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Stories by Ed Bedford

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 ...

A volcano erupts in Coronado

Upend the guac to create the lava

Villa Nueva wanted to be original. For starters, Coronado had enough Taco Tuesdays going on. So they made theirs Taco Friday. Then the owners introduced a jewel from their native Mexico City, the volcán. It’s ...

The historic Nanking becomes Vietnamese Food Shop

Asian Grab and Go

Something’s staring back at me through the chainlink fencing. Sunlight glints through the sockets of his eyes. Wow. King Kong? His giant skull. In bits. On the grass. “Buddy, I said bring the drill,” says ...

Chaldean pizza, Chaldean ribs

What's inside counts

"It’s the only thing that’ll settle the kids down for the evening,” says Mr. F. He’s talking about this place’s big deal: “Pizza, $5.99.” And that’s for a 14-inch pepperoni pie. A big permanent sign ...

BLVD's small plates and the blues

Sunday night surprise in La Mesa

La Mesa on a Sunday night? Looks deader than a dodo on downers. Okay, a couple of bars send out lights like lonely lighthouses. Chances for eats? Ha! But then, someone’s just put this sandwich ...

On the water, planning taco brasserie on Champs Elysées

King and Queen of Pork set up on Embarcadero

"Elvis? He stole Roy Orbison’s thunder.” John’s serious. “Roy was the bigger talent. Just because Elvis had the looks, all the girls went for him. But Roy was the great one.” John is kinda qualified ...

Great cheesy gunk

Lunge into a feed at Cafe 21

"Messy Hair, Don’t Care.” That’s what the back of this girl’s T-shirt reads. I can just see her and her boyfriend through the leaves of the grape bower. They’re chowing, chatting, cooing, billing. But actually ...

Alpha Project opens its first restaurant

Pizza, pasta, panini, and programs

Oh, man. Two steps forward, one step back. People have had their hopes raised a lot for this end of East Village. First, Quartyard opened, was a raging success, then it closed. Then that sidewalk ...

A Golden Hill feast

“Oh man. Can something so good be actually good for you?”

"Hey, want buy this Bluetooth headset?” Guy’s talking to me. I’ve just come down to sit in the bus stop. “Cost me $90. I’ll give it to you for $30.” We’re at the #2 bus ...

So like Thessaloniki

I gobbled Groovy Greek grub before the Quartyard closed

"No-o! Not Quartyard! Say it’s not so-o!” The guy with the wailing voice was, uh, me. This was last week. I was staring down the line of lights of the bar near the doggy park ...

Topped with a twang

He plops a slice of swiss cheese on top. It sits stiffly, then folds over in the heat.

You can hear his laugh from all the way out in the corridor. It sounds like he’s having some rip-roaring conversation with Jimmy Kimmel and a live audience. This is Ernest. He’s the chef here ...

A drum-tight belly by way of Taqueria Revolución

“Bedford! Hungry! Food! Now!”

"The southland has much more interesting Mexican food,” says Juan Carlos. “I’m thinking Chula Vista, I.B., San Ysidro. But in North Park the other day, we had been drinking, we needed something to put in ...

Call from a lobster

Walk to Vessel at Kona Kai, waddle out

First off: I challenge anyone to beat my speed-walking time, from Anchorage Lane at Shelter Island Drive to the Kona Kai Club at the southern end of Shelter Island. Ten minutes. A good country mile. ...

Burrito equals boring, while taco ... aah!

It feels like ol’ TJ. Also, say, Cambodia.

Tacos El Rorro The thing about Rolando, El Rorro’s owner, is he gets his shrimp from the ocean, not fish farms. These little guys have exercised, lived real lives of chase, chomp, and run. Not ...

Guamanian — more habanero and serrano peppers than Hawaiian and Filipino

A surprise in Barrio Logan

Canvas sign blurs by. “Matua’s… Islander Grill.” Wha? There’s no eateries in this part of the Barrio. What’s up? I pull the cord on the 901. Sixteenth and National. Whole city of homeless tents stretches ...

Eat here, live longer

The idea of fig, gruyere, and sweet onion gets me.

"Shiny beans,” says Dave. “Sure sign.” He’s talking coffee beans. And he should know. He’s managing this new coffee place-café here kitty-corner to the Firehouse museum at Cedar and Columbia in Little Italy. “Uh, sure ...

Spicy House — will Coronado take to Szechuan cuisine?

Tingly numbing sensation on the bay side of Orange Avenue

King Mu of Zhou dreamed of tasting the peaches of immortality. The brave charioteer Zaofu offered him his chariot to carry him there. Eight horses pulled the chariot. One of them ran faster than birds ...

Italian comfort food — plus Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin — on Palm Ave. in Imperial Beach

I just want to eat, drink, not think.

Cool evening. Aboard the 934. Swinging east along Palm in I.B. Cruising past 10th, 11th, Florida. I’m craning my neck. “Know any good places to eat along Palm?” I ask the driver. “Like, good, but ...

Get control of the spice at Aaharn Thai

Street nuts

Nuts make you talk. Nuts make you cry. I’m chewing Thai nuts while Phon, Cheri, Lynn, and I talk on about the king of Thailand. King Bhumibol Adulyadej. He died six months ago, but for ...

Chomps dogs by the seashore

The sun’s last horizontal rays make my hot dogs look especially red and delicious.

"Never?” “Never.” The three of us stand, jaws on the floor. Cameron, me, Lavonn. “Trust me,” says Eoghan, “Michaela has never eaten a hot dog in her life. Me neither.” We’re standing on a deck ...

Two-dog night

Low-budget scarf trawl in the Gaslamp

Gaslamp. Monday night. It’s a concert, for one. Sarah the street violinist has got me glued to her spot on the sidewalk at Fifth and F. Because, hey, she’s playing Umm Kulthum’s “Enta Omri” — ...

How to drink tea in Tehran

Taste thrill downtown at Darband

“Well, look around you,” she says. “It’s real. Close your eyes and we could be in Tehran.”

Snack, song, and friendly people at Chiquibaby’s

Splot on

"Siempre doy gracias al cielo de ser/ Tan afortunado! The Queen of Chiquibaby belts it out with Joan Sebastian. (“I always give thanks to heaven to be/ So fortunate!”) Everybody belts it out with her, ...

Sweet, cushiony cakes in National City

“The aunt of the first owner. It’s her secret recipe we use for our pancakes, still.”

"Attack of the Killer Pancake. Now Showing.” It’s this movie-house marquee in a painting that hangs above the welcome desk. I’m in this very ’60s coffee house. All stone, glass, and wood. Just got in ...

Beereakfast at Craft Kitchen leaves me wanting a morning nap

A steamy, spicy mess

Hmm. Chilaquiles. Coffee. Beer. Beer. My Sunday brunch. Not just me. Guy on my right is downing a pint of “Dank & Sticky IPA,” think he says. Couple on my left is full-chomp into steaks, ...

Pulled-pork sandwich hunted down in Hillcrest

“Yes, it’s our smoker. We have it going pretty much all the time.”

Huh. A smoker. And smoking away right now. Not some guy — a wood-burning meat smoker. I’m loping up Indiana Street. Where it forks into Park and Robinson, and right beside a li’l ol’ bungalow, ...

Take your tongue on a side-trip to East Africa

By way of Burundi

"Whooo! Whooo!” This is Mary Beth and her friend Jef. Waving their arms, pointing their fingers, whooping like werewolves, doing a dance in place here in row 32 at SDSU’s Viejas Arena. Confession: This is ...

La Jolla grub-hunt started out innocently enough

“Hey, we’re helping the earth. You’re not against that...are you, Ed?”

Lord. Trying to concentrate. Ten percent, double it, aargh! Sixteen bucks. And that’s just the tip. Total for this lunch, $105.97. I try not to let it show as I usher the two ladies out. ...

Go Biga downtown, mop the plate

“He keeps that batch of ‘live’ dough from one day to the next. It’s the life of the bread.”

I look at my chunk of bread. Just think, Napoleon ate this. Could have. Really. This bread. That’s how long it’s been going. Back in 1815, Battle of Waterloo and all that, this exact same ...

Fill your piehole Japanese style

Grilled squid, sautéed pork ginger, lemon chicken, sautéed pork kimchi, on and on, $3.95 each.

"Hi! Welcome! Yókoso!” It’s this lady at the cashier desk. Love that about Japanese eateries. I know it’s just business, but welcomes like this kinda make you feel good. I had just hopped off the ...

Engulf the Garlic Shack

The powers of garlic

"Soju!” says my buddy Ernesto. “Au jus?” “No, soju. What’ve you been talking about, on and on? Soju? Korean sake? Then it clicks. ’Cause I have been going on about soju and how it’s gonna ...

New Zealand in Little Italy, Spain in the Gaslamp

Overseas outposts

Water. Adam’s Ale. Hobo cocktail. Sky juice. Call it whatever, it’s one of the few things around that’s still actually free. And — hey hey! — today, water made it possible for me to finagle ...

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