And the winner is... all of you! Here's the definitive 2009 list of the best Downtown eateries and drinkeries as reflected in our October hardcopy edition. Bon appetit!
by MARTIN JONES WESTLIN
Oct 14, 2009 | 2588 views | 0 0 comments | 18 18 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Restaurant

Urban Solace



Downtowners are a curious bunch. We know this because sometimes that curiosity takes them off the beaten center-city path. Their favorite restaurant, after all, isn’t even in Downtown; it’s in North Park, which has a dynamic all its own. Urban Solace, founded two years ago, doesn’t sit still any more than its neighborhood does. It’s open seven days a week and features classic and cutting-edge American-style dishes. A crafted beer list is the crowning touch on a restaurant with nowhere to go but up – and in the minds of Downtowners, it’s already at the top.

Urban Solace

3823 30th St.

295-6464

www.urbansolace.net

Soleil@K

Soleil@K keeps things fresh and local to deliver an exceptional contemporary Californian cuisine. To boot, it’s on a corner and opens onto the roily Gaslamp streets, replete with sidewalk patio tables. Plush leather booths and wicker chairs dot the welcoming vibe as well. If it’s the Gaslamp, it’s Soleil@K.

Soleil@K

660 K St.

446-6088

www.soleilatk.com

Restaurant Service

Bertrand at Mister A’s

What with its magnificent Downtown panoramas, you’d think this restaurant would have won a mention for Best View. It could, and easily–but you liked it for its exceptional service (something you don’t see so much as experience).

Bertrand at Mister A’s

2550 Fifth Ave.

239-1379

www.bertrandatmisteras.com

Confidential Restaurant & Loft

Located smack on the corner of Fourth Avenue and E Street, Confidential has created a new hybrid for dining and entertainment service since opening in April of 2005. You know this is true because it’s won no fewer than 11,712 awards since then amid its artful approach to cuisine and cocktails. As you relax in the warmth of contemporary design, you will undoubtedly come to realize that the San Diego dining experience has been reinvented here.

Confidential Restaurant & Loft

901 Fourth Ave.

696-8888

www.confidentialsd.com

New Restaurant

La Puerta

For a new restaurant, La Puerta has an amazing acumen for the whole Gaslamp vibe thing–casual, busy and full of itself in all the right ways. And if the tortilla soup doesn’t get you, the prices and the great happy hours will. Potato cheese tacos, bacon-wrapped turkey hot dogs, $1 mimosas during Sunday brunch: It’s all here, with a kitchen open until 1 a.m. to boot.

La Puerta

560 Fourth Ave.

696-3466

www.taco619.com

El Vitral

El Vitral is so new that it doesn’t even have a website, at least not at this writing. That’s OK, though. We can assure you it’s here, because it has a beautiful patio that sits right next to Petco Park. It also has a baby scallop ceviche that’ll make you drop over dead unless the chili relleno gets you first. That and three styles of guacamole dip oughta get you started, but leave room for the churros with coconut dip.

El Vitral

815 J St.

236-9420

Chef

Matt Gordon

Urban Solace owner and executive chef Matt Gordon is a 20-year veteran of the restaurant industry. He’s headed numerous kitchen operations ranging from formal fine dining to bustling, high-volume corporate eateries. He also used to be executive chef at the Gordon Biersch Brewing Company’s anchor locale in San Francisco and held the same position at the acclaimed Willi’s Seafood and Raw Bar in Healdsburg, Calif. What we’re saying is he’s been there and done that—meanwhile, Northern California’s loss is San Diego’s gain.

Eddie Fincher

Eddie Fincher, executive chef at the Gaslamp’s Soleil@K, is feeling pretty good these days, and that’s because you voted his restaurant into Downtown’s No. 2 spot. No wonder. Fincher has transformed this place from a tourist-only destination to a high-end after-work spot for Downtowners and their friends. Family gatherings are a big item at the Soleil, located in the Marriott San Diego Gaslamp Quarter, and Fincher is at the bottom of it all.

Breakfast

Richard Walker’s Pancake House

Richard Walker’s Pancake House, an upscale fusion of traditional and gourmet breakfast favorites, has griddlecakes, crepes, omelets and other specialties. Yeah, so do other breakfast eateries. But they probably don’t have hand-blown glass art and classical music as part of their amenities.

Richard Walker’s Pancake House

520 Front St.

231-7777

www.richardwalkers.com

The Broken Yolk Cafe



The Broken Yolk, of course, has had its cadre of followers in Pacific Beach for the last 700 years. And no wonder. This place has been serving some of the best breakfasts in the region, including your choice of 20 omelets (not to be eaten at once) and out-of-this-world pancakes and waffles. And now, you don’t even have to go to PB to enjoy it all.



The Broken Yolk Café

355 6th Ave.

338-9655

www.thebrokenyolkcafe.com

Lunch

Zanzibar Café

If you’re like most people (and you probably are), you have to—uh—sandwich a lot in between noon and 1, or whenever your lunch hour happens to be. Zanzibar can help. It has no fewer than 40 entries on its lunch menu; all that choice translates to less guesswork.

Zanzibar Café

707 G St.

230-0125

www.zanzibarcafe.com

Urban Solace (see entry under Restaurant)

Dinner

Soleil@K (see entry under Restaurant)

Cowboy Star

Cowboy Star is the first restaurant in the East Village to serve up a unique dining experience by combining contemporary American cuisine with a western flair. The restaurant features exposed beam ceilings‚ cowboy accents and classic landscape photography — it translates to a welcoming atmosphere, into which locals gravitate.

Cowboy Star

640 10th Ave.

450-5880

www.thecowboystar.com

Take-out

Lolita’s Mexican

Trust us: You’ll never get take-out service like this again, not even if you live to be 312. Plus you’ve got East Village at your feet, plus Padres game-day specials. Don’t forget to order, though. Rolled tacos and guacamole, carne asada fries and the California burrito are the orders of the day. The mini-tacos get the job done as well.

Lolita’s Mexican

202 Park Blvd.

269-6055

Sushi Deli

Downtown’s businesspeople and locals know a good take-out thing when they eat it. That’s why they come here. Japanese entrees such as Sesame Chicken and Tempura are available, yet, oddly enough, the primary item on the menu is sushi, and the combos are too numerous for the human mind to deal with.

Sushi Deli

135 Broadway

233-3072

Sunday Brunch

Urban Solace (see entry under Restaurant)

Currant, an American Brasserie

As the Sofia Hotel has gone, so goes Currant. That’s to say that the Sofia, which launched in 2006, has brought this beautiful American-style eatery and its noted Sunday brunch with it. Steak and eggs, turkey, homestyle soups, an otherworldly drink menu and so much more await (you can even enjoy them all from a series of private booths).

Currant, an American Brasserie

140 West Broadway

702-6309

www.currantrestaurant.com

Family Restaurant

Filippi’s Pizza Grotto

San Diego is a long way from Italy and France, but that’s the route Vincent DePhilippis and Madeleine Stefani, the original founders of Filippi’s, took to get here. What once was a deli on India Street is now a bastion of traditional Italian family recipes these 58 years later.

Filippi’s Pizza Grotto

1747 India St.

232-5094

Buca Di Beppo

OK. So it’s a chain. That doesn’t make Buca Di Beppo a lousy restaurant, by any means. It continues to innovate and create recipes beyond traditional Italian style by adding new menu items, featuring appetizers, salads, pastas, pizzas, entrees, desserts, beer and fine wine.

Buca Di Beppo

705 Sixth Ave.

233-7272

www.bucadibeppo.com

Wine Selection

Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar

You know Fleming’s for some of the best steak around -- as it happens, this place doesn’t second-guess itself in the wine department, either. The Merlots, every one of ’em, are to die for. Just leave room for the magnificent peach cobbler.



Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar

350 K St.

237-1155

www.flemingssteakhouse.com

Rainwater’s on Kettner

The steakburger. The club sandwich. Clam chowder and black bean soup. The Chicago salad. They’re all at their best at Rainwater’s. But it’s the neat wine-tasting dinners and price fixe menu that’ll get ya Rainwater’s has you covered, even if you’re with a corporation. When wine is the byword, Rainwater’s is the eatery.

Rainwater’s

1202 Kettner Blvd.

233-5757

www.rainwaters.com

Wine Bar

The Cask Room

The Cask Room has its secret weapon in owner Mike Kallay, who’s forgotten more about wine than the entire Downtown population will ever know. Kallay can even speak to the weather differences in the hemispheres as a mitigating factor in winemaking; that’s when you know you’re getting some of the best fare you can find.

The Cask Room

550 Park Blvd.

822-1606

www.caskroom.com

Enoteca Style

The granite top is a giveaway that you‘re in a wine bar—but Enoteca Style is so much more. Panini, bruschetta, salads, cheese and bread/olive plates: They’re served as veritable main courses rather than side items here. Check out the daily specials and special events, too.

Enoteca Style

1445 India St.

546-7138

www.enotecastyle.com

Wine Shop

The Cask Room (see entry under Wine Bar)

Tango Wine Company

Tango offers great wines from around the world, of course. But the owners are also loopy about the Internet, so much so that they have an online community section where you can ask questions, start a wine blog or whatever you want. They’ll soon be launching a video section and already have a newsletter and even a T-shirt line. Cool.

Tango Wine Company

2161 India St.

564-7700

www.tangowine.com

Local Winery

Orfila Vineyards & Winery

Let Northern California take all the glory it wants. The fact of the matter is that San Diego County has somewhere around 30 wineries of its own, all of which produce some pretty fine product. The one you like best is Orfila Vineyards & Winery, even though it’s not exactly Downtown. It’s about 30 minutes outside the city, nearly into Escondido. So just go, already.

Orfila Vineyards & Winery.

13455 San Pasqual Road, Escondido

(760) 738-6500, ext. 27

www.orfila.com

Wilson Creek Winery

OK. So it’s in Temecula, which is more than an hour away. When’s that ever stopped you? If you’ve indeed visited the winery, you’ve seen the fabulous pavilion and gazebo and jazz stage. The owners have had hundreds of amazing weddings and private events. Oh – and we hear the hundreds of wines are out of this world.

Wilson Creek Winery

39560 Rancho California Rd., Temecula

(951) 699-9463

www.wilsoncreekwinery.com

Beer Selection

Hamilton’s Tavern

San Diego’s South Park has its historic side. Take Hamilton’s. It’s been licensed to serve beer and wine for over 75 years, making it the oldest beer and wine licensed location in San Diego. Formerly the beloved dive bar Sparky’s, Hamilton’s opened in 2006 under new ownership and is now solely focused on offering the highest- quality ales, real ales and craft beers from around the world.

Hamilton’s Tavern

1521 30th St.

238-5460

www.hamiltonstavern.com

Neighborhood

With its gargantuan beer selection, Neighborhood is all things to all people. It’s refined and stylish, yet it retains the beer-and-burger feel that epitomizes the San Diego mainstream. Béarnaise on your burger? You’ll find it here, and you’ll eat it amid some chic, postmodern trappings. Drink here, and you’re getting two places for the price of one.

Neighborhood

777 G St.

446-0002

Local Brewery

Stone Brewing Co.

The Stone Brewing Co. logo sports a big ugly gargoyle designed to strike fear in the hearts of evil spirits. In this case, the bad guys take the form of chemical additives, preservatives and adjuncts. One taste of this stuff, and you’ll see the gargoyle does his job very well.

Stone Brewing Co.

1999 Citracado Parkway, Escondido

(760) 471-4999

www.stonebrew.com

Airedale Brewing Co.

Airdale Brewing Co. embodies a passion for aviation and a love of great beer. Behind its founders’ backgrounds in aviation and craft brewing, Airdale strives to produce quality-handcrafted ales worthy of those pioneers who take to the skies. Airdale uses only the finest malts and hops available, paired with truly premium yeast strains and water tailor-conditioned for each specific beer style.

Airedale Brewing Co.

8385 Miramar Mall, No. 206

822-1612

www.airdalebrewing.com

Sports Bar

East Village Tavern and Bowl

Like a little beer to celebrate that 300 you just bowled? East Village has just the ticket. Not only does it have every single beer in the universe at its disposal; you can bowl that perfect game under the same roof. This is a big football-watching venue, too. If you don’t believe it, just stop in on Saturdays, Sundays and Monday nights. You haven’t seen specials like these since you last went bowling, which was in 1933 – half-priced appetizers and reduced costs on pitchers are endemic on weekends here (don’t forget the sausage sampler, giant bucket of wings and panini sandwiches). Any way you look at it, East Village Tavern and Bowl has something to – ah – strike your fancy.

East Village Tavern and Bowl

930 Market St.

677-BOWL

www.bowlevt.com

The Local Eatery and Drinking Hole

Some sports places claim they have the cheapest happy hour; others say theirs features the most beers on tap. None of ’em comes close to matching The Local’s outrageous challenge: Happy hour here runs from 4 p.m. until closing Mondays through Thursdays. At The Local, it’s all about keeping you sports guys happy.

The Local Eatery and Drinking Hole

1065 4th Ave.

231-4447

www.thelocalsandiego.com

Place to People-Watch

Altitude Sky Bar and Garden Lounge

People-watching is great at Altitude, especially if you’re prepared to look onto Downtown’s array of streets from atop the San Diego Marriott Gaslamp Quarter. If that isn’t your thing, there are plenty of people at lounge level amid all types of ages, persuasions and expectations (or lack of them) – assuming, of course, that you can keep your eyes off the killer view.

Altitude Sky Lounge

660 K St.

696-0234

www.altitudeskylounge.com

Gaslamp Tavern

Bar food is usually pretty run-of-the-mill, because the staff is there to serve you beer and booze (fuel for all that people-watching), which is why you need to go to the Gaslamp at your earliest convenience. Yes, the Gaslamp has about 1,200 beers on tap (fuel for all that people-watching), and yes, there’s an equal number of big-screen TVs for sports-gazing, but the people-checking-out quotient compares with anywhere else’s in town.

Gaslamp Tavern

868 Fifth Ave.

239-3339

www.gaslamptavern.com

Pet-friendly place

Sally’s on the Water

Gotta love Sally’s for its “yappy hour,” featuring drink and appetizer specials (if you’re real discreet, you can probably sneak some to Fido). Meanwhile, for the humans among you, Sally's pairs San Diego's finest seafood with a bayfront view. Each dish is crafted to your specifications, creating a culinary experience unrivaled among San Diego seafood restaurants, one that features an impressive wine and sake menu.

Sally’s on the Water

1 Market Pl.

358-6740

www.sallyssandiego.com

The FleetWood

The FleetWood, which is as pet-friendly as you please, also brings Downtown San Diego something it’s never seen. It’s a place where options are endless — a bar, restaurant and lounge, a place where you can meet people from all walks of life or bring your own party, a place where you can be comfortable, laid back or dressed up. Simply put, it’s San Diego’s coolest way to eat, drink and mix and keep an eye on Tigger at the same time.

The FleetWood

639 J St.

702-7700

www.thefleetwood.com

Restaurant with Live Music

Croce’s Restaurant & Jazz Bar

When rocker Jim Croce died in 1973, his wife Ingrid was left with an uncertain future. Twelve years later, she would launch this club as a tribute to her late husband. Little did she know the move would spearhead the growth of the Gaslamp Quarter into the iconic neighborhood we know today. Croce’s is worth a visit on that alone. And the food…

Croce’s Restaurant & Jazz Bar

802 5th Ave.

232-2891

www.croces.com

Urban Solace (see entry under Restaurant)

Happy Hour

La Puerta (see entry under New Restaurant)

Latitude Lounge

Latitude has a few things in common with Altitude (our Place to People-Watch selection), like the fact that it’s located in the San Diego Marriott Gaslamp Quarter. Unlike Altitude, however, it features a striking difference, in that it’s the first and only Downtown bar named by the locals. That heralds a pretty friendly crowd, there to enjoy the millions of beers and cocktails—just like you.

Latitude Lounge

660 K St.

696-0234

www.latitudeloungesd.com

Comfort Food

Urban Solace (see entry under Restaurant)

Gaslamp Tavern (see entry under Places to People-Watch)

Late-Night Eatery

Brians 24

Everybody raved about Brian’s 24 when it first opened. Maybe it was the copper-clad open kitchen, its historic “Joan Crawford” mahogany bar or its beveled glass window wall and crystal chandelier that got everybody’s attention. Or it could have been the malted waffles, krab cake Benedict or killer pastas. Likely, it was a combination of all of those and more, waiting 24 hours a day for everybody’s enjoyment.

Brians 24

828 Sixth Ave.

702-8410

www.brians24.com

Ciro’s Pizzeria

Ciro’s opened in January of 2003, but its recipes are much older, originated by a large Italian family outside New York’s Queens borough. It uses nothing but the freshest ingredients and takes pride in its lasagna, Buffalo wings, dough, pizza sauce, marinara sauce and other pasta dishes. A while back, it also expanded its storefront and has seating for up to 40 people inside. Join ’em, 24 hours!

Place to Go on a Budget

La Puerta (see entry under New Restaurant)

Lolitas (see entry under Take-Out)

Birthday Party

The Old Spaghetti Factory

Just ’cause this is a national chain doesn’t mean the fare—colored with fine antiques from around the world—takes a back seat. Find out for yourself, especially over a big birthday meal. Savor the perfectly cooked pasta and spaghetti sauces, freshly made, using only the finest ingredients. Dedicated to satisfying dining in warm surroundings, The Old Spaghetti Factory is where to wind up!

The Old Spaghetti Factory

275 Fifth Ave.

233-4323

www.osf.com

Corvette Diner

Go ahead. Move this birthday-savvy place to Point Loma’s Liberty Station after 22 years in Hillcrest, like last June. Rock ’n' roll, burgers and shakes still rule at this ’50's throwback, with sassy waitresses in poodle skirts and bouffant hairdos. The Garbage Plate, the Chili Cheez Waffle Fries and the Pickle Me Up at 7 are more than their names—they’re just a few of the items that have made Corvette Diner the landmark everybody knows it to be.

Corvette Diner

2965 Historic Decatur Rd.

(619) 542-1476

www.cohnrestaurants.com

Most Romantic Spot

1500 Ocean

Enjoy glowing sunset colors from the patio and a beachfront cabana setting at 1500 Ocean Restaurant and Bar, located inside the Hotel del Coronado. The experience begins in the Sunset Bar and its terraced entrance overlooking the Pacific. Inside, the venue features two private dining venues and a wine vault.

1500 Ocean

1500 Orange Ave., Coronado

522-8490

www.dine1500ocean.com

Chez Loma French Bistro

The first of this venue’s romantic trappings is the locale itself. It’s not situated in a restaurant space, or at least not the kind you think of right away. It’s actually situated in a house — Coronado’s 120-year-old Carez Hizar house, to be exact. And it’s moments from some of the most romantic beachland in the area.

Chez Loma French Bistro

1132 Loma Ave., Coronado

435-0661

www.chezloma.com

Ocean View

Island Prime/

C Level Lounge

C Level is like the ocean it overlooks — mesmerizing. Check out the magnificent view of the world’s largest body of water over a lobster truffle or pineapple cake. The food and the view simply can’t do without one another here.

Island Prime/C Level Lounge

880 Harbor Island Dr.

298-6802

Top of the Market

Top of the Market got its name because it’s upstairs from a fish market. Clever, eh? What’s even better is that there’s no punches pulled on expense here. Neither is there any skimping on the view. Imagine all the traditional seafood entries at your disposal, with an expanded wine list and a spectacular vista of the harbor. You’ll know you’re in San Diego. And you’ll know you’re upstairs.

Top of the Market

750 N. Harbor Dr.

(629) 232-3474

www.thefishmarket.com

Appetizers

Cowboy Star (see entry under Dinner)

Bite

Bistros/wine bars like this one traditionally serve smaller portions as their appetizers, like grilled cheese baguettes and baby beets. You can get stuff like that here, and it’s great—but we just wanted to remind you that entrees featuring grilled sweet corn and pizza Bianco are available as well. It’s called full service.

Bite

1417 University Ave.

299-BITE

www.myspace.com/bitesd

Burrito

La Puerta (see entry under New Restaurant)

Valentine’s Taco Shop

The Santa Fe burrito is the hands-down fave here — it’s the size of Wichita Falls and comes in chicken, vegetarian and beef editions to satisfy any taste. And if you’re looking for a late-night breakfast, here’s your answer.

Valentine’s Taco Shop

844 Market St.

234-8256

Burger

O’Brothers

Tasty? No question. Organic? Absolutely. Every element of the O’Brothers burger comes from a place where organic is the rule of law. The beef is raised in South Dakota. The cheese is made in Bridgewater, N.J. The buns come from Boulder. Most everything at O’Brothers is 100 percent organic. So if you’ve been looking for something real, taste it here.

O’Brothers

188 Horton Plaza

615-0909

www.obrothersburgers.com

The Corner Restaurant & Bar

The hip factor rules at The Corner. And that’s not all because of the great burgers and brews or the sweet potato fries or the fried pickles or the dipping sauce that comes with them. It’s because The Corner is located in the Carnation Milk Factory, which still showcases some of its original features. Very, very cool.

The Corner Restaurant and Bar

10th Avenue and J Street

531-8804

www.thecornersd.com

Fish Taco

The Tin Fish

Don’t worry. Really. The fish here aren’t really made of tin. That’s just what the name says. Understandably, you voted this place as among the best fish taco eateries, and the friendly, fast service probably weighed in your excellent decision.

The Tin Fish

170 6th Ave.

238-8100

www.thetinfish.com

The Local Eatery and Drinking Hole (see entry under Sports Bar)

Desserts

Extraordinary Desserts

Owner Karen Krasne says food is best enjoyed as a reflection of culture — so she embellishes her desserts with tastes from around the world. To boot, her cafe sports mementos of all sorts, from Africa to Italy, helping enhance the flavors from faraway places. Krasne says she’s discovered a connection between her yoga practice and the pleasures of a fine dessert. It so happens that the word “yum” is also a yogic mantra for healing a heart, so the link is fairly obvious. If it’s not, let us know.

Extraordinary Desserts

1430 Union St.

294-7001

www.extraordinarydesserts.com

Currant (see entry under Sunday Brunch)

Margarita

La Puerta (see entry under New Restaurant)

Fred’s Mexican Café

Fred’s Mexican Café has won a slew of awards (including this one) just by being cool. Besides serving up some of the best margaritas in town, Fred’s also can accommodate big fat gatherings, as in up to 50 or 100. That’ll hold the people-watchers over for a while.

Fred’s Mexican Café 527 5th Ave. 232-8226 www.fredsmexicancafe.com

Pizza

Basic

Everybody knows Basic’s reputation for great pizza. What everybody may not be aware of is its hip urban setting. The eatery is located in East Village and converted from a circa 1912 warehouse, It’s left open and raw, with its original brick walls, high ceilings and industrial garage doors. Meanwhile, the crowd is chill and preoccupied with those great New Haven thin-crust brick- oven pizzas, serve until 2 a.m.

Basic

410 Tenth Ave.

531-8869

www.barbasic.com

Pizzicato Gourmet Pizza

We have one word for you when it comes to Pizzicato: Try the thin-crust entries! The staff have a way of balancing the dough and the cheese they slather on it, with one amazing result. They’re not too heavy on the other toppings either; the result is some of the very best fare of its kind.

Pizzicato Gourmet Pizza

2420 Fifth Ave.

232-9000

www.pizzicatopizza.com

Salad

Currant (see entry under Sunday Brunch)

Sammy’s Woodfired Pizza

Contemporary tables and a gardened patio mark the Sammy’s atmosphere as salads and appetizers appear like magic. Meanwhile, the teriyaki chicken and grilled shrimp pizza entries are not to be missed—just leave room for that salad, an unlikely favorite in this most pleasant venue.

Sammy’s Woodfired Pizza

770 Fourth Ave.

230-8888

www.sammyspizza.com

Sandwich

Tin Can Ale House

Don’t be alarmed by the All-in-One Sandwich’s appearance—it’s supposed to be sloppy and askew, because it contains everything to eat in the universe, plus fries. It’s also a big deal among the regs here, who have 50 beers to choose from and think they may have stumbled on the perfect rock club for Bankers Hill.

Tin Can Ale House

1863 Fifth Ave.

955-8525

Grant’s Marketplace

If Grant's doesn’t carry some of the best sandwiches in the universe, then no such sandwich exists. Such a sandwich, of course, wouldn’t be complete without Boar’s Head deli meats and bread from Bread & Cie, and the smarties at Grant’s know this. Try The Californian. If the avocado doesn’t get you, you probably don’t belong on the planet.

Grant’s Marketplace

2953 Beech St.

231-0524

Steak

Cowboy Star (see entry under Best Dinner)

Donovan’s Steak & Chop House

Non-steak moments have their traditions at Donovan’s, too. That’s why the exceptional service includes a wide array of seafood to go with the elegantly appointed décor. But meanwhile, dig into the pork chops. You’ll be struck so speechless by the taste that, ironically, you’ll never be able to divulge your delight.

Donovan’s Steak & Chop House 570 K St. (also in La Jolla) 237-9700 www.donovanssteakhouse.com

Sushi

Hive Sushi Lounge

If you can get past the name “Caterpillar Roll,” you’ll enjoy this venue’s particular delicacy for what it is—it features eel and cucumber and is topped with avocado and eel sauce. There’s a whole menu of stuff like this, and it’s plastered with rolls, appetizers and drink specials for your listening and dancing pleasure.

Hive Sushi Lounge

1409 C St.

702-6010

www.hivesushilounge.com

Sushi Deli 2

Sushi Deli 2 carries most of the stuff on the menu of its Hillcrest counterpart, called, oddly enough, Sushi Deli 1. The difference is that Sushi Deil 2 is Downtown, so you get to enjoy the same delicious entries—like the Big Monster or Spider rolls—that they do up there (not to mention the legendary Sapporo beer). Dig in and wash down!

Sushi Deli 2

135 Broadway

233-3072

www.sushideli2.com

Seafood

The Oceanaire Seafood Room

Retro is the watchword at this exceptional Downtown eatery, its interior patterned after that of a 1930s ocean liner. (Maybe the chef hauls in his catch from one of the staterooms). And just because head chef Brian Malarkey left some weeks ago is no reason to stay away. The preparations and award-winning fare are still well in hand.

The Oceanaire Seafood Room 400 J St. 858-2277 www.theoceanaire.com

McCormick & Schmick’s

Tilapia and catfish are about as far apart geographically as they are gastronomically, but darned if McCormick doesn’t serve them both, along with about 30 other seafood entrees. There’s steak, too, and the cocktails will make you darn proud to wash it all down.

McCormick & Schmick’s 675 L St. 645-6545 www.mccormickandschmicks.com American

Urban Solace (see entry under Restaurant)



Dakota Grill & Spirits

Skirt steak. Mashed potatoes. Prime rib. Mashed potatoes. Cheddar biscuits and goat cheese. Mashed potatoes. Plank salmon and crushed halibut. Mashed potatoes. Piano playing in the background. It doesn’t get much more down-home than this, except maybe your meal could use a few more mashed potatoes.

Dakota Grill & Spirits

901 Fifth Ave.

234-5554

www.cohnrestaurants.com

BBQ

Kansas City Barbeque

There’s a reason that the bar at Kansas City Barbeque is called the Top Gun. Turns out it was the setting for a couple scenes in the Tom Cruise movie of the same name. But it’s the aroma that draws the patrons, inasmuch as it wafts all the way down Market Street. Barbecued beef, pork, chicken and all the sides are here for ya. Tom, however, is not. Get over it.

Kansas City Barbeque

610 W. Market St.

(619) 231-9680

www.kcbbq.net

House of Blues

Yeah, you know this venue for its great live acts and its parent company’s place in the public mind. But check this out: HoB’s passion for the South has guided the creation of its unique barbecue menu. Its chefs have developed artistic adaptations of traditional southern favorites such as Creole jambalaya and barbecue babyback ribs. HoB takes pride in serving those entries with soulful southern hospitality.

House of Blues

1055 5th Ave.

299-2583

www.hob.com

Asian Fusion

Red Pearl Kitchen

Tim and Liza Goodell had long sought the perfect location for their second Red Pearl Kitchen, and they found it in the heart of the Gaslamp. Their original Red Pearl Kitchen has been a mainstay of the Huntington Beach dining scene, and the San Diego restaurant follows suit, combining authentic Chinese/East Asian recipes with a hip, contemporary bar scene.

Red Pearl Kitchen 440 J St. 231-1100 Nobu

Nobu, the world's most recognized Japanese restaurant known for its innovative new-style Japanese Cuisine, launched here about two years ago at the Hard Rock Hotel. With the original in New York, the Nobu brand is now an empire that spans the globe, offering dishes such as yellowtail with jalapeno, tiradito Nobu style, rock shrimp tempura and blackcod with miso soup. The local entry even has a private room.

Nobu

207 Fifth Ave.

814-4124

www.hardrockhotelsd.com

Thai

Lotus Thai

With more than 40 combinations of noodle, stir-fry, curry and traditional entrées and your choice of meat, seafood or vegetables and sauce, Lotus Thai has you covered in every respect. Just don’t forget to order something with peanut sauce. Otherwise, it’s not real Thai.

Lotus Thai

906 Market St.

595-0115

Rama, a Thai Restaurant

Amid its museumlike setting and its designers’ eyes for architecture, Rama has staked a claim as among the finest Thai restaurants in town. In fact, the decor is almost a dish in itself. Ask to sit in the back room, with air chilled by a waterfall that flows over a towering rock wall.

Rama, a Thai Restaurant

327 4th Ave.

501-8424

www.ramarestaurant.com

Chinese

Red Pearl Kitchen (see entry under Asian Fusion)

Gen Lai Sen Seafood Restaurant

Park Boulevard, of course, is the Downtown gateway to University Heights, sort of like Gen Lai Sen is your gateway to the wonders of Chinese fare, at least if you’re uninitiated. And since Gen Lai Sen is on Park, that means a lot of gateways are flying around. Pay them no mind as you savor dishes like Hakka (stuffed tofu) and the seafood hot pot.

Gen Lai Sen Seafood Restaurant

1065 Park Blvd.

239-5478

www.restaurantplace.com

French

Café Chloe

Café Chloe likes to think it’s where the East Village meets Paris chic. And by any definition, the comparison is pretty darn close. Check out the “Urban Tea” feature, which includes an assortment of sandwiches and housemade cakes. You’ll see what they mean.

Café Chloe 721 9th Ave., #1 232-3242 www.cafechloe.com

Currant (see entry under Sunday Brunch)

Indian

Masala – Spices of India

If you don’t try the Love Story at Masala, this newspaper can’t be held responsible for what happens. How a simple bread and curried dip entry can make such an everlasting impression defies description. Maybe it’s the hummus. Or the garlic. Or the other spices. Anyway, go find out.

Masala – Spices of India

324 5th Ave.

232-5050

www.masalaresturant.com

Monsoon Fine Cuisine of India

This place takes its sweet time with everything, and you’re the happy beneficiary. The Tandoori chicken is one of your best bets—the dish is marinated in yogurt, lemon juice and assorted spices for about a day before it’s served. Wash this down with a soothing glass of chai tea. You won’t leave your chair, precisely because you can’t.

Monsoon Fine Cuisine of India

729 Fourth Ave.

234-5555

www.monsoonrestaurant.com

Irish

Dublin Square Irish Pub

San Diego has its own piece of Dublin, not just in atmosphere but also in practice. The building was manufactured by O’Sullivan Interiors of Dublin and shipped thousands of miles across the Atlantic. Dublin Square is an authentic Irish pub exuding warm hospitality and fun.

Dublin Square Irish Pub

554 4th Ave.

239-5818

www.dublinsquareirishpub.com

The Field

The Irish have earned a worldwide reputation for friendliness and hospitality. A trip to The Field will show you why. This turn-of-the-century Irish pub was shipped literally piece by piece from Ireland and relocated in the heart of the Gaslamp.

The Field

544 5th Ave.

232-9840

www.thefield.com

Italian

Acqua Al 2 Ristorante

The staff at Acqua Al 2 got pretty tired of the same old same-old among Italian restaurants – the menu and food, they said, lacked flair. Innovations like a series of five different pasta dishes, each with a different sauce, three different salads served creatively and cut beefsteak on a plate of warm bread and served with various sauces took care of that.

Acqua Al 2 Ristorante

322 5th Ave.

230-0382

www.acquaal2.com

Trattoria La Bocca

Trattoria La Bocca has everybody covered, by design. It’s taken great pains to include traditional Italian fare while keeping things up to date for the pleasure of the gastronomically savvy among you. On the more traditional end, there’s the boneless chicken; for you hipsters, the gnocchi is designed to tide you over. Either way, you’ll find this place burns the candle at—uh—both ends.

Trattoria La Bocca

515 Fifth Ave.

(619) 232-3352

www.trattorialabocca.com

Mediterranean

Café Sevilla

As the Gaslamp Quarter went, so went Café Sevilla of San Diego, or, depending on who you talk to, vice versa. The café has been here for more than 20 years, just about the length of time since Downtown had its last major renaissance—yet the original Spanish/Mediterranean ambiance has hung on. Try the Tapas bar on settle in with a coldcut sampler platter. Suddenly, Downtown’s a third of the world away.

Café Sevilla

555 Fourth Ave.

233-5979

www.cafesevilla.com

Sultan Schawarma

Think of schawarma as a Middle Eastern-style taco—thinly sliced cuts of meat, like chicken, beef, goat, lamb and sometimes turkey, rolled into a large piece of flatbread or pita. Inside the pita, foods like hummus, tahini, pickles, vegetables, and even french fries are added. Then head here for the delectable real thing.

Sultan Schawarma

543 Fourth Ave.

231-1824

www.sultansd.com

Mexican

La Puerta (see entry under New Restaurant)

El Vitral (see entry under New Restaurant)

Bakery

Bread on Market

Sadly (or happily, depending), the Padres have closed shop for 2009. That’s too bad, because Bread on Market kept longer hours during weekday games. You’ll just have to adjust your schedule now to get hold of some great homemade bread and sweets.

Bread on Market

730 Market St.

795-2730

www.breadonmarket.com

Heavenly Cupcake

Heavenly Cupcake specializes in baking cupcakes the old-fashioned way. Each cupcake is hand-baked throughout the day to ensure you’ll get a fresh one no matter the time. And check out the halo candy on these festive treats, especially the pumpkin number with ginger frosting. Too, too good.

Heavenly Cupcake

518 Sixth Ave.

235-9235

www.heavenlycupcake.com

Bar

Altitude (see entry under Place to People-Watch)

Currant (see entry under Sunday Brunch)

Café

Zanzibar (see entry under Lunch)

Café Chloe (see entry under French)

Catering

St. Tropez Bakery & Bistro

This concept venue was established in 2001 with the opening of the first St. Tropez in downtown Encinitas. The combination of fine French cuisine, a splendid, soothing décor, and offerings of breakfast, lunch and dinner created a unique dining experience that was well-received, and the catering took off from there. And here all this time, you thought St. Tropez was somewhere in the tropics.

St. Tropez Bakery & Bistro

600 W. Broadway

497-0297

www.sttropezbistro.com

Chef DK Catering

You crazy Downtowners are sure particular about your catering, aren’t you—either that, or this Carlsbad outfit, almost 45 miles away, does an absolutely splendid job in guaranteeing itself repeat and new business. This place can do no wrong, what with its gigantic corporate menu and Dave Krohn, its acclaimed chef.

Chef DK Catering

2502 Navarra Dr., Suite 221, Carlsbad

(760) 828-0596

www.chefdk.com

Coffee Shop

Caffé Italia

Caffe Italia is the best coffee shop in Little Italy. Not only is the service as friendly as you are; the salads are as big as you are! The place features an awesome courtyard in back and outdoor seating in front, and they’ll let you bring in your dog. They can even make you a soy chai latte, something once thought reserved for Starbucks (guess not).

Caffe Italia

1704 Indian St.

234-6767

www.caffeitalialittleitally.com

Java Jones Coffeehouse

With the opening of its roasting facility in 2007, Java Jones has been committed to selling only 100 percent organic and 100 percent fair-traded coffee. Shortly after that facility was opened, Java Jones Coffeehouse opened its fifth store. That one’s in the East Village. You should go there. Right now.

Java Jones Coffeehouse

631 9th Ave.

696-9664

www.javajonescoffeehouse.com

Deli

The Cheese Shop

Don’t let the name fool you. This place serves all sorts of fare, including blueberry pancakes. It’ll even deliver them to your office. Not bad for a place that started out as a small La Jolla cheese vendor. Oh, yeah — the sandwiches: No better grilled cheese was ever made.

The Cheese Shop

627 4th Ave.

232-2303

www.cheeseshopdeli.com

Beach City Market

Beach City offers a New York-style deli, a sushi bar, a juice and coffee bar, a salad bar, a lunchtime barbecue, hot, healthy breakfast and lunch meals and freshly prepared to-go items. In addition, the shelves are filled with drinks, wine and beer, chips, and candy and energy bars. And don’t be afraid to ask about catering. Beach City has you covered there as well.

Beach City Market

3 Horton Plaza

232-2491

www.beachcitymarket.com

Frozen Yogurt

Yogurtland

Everything’s pretty much self-serve in here, but that’s OK, ’cuz you knew what you wanted when you came in. This place has about 12 flavors, which may not seem like many, but go ahead. Be adventurous. Scoop a bunch of different ones on top of each other. Your tongue will never know what hit it.

Yogurtland

1680 India St.

544-1818

www.yogurt-land.com



Mondo Gelato

Some gelato-making styles produce a heavy frozen yogurt. Some produce a light simple frozen delicacy, while others, like the one here, produce a rich, dense, flavorful fare, without the heavy attributes of traditional premium-style ice creams. This style is generally referred to as the Sicilian style. But the real challenge is creating a recipe that fully utilizes these products and philosophies to create an outstanding product that remains true to intentions. It’s here that Mondo Gelato mixes the philosophy and science.

Mondo Gelato

435 10th Ave.

955-6630

www.mondogelatosandiego.com

Vegetarian

Pokez

If nothing else strikes you about this place (besides the delightfully garish, funky décor), it’ll be the veggie breakfast. Not only is it served all day; there are 10 entrees to choose from, all of which are as delicious as the next. Pokez also uses organic produce whenever possible, and its rice and beans are 100 vegetarian.

Pokez

947 E St.

702-7160

www.pokezsd.com

Mama’s Bakery & Lebanese Deli

This venue may look a bit out of place sandwiched among houses on Alabama Street just south of El Cajon Boulevard in North Park. It’s actually a converted old home, with the backyard now serving as a covered dining patio. Meanwhile, Mama’s offers a delicious variety of authentic Lebanese sandwiches/wraps (the manakeesh and hummus are two of the best), pies (meat, cheese and spinach here) and desserts (phyllo bread seasoned and stuffed with ground cashews, pistachios and other nuts). This is the real deal.

Mama’s Bakery & Lebanese Deli

4237 Alabama St.

688-0717

www.mamasbakery.net

Patio Dining

Sloppy Joey’s Pizza & Pasta Joint

This is a family-owned pizzeria, but once you get a load of the patio, you won’t care. The atmosphere is relaxed and fun, with a marble floor to boot. And somehow, San Diego’s ubiquitous sun is no problem at all—the combination of the buildings and the patio’s angle make it impossible for it to peek through and spoil everything.

Sloppy Joey’s Pizza & Pasta Joint

548 Fifth Ave.

525-9960

www.sloppyjoeyspizza.com

Currant (see entry under Sunday Brunch)

Senior Special

Hob Nob Hill

This place is probably San Diego’s oldest restaurant in the same location with the same ownership and management. The consistency has allowed it to continue its commitment to quality food and service with maximum economy. Just about everything, from baking fresh muffins and cakes to curing corned beef, is done on the premises.

Hob Nob Hill

2271 1st Ave.

239-8176

www.hobnobhill.com

Bartender

Billy Bonnett at La Puerta

Recently, a character tongue-in-cheekly referred to as the Masked Wrestler Nudist had baffled the cops with his impromptu appearances at a few Downtown watering holes. “We have a ton of regular guests for our Happy Hours,” La Puerta bartender Billy Bonnett commented to Downtown News about the incidents. “However, we don’t have much to go on, so I guess everyone is a suspect.” Unfazed, Bonnett went on to pour the meanest Afternoon Delight (mainly tequila) that any wrestler, clothed or not, has ever tasted, let alone seen. Now, that’s customer service!

Chad at Altitude Sky Bar and Garden Lounge

Word is that Chad looks a little like Johnny Depp and does funny bar tricks. We don’t know what “bar tricks” entails, but the Depp part is easily discernible. You’re welcome to see for yourself, of course. As likely as not, Chad will be behind the bar at one of Conde Nast’s top 25 new lounges in the world. Hopefully, those “tricks” of his involve a generous pour, the kind that would do justice to Depp’s Jack Sparrow character.

Acai Bowl

Market 32

There’s a big thing in Florida right now about an acai berry scam—to hear the newsies tell it, the fruit can do everything but wash your dishes, and somebody was trying to get a cut off the upshot. Whether or not the buzz is true, you’ll certainly find the freshest acai bowl right here, along with all kinds of other select produce, their specialty vats lining the walls like so many customers.

Farmers Market

Little Italy Mercato

It’s only been around for about a year and a half, but rumor has it that this farmers market is the best in town, and that obviously confirms your suspicions. Flowers, plants, live music and even natural pet foods coexist with the fruits and vegetables from 12 state-certified organic producers. Artisans and craftsmen roam around as well, hawking an amazing collection of specialty gifts.

Little Italy Mercato

Date Street between India and State streets

(619) 233-3769

www.littleitalysd.com



Market 32 (see entry under Acai Bowl)

Produce

Little Italy Mercato (see entry under Farmers Market)

Market 32 (see entry under Acai Bowl)

Gelato

Mondo Gelato (see entry under Frozen Yogurt)

Gelato Vero Caffe

Gelato Vero is the smallest ice cream parlor in the history of the universe. What it doesn’t have in stature, however, it makes up for in product. First of all, it makes its own gelato right on the premises, ensuring its freshness. And the staff is more than generous with its condiments—the fresh fruit, chocolate and butter. That oughta silence the naysayers who deride this place over its size.

Gelato Vero Caffe

3757 India St.

(619) 295-9269

Hot Dog

Hot Dogs @ 428

The National Hot Dog Council says Americans skarf about 20 billion—billion—hot dogs a year. If they’re that hot dog-dependent, they should all move to San Diego and at least enjoy their repast to the fullest here. And who knows; they just might take a shine to something called the tofurkey, a vegetarian delight that out-tastes the other entries.

Hot Dogs @ 428

428 G St.

544-0428

www.sandiegohotdogs.net

TJ Dawg (La Puerta; see entry under New Restaurant)

Martini

The Ivy Hotel

The Ivy Hotel—more specifically Eden, the venue’s rooftop bar—has its edgy side, just like the martini it serves. Did you know, for example, that vermouth (next to gin the principal martini ingredient) is a wine? Somehow, the staff here gets the point. Something about their martinis has that extra zing that wine lends to any occasion. Cool.

The Bitter End

A splash of Hershey’s chocolate syrup in a martini?! Yep—that’s what The Bitter End, a tri-level Gaslamp bar you really like, calls its Chocolate Bliss (emphasis on the second word). And it’s only one of several specialty martinis the End has for you, along with catering menus and hosted bar packages. Full service all around.

The Bitter End

770 Fifth Ave.

338-9300

www.thebitterend.com

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