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Stories by Barbarella Fokos

About to get meaty

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 ...

September 14, 2016
Oh, those free-range birds

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!

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

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 ...

August 24, 2016
The Hanged Man

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.

August 24, 2016
Cruise loos

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.

August 10, 2016
Taste of the familiar

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 — ...

August 3, 2016
Death of a darling

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.

July 27, 2016
Queen Mother

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.

July 13, 2016
Inner Fire Dragon

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.

June 29, 2016
A neighborhood eatery in which the neighborhood had a say

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

“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.”

June 15, 2016
The happy intersection of cheap and good

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

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

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.

June 1, 2016
Abstract works by NASA science illustrator on display in North Park Gallery

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

[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

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 ...

May 18, 2016
San Diego Reader 2016 taco issue

Asada days and adobada nights — A little taste of Loreto in San Diego. by Mary Beth Abate Tacos where you least expect them — Looking beyond standard tacolandia. By Ed Bedford Taco mecca — ...

May 11, 2016
A taco for every mood

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

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 ...

Chula’s Mission nurtures San Diego's motherless girls

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? ...

May 4, 2016
The Brain Trust book club

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.”

May 4, 2016
Umbrellas and a Vieux from Above

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. ...

Perfect “sapid” pizza

Pizzeria Bruno is among my top three go-to places for pizza in San Diego (the others being Isola Pizza Bar in Little Italy and Buona Forchetta in South Park). I think I’m just a sucker ...

Two Harbors to ... you know

At first, David was dejected, and I wasn’t much help. “If we were going to go for fun, I probably would have opted to stay on the fun side of the island,” I said.

Spanish cravings

Despite the surfeit of marvelous Mexican cuisine, San Diego suffers a dearth of attractive Spanish food options. There was Iberico Spanish Bistro in La Jolla, which was good, but outrageously priced, and is now closed. ...

Dinner party two-step

The guy with the beard further demonstrated his grace: “So, tell us about you,” he said to the girl, politely indicating it would be nice if she talked about what she did, rather than what she did not.

April 6, 2016
Palomar picnic

While driving, there is absolutely no expectation in any corner of my mind that I should or could be doing anything else but enjoying the ride. And there are no electrical outlets in the woods.

You should keep driving

There’s a downside to trying to appeal to the masses, and Mr. Spicy is a good example. It’s quick, easy, cheap, and the customer service and space are pleasant enough, but the food has the ...

Where's that horse going to be dumped?

Gunilla Pratt has become accustomed to waking up at her house in Temecula only to discover yet another abandoned animal in her yard. “People will just leave them,” she says. “I’ll get up and be, ...

March 9, 2016
Judgerella

Judgment gets a bad rap. This is understandable, seeing as the term sounds so much like the closely related “judgmental,” which is used to describe someone who is overly critical, even disapproving.

March 9, 2016
Mr. Cheese

David decided to dress in the lounge spirit, in an ensemble I referred to as “the afterparty” look: a tuxedo with the bowtie untied and hanging from his neck.

From “meh” to “yay”

The first time David and I had lunch at Troy’s Greek Restaurant, we didn’t love it. We didn’t hate it either. The lunch specials were reasonable. I got a plentiful plate of chicken souvlaki (chicken ...

Pocket butler

Katie works full-time at an office job and prefers to spend her weekends hiking, building motorcycles, or simply chilling at home, sans pants.

The “duck” was “disappointing”

I’m a meat-eater, but I don’t eat meat all the time and I love Thai food. So when I learned of Purple Mint Vegetarian Bistro, I was ready to check it out. David and I ...

Art spaces that cultivate communities

In my home, art is personal. Each piece is a quiet reminder for me to smile to myself or contemplate the world. Sometimes both. Outside of my home, art is community. We gather around it ...

Crab for the kids

My 11-year-old nephew Brian is the only adventurous eater among my six niephlings. For months he’s been eager to try crab — real crab, straight from the shell. My brother-in-law developed an allergy to shellfish ...

Food porn at Broken Yolk

Picture menus get a bad rap, but more and more I’m finding them invaluable. For example, had there not been a giant, colorful, foodporn-y image of the Border Benedict on the glossy menu at the ...

SYM-phony No. 3

The lights dimmed, and the orchestra began to play. The music was much softer than I remembered from my past experiences. If it were a stereo, I would have turned it up.

January 27, 2016
Paige Howorth, San Diego Zoo's spider lady

She probably likes snakes too.

January 20, 2016
Stick with the sushi

One thing the Kensington area is missing is a great sushi restaurant. As lovers of Japanese food, David and I are always on the lookout for a go-to sushi joint. Alas, we’ve yet to find ...

Cocktail caviar

“I’m going to put the tonic, Aperol, and sodium alginate in that container, and then you need to emotion-blend it while I’m over here mixing the calcium lactate and water in this container.”

January 13, 2016
The fabled rolls of Kawaii Sushi

In Japan, the concept of kawaii, or “cuteness,” is pervasive. Even traditionally “uncute” entities such as the military or the fire department have a cute mascot, such as the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department’s Pipo-kun, a ...

That’s not a Thai salad

We inlanders (who are at least a 15-minute drive to the coastline) can get caught up in our day to day and forget the sparkling majesty that lies just beyond the concrete horizon. Every once ...

Certain pleasures are best enjoyed infrequently

Every San Diegan knows the value of a kick-ass breakfast burrito and the wretchedness of a disappointing one. I only have one or two breakfast burritos a year, so it’s imperative I know where to ...

Public mastication

At some point, we became accustomed to framing our discussion around food choices in moral terms. It’s stupid, and we need to stop.

December 30, 2015
The ultimate hangover cure

I don’t often suffer from hangovers — as a pro, I know how to pace myself. But every once in a while a night gets away from me, and I imbibe more booze than water, ...

All about that shawarma

I’m not sure why I never made it into Aladdin before now. I walk by it at least once a week on my way to Trader Joe’s in Hillcrest, so it’s not like I didn’t ...

This bot sucks

“If you think you’re done, Buster, think again,” he said to the machine as if it could understand him. “I’m just going to keep running you until that floor is clean.”

December 16, 2015

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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
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