selection is interesting, and the prices of my preferred labels are unbeatable (that is, for club members; it only costs an email address to join). The premium provisions make for a great pairing. We often time our visits for lunch (or brunch if it’s the weekend) with our need to restock the wine shelf. I vacillate between ordering a salad and a cup of soup (a creamy rich, wild-mushroom version) and the grilled chicken breast sandwich, a tender, generous breast with boursin, basil pesto, and sun-dried tomato tapenade on bakery-fresh baguette. All with a glass of rosé, of course.

Sponsored
Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all
Previous article

Unexpendable Rambo

The first and fourth foray
Next Article

Small merchants in San Ysidro suffering

Border businesses hardest hit
Comments
0

Be the first to leave a comment.

Sign in to comment

Sign in

Art Reviews — W.S. Di Piero's eye on exhibits Ask a Hipster — Advice you didn't know you needed Best Buys — San Diego shopping Big Screen — Movie commentary Blurt — Music's inside track Booze News — San Diego spirits City Lights — News and politics Classical Music — Immortal beauty Classifieds — Free and easy Cover Stories — Front-page features Excerpts — Literary and spiritual excerpts Famous Former Neighbors — Next-door celebs Feast! — Food & drink reviews Feature Stories — Local news & stories From the Archives — Spotlight on the past Golden Dreams — Talk of the town Here's the Deal — Chad Deal's watering holes Just Announced — The scoop on shows Letters — Our inbox [email protected] — Local movie buffs share favorites Movie Reviews — Our critics' picks and pans Musician Interviews — Up close with local artists Neighborhood News from Stringers — Hyperlocal news News Ticker — News & politics Obermeyer — San Diego politics illustrated Of Note — Concert picks Out & About — What's Happening Overheard in San Diego — Eavesdropping illustrated Poetry — The old and the new Pour Over — Grab a cup Reader Travel — Travel section built by travelers Reading — The hunt for intellectuals Roam-O-Rama — SoCal's best hiking/biking trails San Diego Beer — Inside San Diego suds SD on the QT — Almost factual news Set 'em Up Joe — Bartenders' drink recipes Sheep and Goats — Places of worship Special Issues — The best of Sports — Athletics without gush Street Style — San Diego streets have style Suit Up — Fashion tips for dudes Theater Reviews — Local productions Theater antireviews — Narrow your search Tin Fork — Silver spoon alternative Under the Radar — Matt Potter's undercover work Unforgettable — Long-ago San Diego Unreal Estate — San Diego's priciest pads Waterfront — All things ocean Your Week — Daily event picks
4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
Close