Ready to know more about San Diego?


The Food Hit List: December 2023

SDM staff shouts out their favorite food finds this month
Table full of food and drinks from San Diego restaurant Curryosity in South Park
Courtesy of Curryosity

By Jackie Bryant, Lucy Byam, Mateo Hoke, Claire Johnson, Troy Johnson, Nicolle Monico, Cole Novak, and Amelia Rodriguez

Season’s greetings. We got you the gift of great eats and drinks: 15 tacos, sandwiches, sweet treats, and other victuals so good, they just might rival your grandma’s holiday ham. Forget a partridge in a pear tree—all we need is a plate of butter chicken. Go get some.

Best food an drink San Diego Jalapeño Caesar from San Diego restaurant Paradisaea


Jalapeño Caesar

At least once a month, I make sure to clear my browser history of all the dumb things I’ve permitted myself to wonder about and eat a Caesar. It’s happiness math. One of the best ones I’ve found is at Paradisaea in Bird Rock. Baby gem lettuce, anchovies, lemon, full bread crisps in lieu of croutons, a Matterhornish pile of Parm, and slices of chilies for pop. –TJ

Black Forest Cake from restaurant Juan Jasper

Juan Jasper

Black Forest Cake

Sepulveda Meats’ tiny Golden Hill wine bar is the spot for prime cuts, big glasses of wine from all over the world, and other upscale bistro accouterments. While less buzzy, desserts change daily and are usually delicious. Recently, I scarfed down a slice of black forest cake, which is usually too loaded with syrupy cherries for my taste. This pared-down version had fresh fruit and simple whipped cream. –JB

Best food and drink San Diego: MC Sandwich from restaurant Main Chick

Main Chick

MC Sandwich

I love this sandwich so much I made it the lock screen on my phone. Swoon. I just want to look at it throughout the day. I’ll go to any lengths to consume it (traffic, acid reflux flareup, DoorDash delivery fee). The perfect spice, slaw, and savoriness smushed between two fluffy buns. Ask for their Main Chick sauce in a pint glass—they haven’t given it to me yet, but maybe you’ll luck out. –LB

Best food and drink San Diego: Steamed Mussels from JRDN restaurant Pacific Beach

JRDN Restaurant

Steamed Mussels

The next time you pass by JRDN’s patio in Pacific Beach, don’t be surprised if you see me two-handing the large mussels bowl to slurp its delicious broth. Made with garlic, chardonnay, chorizo, cream, tomato, fennel, and herb butter, this might be one of my favorite versions of the dish. Kudos to new executive chef Jerry Ranson. –NM

Best food and drink San Diego: Wachinango Taco from restaurant Flor’s Farm To Table

Flor’s Farm To Table

Wachinango Taco

I bring high standards to a $10 taco, so I’m happy to report this one made my day: perfectly cooked red snapper on a crispy mozzarella–covered corn tortilla with spicy onions and house hot sauce. It was just one of the things I loved at Flor’s in the Old Town Urban Market. Well worth dropping a Hamilton. –MH

Best food and drink San Diego: Turkey Pastrami Sandwich from restaurant Bravo Cafe & Yogurt

Bravo Cafe & Yogurt

Turkey Pastrami Sandwich

Holding it down for 27 years in Jamul, this mom-and-pop strip-mall deli offers big, loaded sandos and friendly, small-town “how ya doing”s. With paintings from local artists on the walls, it’s no-nonsense with a bit of cozy. Warm and peppery, the turkey pastrami requires two hands to eat. As it should. If somehow you’re not full after, their milkshakes are worth a stop of their own. –MH

Best food and drink San Diego: Peruvian Style Pollo A La Brasa from restaurant Pollo Peru

Pollo Peru

Peruvian Style Pollo A La Brasa

A New Yorker at heart, I am always scanning delivery apps for a Peruvian chicken spot. In my home city, there’s at least one in any delivery radius, no matter where you live. Not so in San Diego—until now. Barrio Food Hub is the home of the new Pollo Peru, a delivery- or take out–only spot dispensing intensely flavorful rotisserie chickens, served with fries and spicy white and green sauces. –JB

Best food and drink San Diego: Butter Chicken from South Park restaurant Curryosity


Butter Chicken

Trader Joe’s delightfully basic Indian meals were my guilty pleasure, then South Park’s Curryosity got the best of me. Their crispy, flaky garlic naan dipped in a steaming, zesty dish of butter chicken paired with a strawberry sangria was a culinary epiphany, forever ruining my beloved microwave dinners. –CN

Best food and drink San Diego: Key Lime Pie from restaurant Havana Grill

Havana Grill

Key Lime Pie

Local mom-and-pop Cuban restaurant Havana Grill (owner Sandra Cardet was raised in her parents’
restaurant in Cuba, moved here as a tween, and opened it with her son Alex Guevara in 2017) has low-key become a top dessert-and-coffee haven at their new space at Mission Valley Mall. These aren’t rustic sugar blobs, but modest-sized art pieces. The key lime is both dead-pretty and delicious, topped with tiny eyes of custard and key lime zest. –TJ

Best food and drink San Diego: Charred Edamame from Carlsbad restaurant Bluewater Grill

Bluewater Grill

Charred Edamame

To me, seafood restaurant happy hours are merely an excuse to hoover oysters. I’d hit Carlsbad’s Bluewater for edamame, though, even—dare I say—without the lure of discounted shellfish. The secret’s in the seasoning, a spicy, citrusy togarashi oil that balances the slight bitterness of the char. At six bucks a bowl, I’d order two. –AR

Best food and drink San Diego: Remy Dirty Martini from bar The Remy

The Remy

Remy Dirty Martini

Am I sitting off a freeway in Mission Valley, or am I in a smoky underground jazz bar thousands of miles away? With this martini in hand, I’m certain wistful old lovers are penning songs and poems about me. The housemade brine proves a perfect compliment to the gin, with the artichoke blanc smoothing the finish. Velvet. –CJ

Affogato from North Park restaurant Gelati & Peccati

Gelati & Peccati


I would pay $7 for an affogato a quarter this size. A huge blend of espresso with two bulbous scoops of gelato—your choice of flavors. Pictured: Makers Mark bourbon and vegan dark chocolate. Sugar. Caffeine. All the fuel you need for walking North Park, dodging little dogs, strollers, and awkwardly carried yoga mats. –MH

Best food and drink San Diego: Vegan Cheesy Garlic Bread from University Heights restaurant Red House Pizza

Red House Pizza

Vegan Cheesy Garlic Bread

The key to harmony in my relationship with a dairy-free sweetie is separate pizzas. But when I
dared to sample her order of “cheesy” garlic bread from University Heights’ Red House, I was pleasantly blown away: the bread was soft, the cheese gooey and salty, without that plasticky taste I associate with plant-based fromage. Maybe lovers can share everything. –AR

Chicken Tacos from Golden Hill restaurant Adalberto’s Mexican Food

Adalberto’s Mexican Food

Chicken Tacos

Taco shop aficionados, especially of the late-night kind, know the best crispy chicken tacos are at Adalberto’s. Seriously, ask around. At all three locations (Rolando, Sherman Heights, Point Loma), stewed and shredded chicken (it tastes like tinga, but I’m not sure) is served in a fried taco shell with more shredded things: lettuce and yellow cheese, plus green salsa. Side of rice and beans. –JB

Ancient Grain Burger from La Jolla restaurant Burger Lounge

Burger Lounge

Ancient Grain Burger

At most burger chains, the veg patties feel like they get about as much attention as the bathrooms (neglected). But at Burger Lounge’s La Jolla outpost (and others throughout SD), the Ancient Grain is no afterthought. Made in-house with quinoa and veggies, this is a hearty winner with none of the cholesterol or climate guilt that goes with eating cow. –MH

Share this post

Contact Us

1230 Columbia Street, Suite 800,

San Diego, CA