Coconut Magic Bar @ Waters Fine Catering
This week on the Happy Half Hour podcast, our guest is Mary Kay Waters, a classically trained San Diego chef who opened Waters Catering 30 years ago. That long ago, San Diego was awash in cheap, shoddy fast food and chain gruel. Her Waters Fine Foods café in Morena was one of the few food oases in the city, especially if you needed something on the go. She served healthy, fresh, real food—not unlike what Whole Foods does with its cafés, only hers was smaller and, quite frankly, better. She brought in an assortment of her baked goods, but it was her Coconut Magic Bar that I couldn’t get away from—little nuggets of chocolate and cookie dough and toasted coconut. Thirty-plus years of experience showed in how perfect these things are. She just released her cookbook, which is available at her retail location. Go support a local mainstay.
1122 Morena Boulevard, Linda Vista
Cornish Hen @ Tahona Bar
For next month’s review, I spent a couple nights getting deep into Old Town’s newest arrival, Tahona Bar. Mezcal is technically the headliner, and they’ve got one of the most extensive collections in the country (definitely start in their tasting room). But the food is serious, too, under chef Adrian Villareal Mora, who spent time at the legendary Noma in Demnark and in Valle de Guadalupe at Corazón de Tierra. Don’t want to give away too much, but one of the standouts was his Cornish hen over creamy polenta, topped with mole negro and chicharrones. The chicharrones add crunch and fat to the lean bird, and that mole negro is a deep, rich sauce that shows his time in Mexico.
2414 San Diego Avenue, Old Town
Smoked Turkey @ Grand Ole BBQ Flinn Springs
When San Diego’s top Texas-style barbecue joint announced it was opening a smoked-meat wonderland with fire pits, a live music stage, picnic tables, and places for the kiddos to run around, I wasn’t sure they’d make it. Primarily because it’s in Flinn Springs, about a half hour out of central San Diego. Would their killer brisket and Mexican-style entrées be a big enough pull? I was dead wrong. They are crushing it. They needed to build a fourth walk-in refrigerator because, on weekends, the place is jammed with humans. For my recent visit I tried that smoked turkey again to see if the magic remains, and it does. Turkey’s among the lamest of proteins, lean and bland. It’s the meat for people who hate meat. But their smoked turkey is a revelation of what the bird can be in the right hands, with the right smoke, and a bunch of hours slow-cooking. Make the journey out to their new place.
15505 Olde Highway 80, Flinn Springs