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Stories by Ed Bedford

Poke 123: real Hawaiian food before SPAM arrived

“As usual, eyes were bigger than stomach, and stomach ain’t small.”

Annie’s right. I’m greedy. Usually, when I think Hawaiian food, I’m thinking SPAM on rice, hamburger steak on rice drowned in gravy, pork adobo plate with rice and a “salad” of mac and cheese. Delish, ...

Bowlegged: Bobby Brown, BB King, and Bar B Que

The wall menu is almost as long as the room

“Come on out!” Kenneth’s sitting with Marco under the canopy. It’s been raining, but things are drying out. I’ve just ordered my ribs at the main counter. If you keep on walking, you can come ...

Lakeside happy hour wheel of fortune: $2 Coors bottle with a Tullamore Dew chaser

Hungry? Try the “Lakesliders” burger deal

Outside, you’d never know it. But this is the spot where Mr. La Madrid used to build stagecoaches, here on the corner of Maine and Laurel in Lakeside, 100 years ago. “In 1916,” says a ...

Canadian beef in Little Italy

“Guess sometimes ya gotta jump for the moon.”

‘Why did the cow jump over the moon?” asks this black felt letterboard. “Because the farmer didn’t warm his hands.” I’m outside at The Farmer’s Table, the newest eatery to open on Piazza della Famiglia ...

Paella Sunday

“Saved you the best part. The scrapings.”

‘Paella!” Frank Pazos parades the steaming pan out of the kitchen, down the steps, and into the bar. Eighteen orange langustas (I count them) lie curled up on a yellow bed of saffron rice, green ...

Cuba’s best teacher at Los Pollos in Chula Vista

I don’t know why guava isn’t more popular.

“I was a professor,” says Rafael. “A licenciado. I taught history, specializing in Persia and Greece. And in 2015, I was named best teacher in the nation.” That nation was Cuba. Yet now he’s a ...

Bedford dreams of Indian food

I don’t miss meat for a second

‘There’s no such spice as curry,” says Wendy. “Curry is a western invention.” Say what? “Curry is a cooked dish using masala, and ‘masala’ means ‘a mix of spices.’ Any mix.” Wendy should know. She’s ...

The mother of chili at Sister Ray's

"She kinda teleported the recipe back to Spain."

You puff up to this hilltop eatery. You see the gang behind the counter. You think one thing: ZZ Top! Because darned near everybody here has a beard. Okay, only Kevin has the full-on ZZ ...

No knives or forks

Why not switch Irish stew to Ethiopian stew?

Cold night. I’m walking down El Cajon Boulevard, fully intending to cut north and head for Rosie O’Grady’s pub on Adams Avenue for a solid Irish stew. What’s making me hesitate is this Ethiopian place ...

Kumeyaay, cawfee, and candy canes

Coming down from the mountain and hitting The Trails

Just came off the mountain. Been dreaming of sitting down, taking a load off, slurping the first gulp of cawfee. Got a mountainous appetite. On the other hand, this morning has been totally exhilarating, climbing ...

The memory of swordfish

Just enough spice to give the white flesh a come-hither taste

The waves crash as if this were an episode of Poldark. Sun and spume glint through the colored plastic surfboard sculptures, here at IB’s Portwood Pier Plaza. “So I’m still looking,” says Kevin. We’re meeting ...

Necks and Chicks

“That’s 144,000 chickens a year! All in this little place.”

Hey hey! Holiday season’s here and da geese are getting fat, but I’m here for chicken necks, my yuletide snack. So good to be in TJ again. I know. Not the best timing. But it’s ...

I’ve gone crazy and ordered a breakfast salad

And the bread bowl is not just a cheaper choice on the menu, it’s delicious

‘Body Butter,” says the sample the guy’s handing out. “Free application,” he says. “Step inside.” So La Jolla. “Not now,” I say. Truth is, I’m desperate for brekky. And also, I wanna to try this ...

In the company of cats

They say purrs lower blood pressure

Autumn in Paris! I’m in a French-feeling patio with about eight wood-slat tables under a big tree. Fall leaves saucer down in the breeze. We’re in the Gaslamp’s Chinatown area at 3rd and Island. “The ...

Sip, nibble, sip as you watch the world go by

Man, this place has atmosphere

Four men sit heads-down in the middle of a card game. Two of them hold dead cigars in their card hand. They’re speaking Italian. “What’s the game?” “Scopa,” says the gent with the merry face. ...

Taco joint at the Hotel Del?

“Better hurry, they close at sunset.”

I’m standing staring out to sea along with maybe fifty people here where the Del segues into beach. We’re on the brink of sunset. And what a sunset. For sure, it’s the wildfires causing it. ...

Rib tips are beckoning

“I just do this for a hobby.”

What is going on up here? This is Chollas View-Mount Hope. Guess I’ve been looking for ribs in all the wrong places, heh heh. We’re talking Market Street in the 4200 area. Trundling east in ...

All I can say is, lavish!

I waddle out, a couple of pounds heavier.

I swear. Thought I knew Barrio Logan. I’m wandering down Beardsley to where it gets more industrial. Right where Newton Avenue crosses, by Perkins Elementary School, I spot a sandwich board. Huh. A kind of ...

Poke power

I need some of the pure protein tuna has. Not greasy cheeseburgers.

Are we running out of tuna? Standing here in Poke Etc, in the middle of National City’s Highland View Center, I’m starting to wonder. Little signs on the counter say they’re going to have to ...

A beautifully angry cauldron of tastes

“We are all Issan here.”

To understand a cuisine, you’ve got to look around. That is, look at the countryside of an area. Like Issan cooking. These people live in the not -so-fertile crescent of Thailand’s northeast. The land doesn’t ...

To beat hunger and heat in El Centro

Cathy brings my mollete, and boy, for $2.85, it’s a lot

‘Cher was born here,” says Sonny. “Right, Lawrence?” Lawrence lifts up his aristocratic, bloodhound-wrinkled face and nods. “Her dad was a truck driver.” We’re standing in the muggy heat of an El Centro Greyhound depot. ...

Mold gold

This is the best danged torta I can ever remember eating.

It’s black. It’s a fungus. It’s a disease. It’s delicious. I know because I’m sinking my fangs into a torta that’s drooling with it: huitlacoche. That’s a Nahuatl name meaning “sleeping excrescence.” It grows on ...

Haggis: bad, Nessy burgers: good

A nap and a Scottish piper wailing in the heather would go down well right now

"You can see forever!” says Mag. We’ve just got out of her car. Wind sifts up from the San Luis Rey river, snaking through the valley below. Interstate 15 swoops towards us like a gigantic ...

People look up to Syrian food

Competition among Middle East restaurants around here is intense.

People look up to Syrian food

Gluten-free duck

So next night, here I am again, staring across at their come-hither lights

Gluten-free duck

Sushi and tacos, making whoopee

“You could really fill yourself for eight bucks, no problem.”

Sushi and tacos, making whoopee

The Reader's 2018 burger issue

The most complicated of sandwiches The Friendly, Born and Raised, Balboa Bar, Viewpoint, Mishmash, Currant, Bleu Boheme By Mary Beth Abate We’re burger rich, y’all Craft House, Gourmet Sandwiches, Salud, Ty's, Bunz, Hamilton's. Chinatown Bar ...

Gimme the biggest burger you got

Werewolf, Longhorn, Night and Day, Nessy, Cafe 505, Cali O, Nicky Rottens

This time I’m thinking don’t spare the horses, think BIG! So I got the biggest burgers these places had, and the climax was out in Rancho San Diego, where Nicky Rottens has a two-pound, $30 ...

I’m hemorrhaging mayonnaise

“Boy, hero to zero in five minutes flat.”

I’m hemorrhaging mayonnaise

Typically Cuban

I love how people drop their inhibitions here

Typically Cuban

What Italians like to do

Any time I can afford it, I’ll be here.

My friend Carlos paid for this. I would have been too mean. By the time I arrive, he already has a large plate of one of the taglieri (“cutting boards”). It’s laid out on the ...

Bedford in hot Tecate

I’m just the kind of turista the people of Tecate don’t need.

The tuba player sweats as he wiggles into his tuba — sousaphone, more accurately. It sends evil glints into the café crowd. But it’s so hot, he wriggles out again, and goes to sit under ...

Pure pupusa pleasure

“I’ve always loved their soft squelchiness, and the things you can fill them with.”

Sunday night, seven, 8th Street, up near Highland, National City. Not many places open for a hungry lad like myself. Yes, Cabo Wabo Grill and Bar is blasting out Historia de Un Amor, but I’m ...

Reader 2018 Feast issue

Writers and their favotrites

When dinner is a gift El Jardin, Cowboy Star, Coasterra, Born & Raised, Charles + Dinorah, Nine-Ten, Juniper & Ivy By Mary Beth Abate I burst with hometown pride George's, Himitsu, Kokoro, Starlite, Gelato Vero ...

Gather a dozen of your best friends

Yellow Deli, Not-Not Tacos, Grandma's Tofu, Garden Kitchen, Villa Manila, Piazza 1909, Mariscos El Titanic

The first element for a nice evening out is not to rush it. Which makes this place perfect: Yellow Deli never closes, except from Friday 3 pm through Sunday 3 pm, sabbath for Twelve Tribes, ...

Panini plan has to work

“I turn away people asking for omelets every day, but I’ve stopped feeling guilty about it.”

Bob and Kate Carpenter had a decision to make. “I said ‘We have no pension, no safety net. This has to work,’” says Bob. The question? Whether to give up their lives as journalists and ...

Sam the taco guy

“I’m not a purist. I’m a food agnostic.”

When is a taco not not a taco? I’ve come to this brand-new Little Italy Food Hall’s opening day to find out. From The Princess Pub, you can see it happening at the other end ...

Out of South Africa

“I made 300 pounds of sausages for the Fourth of July. We sold out.”

‘Just think about it,” says Perky. Graham Perkett, actually, but his friends call him Perky. “Four, five hundred years ago, the Cape of Good Hope was where every ship from Europe had to stop in ...

If La Jolla had a Cheers

The Spot to be in Mat Kulaaxuuy

Welcome to Mat Kulaaxuuy — Land of Holes. ’Course, you may know it as “La Jolla.” But to the Kumeyaay, always and still, Mat Kulaaxuuy’s the name. Mat means “land,” Kulaaxuuy means “holes.” Ergo, Land ...

Colombian carbs

Usually, plantains are kind of like unsweet bananas. Not this luscious baby.

Are we too hung up on spicy? On hot habanero burns to make our eating life sexy? The question came up the day Colombia beat — no, thrashed — Poland in the World Cup, 3 ...

What’s a red-blooded sake drinker to do?

Deal aside, this place just seems to have the right vibe. Good fusui.

DMV. Wednesday afternoon. “H.H. Zero. One. One,” says the woman’s auto-voice over the loudspeaker. “Report to counter #3.” Okay, that might not be exact, but I’ve been sitting hearing the numbers creep up for the ...

Famous for all-u-can-eat ribs

“He always lived by the motto, ‘Not as mean, not as lean, but still a Marine.’”

“First,” says the lady driver, “watch this traffic. It can be lethal out here.” I see what she means. Cars and trucks hurtle into this valley like the last plunge of the Giant Dipper at ...

Urchin Merchants

“This market is the first time we fishermen can be our own masters. No middle man.”

‘It’s a record! A state record!” This is Randy Hupp. He’s standing behind a rack of angry fish that look like scarlet versions of grouper. He points to two other fishermen in the tent. “These ...

A good time (and timing) in Dulzura

"They only feed you on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays."

Peaceful countryside? Zoom! Zum zum zum, rattle, baarp! Highway 94, the old stagecoach route, is one crazy turnpike. Gravel trucks, tankers, buses, and cars, cars, cars. This one-shop stop is Dulzura (population maybe 850, scattered ...

A beautiful, free lunch

King and poor man are treated equally at Sikh "kitchen for all."

“You need to take your shoes off and put a covering on your hair.” He says it in the kindest possible way. Vikash Kumar. He ties a triangular orange scarf over my head. Because this ...

Korean cuisine and conversation on Convoy

Mimi feels at home in California, but still craves chicken feet and raw crab

Almost didn’t make it out of Kearny Mesa Friday night. Caught the last bus by a hair. I blame the Koreans. Came up here looking for Korean food. BBQ. And conversation. Because I’m kinda curious ...

Argentinians ascendant on C Street

Stuffed like an empanada at Empanada Kitchen

“All the Argentinian children thought I was Brazilian,” says Brandon, “because I was black, and they’d never seen a black American before. They all wanted to take pictures with me.” Brandon, his buddy Matt, and ...

Great atmosphere, better tacos

Baja Oyster, Border X, Carnitas, Canteen at Quartyard, Candelas, Senor Taquero

Most of these taco joints you just wanna be at, anyway. Some, it’s their fun, or their music, others, it’s the incredible eye candy they give away for the price of a taco – fabulous ...

Tom kha in the desert

55 Thai aims to bring sweet simplicity to San Diego

So ’t’other day my buddy Ernesto — Neto — and I met at this corner liquor store over the summit in Golden Hill for lunch. His idea. “Uh, likker store?” “Wait till you get inside,” ...

Good eats at Gillespie Field

Really, I haven’t had such a good brekky for ages

First time I see the sign, I think hot diggity: A pie café on an airfield! So I walk in off Marshall Avenue to where all the hangars with the apartments above form a little ...

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