10 San Diego Restaurants You Shouldn't Forget About
8/8/06 by Keith Boyd
Who doesn't like going out to eat? I mean, what's not to love? The AC is always on, everyone's nice to you, you always have a full drink, and when you're done, someone else cleans up the mess while you roll yourself out to your car. San Diego has some great restaurants, but all too often, people fall into the rut of the same-old, same-old. In an effort to combat this trend and turn your attention and taste buds towards a new experience, I have compiled this month's list of 10 restaurants you shouldn't forget about.
1) The Big Kitchen: The Big Kitchen has been a part of my life for the last
21 years. Not only do they serve up wonderfully tasty and filling meals, they dish out a lot of love. Owner Judy (the beauty on duty) Foreman is a remarkable human being. She is so welcoming, accepting, and loving that not only do you leave her restaurant with a full stomach, but a full heart. Her smile, singing, and hugs (kisses if you're lucky) are a cornerstone of the San Diego community. We are elevated by the presence of this restaurant.
2) Cafe on Park: The Cafe on Park is like a little slice of San Francisco in San Diego. The contemporary and comfortable atmosphere is an excellent match for the food. The menu is eclectic and fun (Capt. Crunch pancakes!), the wait staff are remarkably helpful and friendly without being too in-your-face. The whole experience is relaxing and delicious.
3) Hodad's: Hodad's is the most quintessential of quintessential burger joints. The atmosphere is Ocean Beach to the extreme. There are old vanity plates from just about everywhere all over the walls. Any remaining space is filled with surfboards and surf memorabilia. The excellent and mountainous burgers and fries are the star attraction, and well worth a visit.
4) Sushi on the Rocks: Sushi on the Rocks is one of the least stuffy, yet upscale, sushi and Japanese places in town. The decor is hip and Asian inspired. Although there are plenty of other choices, the sushi here rules.
They have a wide variety of traditional items (eel, octopus, sea urchin) and wonderfully tasty original creations (the Bruce Lee, the Green Caterpillar).
It's a great place to sit at the bar, have a cold Sapporo, and watch the edible artistry at work.
5) Pei Wei: Pei Wei is one of the gems of the North County. It is a sister restaurant to P.F. Chang's but is more low key. The food is affordable, plentiful, packed with flavor, and served quickly. All ingredients have that tasty snap that speaks of freshness, and there is something for everyone.
6) The Prado: What can you say about The Prado? It embodies so much that is positive about San Diego. It is colorful, eclectic, casual, and delicious. To me, The Prado is a "high dining" experience without too much of the fuss. They have wonderful risotto, excellent sangria, and amazing fish tacos. The setting in Balboa Park can't be beat. In fact, the whole experience feels so wonderfully decadent, that you're surprised when the bill comes that there aren't any extra zeros on the total.
7) Bay Park Fish Company: BPFC is another local treasure. If you live in San Diego and don't in some way partake of the bounty of our ocean, then you are missing out. The owners cook with superb local ingredients and you can also buy fresh fish to go. They use shellfish from the Carlsbad Aqua Farms, and the quality and freshness shine through in their mouthwatering dishes.
8) Saffron: Saffron is one of the most exotic, yet unassuming, restaurants in San Diego. There are priceless Chihuly glassworks peeking out from high niches in the walls, and tantalizing aromas coming from the kitchen. The satay chicken with peanut sauce is a miracle of flavor. Every dish here feels as though it was cooked with care, tradition, and love.
9) Woodstocks: Woodstocks has been a college-area tradition for decades.
Simply put, they make some of the best pizza I've ever had. The tangy sauce and substantial crust are delicious. They do serve other items, but it's the pizza that keeps the people coming back years after graduation from State.
10) The Mission Cafe: The Mission Cafe has something tempting and satisfying for everyone. Breakfast here is a pleasing blend of spicy and sweet. They make their own breads and pastries, so a simple dish like french toast suddenly takes on a life of its own. One caution, this place gets crowded early and stays that way well into the afternoon.