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Stories by Ed Bedford

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 ...

It's the blankets (tartines, cupcakes) at Frost Me Café and Bakery

Piazza della famiglia finally open in Little Italy

It’s the free blankets. A whole wicker basket filled with them, all rolled up. Mexican blankets, waiting for patio customers to grab ‘em and warm themselves up. April 16th, opening day, on the patio of ...

Nobody uses their phones at Quartyard II

"The three architecture students who conceived this, they proved something here."

“Look around,” says Ivan. “What do you notice?” I look around. Uhhhh? “I’ll tell you,” he says. “Nobody’s using their phones See? They’re all talking to each other, drinking, eating, playing with their dogs, whatever. ...

Point Loma happy hour tour

Stopping to snack in the magic hour

Hurry-up time: Have to hit happy hour because, well, this is Point Loma. Million-dollar yachts, hundred-dollar eateries. Can’t afford full-freight. I’m here for three days. Work. So, hey, three chances at happy hour happiness! Day ...

Grabbing the grilled pork at Villa Manila

"Most Filipinos like eating with their hands when it comes to feasting. It ties them to the old ways.”

“With your fingers, dude?” says Wes. “Hey, what else did people eat with, before you French brought in the fork, right? You invented cutlery! The Curse of the Eating Classes!” Actually, Wes has always been ...

Nine miles from nearest bus stop

Twelve Tribes branch in Valley Center

“Could you let me off at Lilac Road?” That’s me, asking the driver of the 388 as we climb through the hills and orange orchards of Valley Center Road, northeast of Escondido. “Just in time,” ...

The world's largest larder

"Peruvian cuisine is not just Inca."

Who has the largest larder in the world? Peru. Why Peru? Because it has the most vertical of back yards. Restaurants in Lima can get produce from 17 different altitudes, from 6 feet below the ...

The hidden food of Barona

Feisty Kate's, Ho Wan Noodle Shop, Barona Oaks Steakhouse

‘The long and winding road,” sing the Beatles on this bus’s sound system. And, boy, have they nailed it. I look out the bus window and see rocks, bluffs, isolated houses with dusty trucks in ...

You want more chicken

Carlsbad Mexican broilers — yum

Three armed guys come through the door. They’re all chunky hardbodies, wearing what look like bulletproof vests. Written across their backs, one word: PROBATION. They head for the counter. Maria, Rosana, and Carmen face them ...

Pick and poke at a delicious yellowtail head

“And the eyes. The fatty deposits at the back of the sockets are delicious. Use your chopsticks.”

"Eight bucks,” says my friend Jim. “For a fish’s head?” I ask. “You’d be surprised how much meat’s on it.” He tells me about sitting next to a Kenyan couple in Saiko, the sushi place ...

Comfort food was never so needed

Thank God for Franco's large menu. It becomes my shield.

It’s Carla. She’s been ailing. Today, down here in Bonita, in a hospice, her suffering melted away. It was indescribably beautiful. Me, family, nurses, had been in close, talking with her, looking for even nods ...

Unlimited toppings for $10!

Aspirations for that 30-story East Village tower

"J ó étvágyat!” says Zorka. It means “Bon appetit,” in Hungarian, she says. She’s from Budapest. We’re sitting in this brand-new, two-week-old pizza-and-salad joint, in East Village. Man, I’ve been waiting for this place to ...

South Park corner store morphs into Paris bistro

A cafe is born

We haven’t quite got things ready,” says Jordan. “We’re working on a small-plates menu and a wine-by-the-glass menu, but we’re not quite there.” Don’t rush it, I say. Because this is big. We’re here at ...

Little Italy's exotic happy hour

Morning suit and top hat in Mexican cantina

"Buona sera, signore,” I say. “Buona sera, buona sera,” says Nick Pecoraro from his gold-encrusted porch. I’ve stopped by to pay my respects to Little Italy’s unofficial ambassador. This is the time of night when ...

One-man band in East Village

"He makes the dough, adds everything, puts it in the oven."

I’m on the Orange Line. Where I get out at Park and Market in the East Village, a whole gang of kids is sitting on the railings goofing off, hanging out, clacking skateboards. And behind ...

Cháo, one of the great porridges of the world

Slurp it like an emperor

There ain’t nothin’ in this whole wide world as comforting and warming and tastebud-caressing as Asian porridge. Known as jok in Thailand, baw baw in Cambodia, cháo in Vietnam. At this very moment, I’m chowing ...

Crowded launch at West Pac

What do you expect from Navy town?

"WE APOLOGIZE. This is our first day of business and we are SOLD OUT for lunch food at this time.” Bummer. The sign’s on the front door of the brand-new West Pac Noodle Bar. People ...

Carla’s country, oozy Benedict at Clayton’s

A non-Hollandaise sauce on Christmas

"Benedict?” says Carla. “Actually, the name’s Ed.” “I know, you... But I have this insane desire for Benedict. Oh darling, please. For moi?” I know what she’s talking about. Eggs Benedict. She’s officially addicted. Especially ...

Spontaneous food on PB seawall

The bird of time is on the wing

It’s smack on 4:44. “Yea. Yeah! Yea!” “Good jaa-ob!” “Hasta la mañana, baby! Woo-hoo!” The voices just keep on rising to a roar. The setting sun flares on the horizon, then glows angrily like a ...

Dobson's happy hour includes the bisque

What's the secret? New Zealand mussels.

Bah, humbug! Seriously. Just once, I wanna be rich at Christmas. Be able to splurge, party, take folks out, presents for everybody, not sweat the lettuce. Already, the holiday thing’s starting to strain wallet, patience, ...

Crispier chicken than KFC or Church's

How a Chinese place with five tables lasts 25 years

"Mmm. Helps with the cold,” croaks Ria. She’s leaning over the steam of her wonton soup. She fishes for a wonton that’s hiding beneath the cabbage and crispy croutons she dunked in the soup. Then ...

Slow season but "we’re smoking 560 pounds”

Apple and cherry wood give a fruity flavor, pecan a nutty flavor

Hail to the chef! That’s what I’m thinking as Danny lowers two whole racks of pork ribs into the maws of his Smokaroma Bar-B-Q Boss. He says it’s a wood-fired pressure-cooker. No more fuming black ...

How to go cheap at upmarket places

“We’re the only restaurant with a cheese cave”

Amazing how long since I’ve been up here in Mission Hills. I’m at the corner of Washington and Goldfinch. Pass a doorstep with a carving in it: “Welcome Back to the Gathering.” It has a ...

Eleven kinds of patties at Burgerim

Beef, turkey, lamb, chicken, dry aged, salmon, veggie, Spanish beef (chorizo), wagyu beef, and merguez

Merguez. Never quite knew what it was. A North African region? No. That’s the Maghreb. Some organization in a James Bond movie? Nuh-uh. It took me coming to the squirty fountain in the new Horton ...

Not melted cheese, not sour cream

Fonda Don Diego casts cold eye on border food

Guy sits at a bar, staring at a bull. Or is it a pig? Or is it a man? The bull’s part of a fresh-painted wild-colored mural on the wall behind the Negra Modelo and ...

Ordered the lamb, got the goat

Somali hospitality: "You must have it.”

Feel like goat again. Last time I had some was at Mercado Hidalgo in TJ, where a couple of birria joints really deliver on the chivo stew. Before that, the cluster of Somali eateries around ...

The lines go clear to Sixth Avenue

Donuts versus salad — vice and virtue — guess who wins

Between the optimist and the pessimist, the difference is droll; The optimist sees the donut, the pessimist, the hole. — Oscar Wilde I can’t help thinking of Oscar. Because in the heat of this Santa ...

Really want pork

Japanese comfort food on Fir Street

Huh. Row of guys’ butts bulging out onto the sidewalk, right where Fir crosses Kettner. This has to be the first place I’ve seen where people actually sit up to a bar on the street, ...

Vampire tacos and more at Border X Brewing

From Mexicali to Logan Heights to L.A.

Erk! Suddenly strikes me: Halloween’s around the corner. And seeing I’m here in Barrio Logan, my mind starts gravitating to vampire tacos. Tacos vampiros. Always wanted to try one. Never had one. Only problem: the ...

Momentary meatball regret at Hungry Lu’s

It’s good to be O.B.-pure, but...

"I’m a vegan and I live on Bacon.” “Ocean Beach is a sunny place for shady people.” Kip Krueger’s signs are everywhere. He paints them on blocks of wood. He has plenty more. “Dissent is ...

Jewel, Jason Mraz, Steve Poltz started at Java Joe’s

Too late I discover that I could’ve had a quiche for $4.95.

Sixties time-warp! I’m sitting in the friendly gloom, watching Lisa Sanders and Karen Hayes sing personal songs in dreamy harmonies. Acoustic, coffee-bar singing, outside. It feels time-warpy in more ways than one. This space is ...

Normandy butter on G Street

Three four-inch quiches

"Think Agatha Christie,” says Agathe. That’s her name. Agathe. Means “good” in Greek. But she’s French. From Normandy, which should be named the Butter Capital of the World. They have black and red and white ...

North Park's musician hot spot

Maybe they're there for the tropical detox

"You can’t unmilk a coffee,” this guy in front of me’s saying. “Once it’s in, it’s in. One-way ticket. Like marriage.” “Barber, party of seven!?” This is Monday morning. Yet the place is totally jamming. ...

You know this place is Cambodian

"I have some news to tell you. I want to go with you.”

"I am Cambodian. I have some news to tell you. I want to go with you.” This was the message my new friend Sinjin wrote out in big letters on a board on the roof ...

Original takes on the hamburger

Vessel, Dog Haus, Plant Power, UCSD's Cove Cafe, Al's Cafe, Bub's at the Ballpark, Calif. Braise, Cafe 67, 10 Barrel

Burger-hunting is like looking at stars. First glance, they’re all the same. But as you get closer, catch a visual of green herbs or red peppers being sprinkled onto a flat patty, or just get ...

A new addiction at the Nectar Room

The glowing corner of 14th and C

That Theresa Gunn. She is something else. I’ve just come reeling out of the Saville Theatre at City College where her students have been telling it like you can hardly believe it is. Performances of ...

Misses moon shadow but not french toast

Eclipse leads to West Coast Cafe

This happened on the morning of the eclipse. I’m speed-walking down Palm Avenue, trying to get to the I.B. pier in time to catch the big event, and maybe some brekky out there at the ...

Kettner's grape pushback

A tangy English cow cheese, an Italian goat cheese, a Spanish “grassy” goat cheese, and a Manchego Spanish sheep cheese

"Stop and smell the rosé,” says the sidewalk sign. Huh. Are we seeing the start of a wine pushback, after all these glorious beer years? This is happening quite a ways up Kettner, Little Italy’s ...

Meatballs on Kettner

Bar Bodega does it the Spanish way

In Japan, you'd call this an izakaya. In Spain, a bodega. Both of them are basically kinds of after-work snack and drink pubs. Mainly sake in izakayas (you pronounce it "i-ZAK-aya," as in "saké place"), ...

Buyout talk at 10 Barrel

“It’s been good. We’ve been able to grow."

‘Yeah, some folks in San Diego gave us a hard time, but I think they’re over that now,” says Chris. The grumbling? 10 Barrel Brewing, the new brew pub at 15th and E, had ridden ...

Harpooned swordfish at India Street's Ironside

Expense account guy spikes his drinks

‘This is how you make a decent cocktail,” says Doug. He sneaks out a nubbly silver pocket flask, opens it, then slides his glass of whiskey sour under the counter and starts secretly pouring bourbon ...

It's a mess, a glorious mess

Azerbaijan on Adams Ave., the Buzz Burger with bacon jam, Surf Check in Shasta travel trailer, old-school Japanese in Chula Vista

Azerbaijan meets California. The cutest patio this side of the Black Sea, with birds singing as you eat, long communal tables, medieval drapes, lovers’ nooks, and a happy hour bursting with totally interesting tapas, $5 ...

Surprised by ceviche in City Heights

Raw fish showing up everywhere

All I wanted was a poke place. Because poke places are popping up like mushrooms. They’re the thing. I mean, raw fish makes it into the cool crowd’s diet? This I gotta see. That’s what ...

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