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Stories by Naomi Wise

Smoking or Non?

Is it myth or truth that white men can’t “Q”? (Got your attention? Kickle kickle.) Barbecue — meaning Southern-style barbecue — is a black art indeed, requiring a magical confluence of technique, timing, and taste-buds ...

Arias on the Plate

Old-time San Diegans remember when the Gaslamp Quarter was getting over its “Hey, sailor” sleaze-phase and Horton Plaza was new. Italian restaurants serving affordable food suddenly peppered the neighborhood — but once the rising entertainment ...

Cook Like a Chef — but Fast

As the economic climate has turned even the well employed into the “working worried,” people accustomed to eating most dinners out are cooking at home — despite the long hours and killer commutes that initially ...

May 27, 2009
Pursuit of Happy Hours

“Sometimes life is so good,” I sighed, sipping my dirt-cheap caipirinha. Sam and I watched the ferry pull into the Coronado pier, disgorging commuters marching landward in their varied gaits and garbs. A white-sailed catamaran ...

La Mesa Goes Downtown

When the new Gio took over the space of the old Village Garden, the charming neighborhood of La Mesa Village acquired something like a “downtown-y” restaurant, a sophisticated but family-friendly indoor-outdoor bistro and wine bar. ...

April 29, 2009
Magic

“There may be trouble ahead/ But while there’s moonlight and music/ And love and romance/ Let’s face the music and dance.” Irving Berlin wrote that at the height of the Depression, and Fred and Ginger ...

For Frugal Foodies

Happiness is an ice-cold strawberry Bellini at Bite, made with the first berries of spring, and a $20 four-course dinner from a chef who can really cook. Bite is one of several good restaurants now ...

April 15, 2009
Feeling Puckish

It’s odd to think of a glitzy, Angeleno Wolfgang Puck restaurant on a bucolic, wooded college campus, but Jai (pronounced “jay,” like the bird) is no college dining hall. (The press release says the name ...

Ota, Too

It’s just beautiful — elegant and spare. Blue lights illuminate the lower half of Hane’s windows all around — useful, since I’m not sure the restaurant is otherwise identified at the door. Inside, the streetside ...

The Ambassador of Abyssinia

Take my word, the cuisine of the Horn of Africa is fabulous — but to know that, you have to taste it; and in San Diego, relatively few people have enjoyed the pleasure. With Muzita, ...

March 18, 2009
Cheap Steak Serenade

What is Golden Hill’s edgy Turf Supper Club, along with its tattooed waitresses, doing out in the wilds of La Mesa? Same as it ever was: serving cook-it-yourself steaks. And now, beyond the basic green ...

March 11, 2009
He's Not There

“Mickey Two” (Samurai Jim’s friend, not his squeeze) put out the word: James Beard award–winner and Michelin two-star New York chef Christopher Lee (currently seen in magazine ads for Swanson’s new canned stocks) was working ...

March 4, 2009
At Last, True Thai

Before I write specifically about Sab-E-Lee, you need to know a little about the Thai region called Isaan, Isan, Issan, or Esarn — in English it’s spelled every which way — and get an idea ...

February 25, 2009
The Big Eat

I’d been eating in low-down dives for months. Some were high-rent dives, with coastside views that give them an exaggerated sense of their own value, and I was tired of swallowing slop at any price. ...

February 18, 2009
Crabby Mood

This is the winter of my discontent, following the autumn of my growing grouchiness, and the summer of my increasing reservations. It’s the economy, stupid — the stupid economy. For seven months, I’ve been trying ...

February 11, 2009
Some Enchanted Evening

Valentine’s Day is the year’s biggest night for restaurants. Who doesn’t love love? For some it’s proposal night; for others, a renewal of vows. Or snuggle-up time. Or hoping-to-get-lucky night. The chefs await you with ...

February 4, 2009
Jim and the Volcano

After nearly nine years in San Diego, I’d never been to any of the Bully’s restaurants and felt a tad guilty about my ignorance of a local institution. The mini-chain was established back in 1967, ...

Pisco Sours and "Kung Fu" Squid

Vagabond was a sensation when it opened in the spring of ’06. As the realtors say, it had a huge edge: location (times three). Restaurateurs Philippe Beltran and Jerome Gombert chose to open an eclectic ...

January 14, 2009
The Chain of Spain

Spain’s on the same latitude as New York, so in winter the rain in Spain must mainly be a pain. I love eating Spanish food in rotten weather — all that warming olive oil and ...

January 7, 2009
2008: The Year in Food

Where has all the foie gras gone, long time passing? These are bad times! Don’t it just make you wanna throw your shoes at someone? A year ago, the glitzy openings of Quarter Kitchen at ...

December 30, 2008
Restaurant Porn, Italian Style

Olivetto is no relation to the fabled Oliveto up north in the Rockridge District of Oakland — there’s no Paul Bertolli in the kitchen, creating legendary handmade salumi from scratch. But, with that out of ...

December 23, 2008
Sushi for All Seasons

After looking over the interesting, many-page menu at Azuki, and after trying the miso soup and the first “test roll” (uni, of course) to the accompaniment of lilting Brazilian pop, I made a firm decision: ...

December 17, 2008
French-Kissed Comfort Food

For a few decades — roughly Carter through Clinton — old-fashioned French restaurants seemed increasingly vieux chapeaux, in view of the lighter, cleaner-flavored “new French” cuisine fermenting during those years. That was also the period ...

December 10, 2008
Modigliani Mussels, Absinthe Fountain

The current may have swept away the Currant I reviewed glowingly a year ago, but it hasn’t drowned the restaurant’s civilized atmosphere. Last spring, big-shot chef Jonathan Pflueger departed (assisted by a gentle kick in ...

December 3, 2008
Nicole Should Be a Mousse

This restaurant is closed. Recession? You’d never know it if you judged by Illume (pronounced ill-LOOM, no accent on the e) and by the light but constant pedestrian traffic in its neighborhood. As for depression, ...

November 25, 2008
Exit the Turkey — Give Thanks

Printing a list of restaurants open for Thanksgiving has become a Reader tradition, and it’s worth noting up front that nearly every restaurant open for T-Day is also likely to serve brunch or dinner on ...

November 19, 2008
The Kindest Comforts

The Curse of Samurai Jim struck again — third time in a row. We were heading for a new Caribbean place in the Gaslamp, but when we called for a res, the phones were disconnected. ...

November 12, 2008
Live Butchers — Live!

Face it, the meats at most local chain supermarkets are roadkill. Plumped with antibiotics, hormones, and pesticides and raised in crowded pens ankle-deep in their own manure, they lead short, unhealthy lives and periodically pass ...

November 5, 2008
Lucky Jinx

This restaurant is closed. Is Samurai Jim a jinx on bargain-price restaurants? Last time it was a vanished barbecue joint that sent us fleeing to the very minor mercies of the meatloaf at Maryjane’s. This ...

October 29, 2008
Heat Lightning

Enter the Dragon! I am breathing fire after enjoying the spicy cuisine of Szechuan every night for a week. One of my favorite occasional email pen-pals, a UCSD social science prof (another expat New Yorker), ...

October 22, 2008
Short on Green? Go Green

"Why did you choose this restaurant?" asked my friend Mark en route to Tender Greens. A fair question, to be sure, since I'm scarcely one of those Hollywood/Park Avenue size-two types who lunch on a ...

October 15, 2008
The Second Childhood of Suzy Creamcheese

Welcome back, Baby Boomers and suburban-raised Gen Xers, to your childhoods. Minus, of course, bedwetting, skinned knees, dorky shoes, schoolyard bullies, mean girls, broken skates, school-cafeteria lunches, Dick and Jane, et al. Your second childhood ...

October 1, 2008
The Movable Feast Returns

Of all the “charity eat-a-thons” in this town, my favorite by far is the Chef Celebration, a series of extraordinary banquets crafted by some of the county’s top chefs and held at several of the ...

September 24, 2008
Recession Bleus

Everybody’s hurting in this economy except the fortunate few vulture capitalists and hedge traders who got the big tax breaks. But it’s a mighty plunge from a stylish stainless spoon to a grease-stained tin fork. ...

September 17, 2008
Earth-Bound Fish

For months before it opened, Mukashi seemed like a presold hit: Everyone who ate at Avenue 5, just across Nutmeg Street, could see the sign in the window, announcing a new sushi bar with a ...

September 10, 2008
Didn't He Ramble?

Girls just wanna have fun, and aging-boomer foodie girls especially wanna have fun at the table (as other options become scarcer). Tabule offers that kind of culinary gambol. (Not gamble — I didn’t taste anything ...

Coming Up Roses

Roseville (named for its first settler, Louis Rose, not a shrub) is a Point Loma neighborhood also called “the village.” It’s a bit out of the way but has such a distinctive character that going ...

August 27, 2008
Indian Cuisine 101

Samurai Jim confessed recently he’d never eaten Indian food. Curries, yes — his mother cooks them Japanese style. But he didn’t know a Samosa from a pakora, a poori from a naan. Well, we can’t ...

August 20, 2008
Unchained Links

Stately, plump Bruce Aidells came from the smoker bearing a bowl in which a sausage and a French roll lay crossed. That was some 30 years ago, and Aidells's original creations were the start of ...

August 13, 2008
North (Park) Sea

When the Linkery moved north and Sea Rocket took over its former quarters, I could barely contain myself. Seafood in North Park, less than ten minutes from home via my favorite scenic “Secret Freeway” (Pershing ...

August 6, 2008
Au-Some Cooking

When I ate at Molly’s during June “Restaurant Week,” the place should have been at least as packed as Ruth’s Chris was the previous night. The food was vastly better, the wine list more interesting ...

July 30, 2008
Track of the Sushi Cat

It’s like that Bible story of Ruth and Naomi: “Whither thou goest, I will go.” Or that girl-group song of the ’60s: “I will follow him wherever he goes.” Change the last word of the ...

July 23, 2008
Git Along, Little Bison

A recent issue of Vogue showcased a shot of Nicole Kidman in period costume, gazing aristocratically into the distance from atop a white dappled horse. The mare, ready for her close-up, looked right into the ...

July 16, 2008
Summer Break on Steak

My pal Samurai Jim is in some ways a paragon of the classic Bachelorus americanus species. He loves good Scotch, good red meat, a brisk six-mile run in the morning, and smart, pretty blondes. When ...

July 9, 2008
Back to South Beach

The summer I was six, my mom and I (plus two platinum-blond, leather-skinned aunts resembling Marge Simpson’s sisters, and a sweet, bald uncle) spent a month in a middle-class, family-oriented Deco hotel in South Miami ...

A Great Escape

Red Marlin is the answer. If you can find it. The questions are: Where do you take visitors for dinner when you want to show off San Diego’s shoreline beauty, while sharing food that everyone ...

Dixie-Fried

Since the last time I reviewed Chateau Orleans for Mardi Gras, 2001, it’s been through at least two changes of ownership. I wasn’t crazy about the food, and then the second-to-last owner complained that our ...

Italian Green

The old Naval Training Center at Point Loma is now a perfect new neighborhood, a salmon-colored village with shops, groceries, restaurants, and even an arts center, all within a short walk — something like urban ...

Chefs Call Him "Awesome"

Nearly every week, I pour myself a glass of Japanese fizzy-water (Nigori sake), take a deep breath, and call up some rank stranger — the chef of the restaurant I’m currently reviewing. Between the serious ...

The Farmwife and the Pirate

First it was Fresh, a pricey seafood house owned by Sammy Ladecki (of Roppongi and pizza-chain fame). Then Ladecki sold it in August 2006 to Arturo Kassel, and it became Fresher, still a seafood house, ...

May 28, 2008

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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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