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Sure, being a travel blogger can be fun, especially when you get to go the airport and give away United Airlines Club Passes, but it also means that people who don’t even know you get to have all kinds of opinions about you! A while ago, one person left this comment, “Shelli does not know a darn thing about West Coast foods.” And a second person agreed! At least they spelled my name right :) I’m not offended by these comments. They amuse me! The people who do know me, however, would say that I DO KNOW a thing or two about West Coast foods, and I’m going to prove it to you. I’ve got a few of my favorite places to eat right here in San Diego to share with you. You be the judge!
A few years ago, a place called Underbelly opened up. They have two locations, one in Little Italy and one in North Park. I’m partial to the North Park one, though if you’re a visitor to San Diego, it’s likely the Little Italy location would work better. The local brew pub scene is crazy intense in San Diego and for a long while, I thought this place was all about drinking beer. And in a sense it is, with its huge bar and lots of beer offerings. However, Underbelly is really about the ramen! I was suspicious at first because unless ramen is really fresh and homemade, I don’t eat it. I’ve had ramen in Japan and Hawaii, so my standards are pretty high. Not only is their ramen great, but their menu is super creative and I eat here on a regular basis. I’m stuck on the Belly of the Beast Ramen. Recently, a friend had the Chicken Confit Ramen and raved about it. I think I’ll have to try it! I’ve seen their appetizers go by, and they look tempting. I like to sit at the bar because it’s a good spot from which to people watch. If you go with a bigger crowd, there are plenty of tables. The lines can get long, but I’ve always gotten a seat. Everyone I’ve taken there has raved about Underbelly. If you like ramen, or even if you’ve never had it, this is the place… ENJOY!
I wouldn’t say San Diego is known for BBQ. We do have a few places that I’ve tried but haven’t gone back to. A year ago, a place called Grand Ole BBQ Y Asado opened up and it has an incredible following, which includes me. It’s on a corner in South Park that’s not at all in an area where tourists would go, but if you’re visiting San Diego and have a car, it would definitely make for a delicious outing. It’s all outdoors. They took a large corner spot and set up huge smokers and they smoke all kinds of meats. When they sell out what they’ve smoked, that’s it for the day. And they do sell out. I’ve had the tri-tip, turkey, ribs, and brisket. It’s ALL good but so far the brisket is best. It’s amazing! And it’s only offered at dinner time. I also really liked their chimichurri sauce, which they claim is the best chimichurri north of Buenos Aires! There’s plenty of seating at outdoor picnic tables. It’s a great low-key-come-hungry kind of place, with long lines that move fast. These guys know what they’re doing, so give it a try and let me know what you think about their smoked meats.
Let’s turn our attention away from meat to fish. It’s strange to say, because people assume San Diego being on the water and all, that we’d have lots of good local fish restaurants to choose from, but that’s not the case. The places down on the waterfront where the tourists go are only so-so and the prices are too high. I love fish, buy it from a few different fish mongers I know, and cook it at home. However, there is one fish place that is absolutely heads and tails above the rest, Blue Water Seafood Market and Grill. It’s on India Street right off of the I5, so it’s easy to get to, whether you’re local or a tourist. There’s a fish market so you can take fish to go, or stay for the restaurant. Their menu is great because you choose your fish and then get to select how you’d like it prepared. On my last visit, we had the tuna poke, fish tacos with halibut, and the grilled swordfish plate. Portions are large, everything is cooked to order, the staff is great, and their prices are right where they should be. Fish is never inexpensive, but the quality here is high and the prices are reasonable. When you see the line, don’t be discouraged. Their system for taking orders and getting everyone seated works well. There is nothing about this place I don’t like!! One topic San Diegans debate the way Texans debate BBQ is fish tacos. I’m not suggesting any particular fish taco place, but I’ll go out on a limb and say the fish tacos at Blue Water Seafood are excellent and as good as any you’ll get in San Diego. Their corn tortillas are delicious, you get to choose which fish your taco is served with (I like halibut), and the salad and sauce inside your taco have a nice kick. Try them!
I’d be remiss if I didn’t tell you about Bread & Cie. I’ve been going here for a long, long time and it’s the only bakery in San Diego I go to. It’s a one-off place, though they do have their breads for sale at some of the stores around San Diego. It’s in Hillcrest, so again, an easy spot for both locals and tourists to get to. It’s very European in the way they make their breads, pastries, and sandwiches. It’s fun to get a bread sampler plate and try a few different breads. I’m partial to their olive loaf. Their sweets are good too, and if you have the craving for something outrageous, try their chocolate pan latte. They only make one loaf of it a day and then cut it into slices, so get there early or it will be gone. I don’t care for their coffee mostly because there’s a Peet’s Coffee right next door, so if I want coffee, I’ll go to Peet’s.
While I’m thinking about sweet foods, we do have one gelato place in San Diego that fits in the best of gelato category. For us here in the states, who know gelato from having been to Italy or Buenos Aires, Gelato Vero Caffe is a winner! It’s been around since the 1980’s which means I’ve been going there forever, and I won’t admit to how often :) It’s on India Street and down the block from Bluewater Fish Restaurant that I mentioned above. Gelato Vero is open until 12 AM during the week and 1AM on the weekends, so there’s no rush to get there early in the day. Sometimes, I like to think people who come visit me in San Diego come for my sense of humor, but I know it’s for the gelato at Gelato Vero!
If you already know about my recommendations, that’s great. If not, I hope you’ll try these places and let me know. And I hope this convinces you that yes, Shelli does know a darn thing or two about food!
Check out all the Coronado / San Diego Week posts here: