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Stories by Barbarella Fokos

Tell Amazon what they want to hear

... or they may unlist your product

On November 1, local artist and entrepreneur Rachel Eva was hopeful about the impending holidays. Standard Spoon, the boutique barware company Eva founded two years ago with her collaborator and husband, Shawn Michael, was only ...

Not only Convoy

My mother makes her demand

The Convoy district may be San Diego’s hub for Asian food, but that doesn’t mean all the good ones are concentrated in that area. For example, tucked into a strip mall on an otherwise restaurant-bare ...

Clairemont Mesa's Blvd. Hunan food tested me

Outside the boundaries at Village Kitchen

When David and I agreed to join our friends Katie and Jordan for dinner at Village Kitchen, I was mildly apprehensive. This Chinese restaurant in Clairemont is known for its Hunan-style cuisine, and I wasn’t ...

Crudo on a Thursday: out of the foie gras, but not the sea bass

Look beyond the pisco sour and gin fizz

Dining out has never been just about the food. Every aspect factors into the overall experience, from the way you’re greeted at the door to the lighting at your table. With the advent of countless ...

E-lynched in Barrio Logan

“Knock some sense into this bitch.”

On October 26, Jenny Niezgoda launched a Kickstarter campaign for La Gracia Modern Fruiteria, a café and coffee bar she planned to open in Barrio Logan. Hours later, with 14 backers and $812 of her ...

Comfort-foody north of the 52

Mama Kat's pleases a finicky mom

My mother and I met up with my sister Heather for lunch and a pedicure one recent weekday, and chose to eat at Mama Kat’s because it was located in the same strip mall as ...

La Jolla movie restaurant tries to get it right, but...

A Lot to be improved

Just as traveling through a snow storm reminds me to appreciate our Southern California sunshine, I’d like to thank The Lot in La Jolla for reminding me to appreciate the times I have dined out ...

Savory and satisfying and gigantic at The Original Pancake House

Give in to the fantasy

We hadn’t intended to go to The Original Pancake House. One goes to Convoy for excellent Asian food, not old Americana, but alas, upon arrival at 10:30 a.m. David and I realized that all of ...

Fusion is foremost

Al Reef, Koon Thai, Bully's East, Izakaya Masa, Grass Skirt, Prep Kitchen, La Bonne Table

Prep Kitchen is quintessentially Californian in that it exalts comfort food by making it seasonal, and in that fusion is foremost. On this menu, you’ll find fish tacos (tomatillo salsa, cabbage, cilantro, avocado crema: $14.95) ...

No quarters necessary

Nonstop gaming at Fleet Science Center

Fleet Science Center welcomes gamers of all ages and levels with Game Masters: The Exhibition. This traveling exhibition that originated at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image opened on July 1 and runs through ...

Swayed by the curry

Koon Thai, sans Styrofoam

Sometimes sifting through delivery apps is the best way to find a new restaurant. You pick a food genre, browse, and then select something and it arrives, like Netflix for dinner. I discovered Koon Thai ...

Trends come and go, but Parkhouse Eatery remains

Don’t ever change

If there’s one thing in this ever-changing world I can rely on, it’s the menu at Parkhouse Eatery. The place that was serving up avocado toast long before it was a thing is also home ...

Fast-ish food of the ramen variety

Nozaru Ramen Bar on Adams Ave.

Fast-ish food is so hot right now. Five years ago, a girl had to drive all the way up to Convoy for a decent bowl of ramen, but now you can’t drive a mile through ...

Happy Hour becomes happy dinner

Bavarian pretzel, deviled eggs, Duroc pork — at Leroy's in Coronado

I love an early happy hour, or as Leroy’s Kitchen and Lounge refers to their late afternoon-but-not-quite-early-evening discount time, “Social Hour.” Leroy’s starts at 3:00 p.m., allowing three whole hours for discounted drinks and half-off ...

Don't shoot the cook

Chilaquiles and cochinita in downtown San Diego

In the movie Once Upon a Time in Mexico, Johnny Depp plays a dangerous and dashing CIA agent with a penchant for puerco pibil. “It is a slow-roasted pork,” Depp’s character explains as he takes ...

Late-night options

Despite the hour, the kitchen doesn’t slack

Though I appreciate many of this town’s 24-hour taco shops, it’s nice to have options for when David and I — hungry after a long event — are looking for late-night dining. Plenty of events ...

On the way to the “super bloom”

The first bite was reminiscent of a backyard barbecue

We didn’t know where we were going, not at first. All I knew was that it was a beautiful Saturday afternoon and I wanted to drive, ideally toward a field of flowers, as my news ...

Service stands out at Herb & Wood

A dining spot for the special occasion

After one of the hype-iest openings in recent history, Herb & Wood remained for many months a place I was afraid to visit, lest it disappoint me the way a few other big-money, big-hype restaurants ...

Another take on veggie wonder Donna Jean

Comfort food, vegan style

[Ed. note: Ian Anderson reviewed Donna Jean on March 9.] We are all omnivores by nature, but I am also one by choice, as in I choose to eat a variety of foods that include ...

Three Little Lion cubs

The spirit of Belgian Lion lives on in granddaughters

The Little Lion Café inhabits a tiny building at the edge of Sunset Cliffs Boulevard, right at the point where the long straight street becomes a winding road that hugs the coastline. The Little Lion ...

New Orleans Cafe puts the Old South in the Old West

Try something with the word “creole” in it

Between the quality shows at Cygnet Theatre and the lighthearted comedy of Old Town Improv, I’ve been finding more reasons to spend time in Old Town, an area that, along with the Gaslamp, I once ...

Where art resides

Typically, artists “just want to make work in private.”

“Artist residences are about taking the time to explore your work in a new way,” says Melissa Walter, who is currently the artist-in-residence at Bread & Salt, “a gallery and experimental center for the arts.” ...

Kensington: the only real neighborhood in San Diego

Where a guy can paint his house the color of a taco stand.

Dino the dachshund and a Chihuahua/Brittany spaniel mix named Olivia walk through Kensington on a cool, clear afternoon. Behind them ambles Peter LaMontia. The trio head for Village Vino. Every one of Kensington’s restaurants features ...

Fresh picks at the Red Door

At farm-to-table restaurants, new season means new menu

My friend Rosa convinced me — with an arsenal of photos she’d taken of dishes, including her favorite mac ’n’ cheese — to go to the Red Door for happy hour. “The vegetables are always ...

Dine like a revolutionary

See an actual Sam Adams signature while drinking a Sam Adams beer

On the rare occasion David and I make a trek to Carlsbad, it’s usually to go to the European restaurant and store Tip Top Meats (primarily for products by the Hungarian brand, Bende, which is ...

Savory smoked selections

Grand Ole BBQ y Asado sells out

The San Diego restaurant scene is vast in terms of dining options, but in its own way it is also small and many chefs and restaurateurs are friends in what is, for the most part, ...

The salads here are tasty

“You like it? It was good?”

It had been years since I’d been to the Pappalecco in Little Italy, so my expectations were neutral when I walked into their most recent location in Kensington. The first thing I noticed was how ...

About to get meaty

Look away, vegetarian friends

My favorite burger of all time is still Starlite’s (see Mary Beth’s note about it) primarily for its classic perfection (Brandt beef, gruyere cheese, caramelized onions, brioche bun). But having a go-to doesn’t preclude me ...

Oh, those free-range birds

Late lunch in North Park

David and I finally made it to Encontro, in that magical empty hour between lunch and dinner. The restaurant is positioned at the corner of University Avenue and 30th Street, which puts it right in ...

Strong libations! You’ve been warned!

Drinks and a view at Bali Hai

When I’m stressed out, an ocean view is the tonic that I crave. There’s something so calming about that expanse of blue, the ripples on the surface, the wide openness of the water. Recently, after ...

Literature for the white-socks-and-orange-slippers set

If I can read a book, I can get a job

At first glance, Unit 800’s classroom looks like any ordinary high-school classroom. It has all the usual stuff: bookshelves, white board, map of the world, and around a dozen student desks. Pinned near the ceiling ...

The Hanged Man

This is it. The final installment of Diary of a Diva.

I have kept every message I’ve ever received, the most poignant and rewarding being the responses to my stories about my struggles with anxiety and depression.

Cruise loos

The salty-dog bowel-and-bladder conundrum

David is the guy who, upon hearing a fart joke at a party, rolls his eyes and repeats the adage that, given enough time, all conversations seem to devolve into discussions of bodily functions.

Taste of the familiar

A sampling of standbys

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 — ...

Death of a darling

Oh, creative types!

David dropped his head, and, with the faintest hint of a smile, whispered, “I hate you.” This phrase has become the swan song for each of his arguments in their moment of death.

Queen Mother

Her helping me was really me helping her

When Mom “joked” about working for me, I called her bluff. “Don’t say it if you don’t mean it, because I could use some help,” I said. Instead of the “gotcha” laugh I expected, Mom’s face lit up.

Inner Fire Dragon

“Thirty-five to 40 is really the golden age for women.”

When I asked Dad what he thought happens to women after 40, he laughed and said, “They turn,” a term that, moments before, he’d joked was akin to milk spoiling.

A neighborhood eatery in which the neighborhood had a say

Cucina Sorella comes to Kensington

Cucina Sorella (which means “sister” in Italian) offers the same warm and welcoming atmosphere we’ve come to expect from the other cucinas of the Urban Kitchen Group (Cucina Urbana, Cucina Enoteca), all overseen by owner ...

Shut up already

Thoughts and pulse race in Trader Joe’s parking lot

“See how this part is orange? That’s supposed to be red. I’m looking to find a guy who paints cars, with airbrushes, because I want to get these airbrushed back to the red that they were when I bought them.”

The happy intersection of cheap and good

Sushi Bar Kazumi, hiding in plain sight

The words “cheap” and “high quality” are rarely found in the same sentence when referring to sushi joints. The cost of quality ingredients and the many years of training it takes to get the nigiri ...

Et Voilà arrives in University Heights

And be sure to pronounce it correctly

Ever since we first saw the sign announcing a new French bistro named Et Voilà would soon be opening, David and I found ourselves forgoing the freeway to take the longer route down Adams Avenue ...

An aunting expedition to SeaWorld

"We’re not just going to look at the penguins. We’re going to meet a penguin."

My sister Jane was along to spend time with me and properly watch after her progeny, lest I drop one of them into the shark-petting pool or something.

Abstract works by NASA science illustrator on display in North Park Gallery

A New Stellar Order shows through June 18

There’s a an artistic universe squeezed into a little gallery space tucked between a residential home and a tattoo parlor on the eastern edge of North Park. The space is called Teros Gallery, the same ...

Trying Trust again

Does it fare better the second time?

[Note: Ian Pike gave Trust a try on March 31.] When I first saw the sign for Trust restaurant, I rolled my eyes a little. Was this yet another one of those hippie-dippy joints where ...

Pickled on a pickle

In the distance we could see our ride, a giant dirigible designed to look like a cucumber.

A path of rose petals led us to the waiting area. Fresh croissants and an assortment of pastries and colorful cookies, along with porcelain teapots, cucumbers, and red roses were spread out on tiny wooden ...

A taco for every mood

From casual to fancy, from familiar to foreign.

Sometimes I crave the comfort of familiarity, and other times I’m eager to embark on an adventure with exciting flavor combinations. On busy days, I search for food that is fast and inexpensive, but now ...

Resurrect the bird

The Crack Shack is all things chicken and egg

For decades, chicken has gotten a bad rap. Looked down upon by sophisticated palates, this lean and mild meat is routinely dismissed as the vodka of proteins. Growing up, all of the chicken that I ...

We shared this bond

The mourning is never going to go away completely.

As Mother’s Day approaches, most of us are faced with the usual Hallmark-holiday–related concerns — which flowers go best with this year’s card and how soon in advance do we need to make brunch reservations? ...

The Brain Trust book club

I like raccoons

I felt my face flush with heat when across the table I heard these names pronounced correctly, with perfect French accents: “Al-bare Kam-oo” and “Mare-so.”

Umbrellas and a Vieux from Above

Another take on Madison

I’m always on the hunt for a spot to enjoy cocktails and shareables with friends. A handful of restaurants have opened within the past year that hit the bull’s-eye, and one of them is Madison. ...

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