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The Food Hit List: July 2023

SDM staff shouts out our favorite food finds this month
Courtesy of Civico 1845

By Mateo Hoke, Jennifer Ianni, Troy Johnson, David Martin, Nicolle Monico, Cole Novak, and Amelia Rodriguez

The SD food scene gets better by the minute, and our staff is out there, day after day, heroically tasting as much good stuff as we can. Each month, we’re compiling a hit list of some our favorite dishes and drinks we think our readers might want to put their mouths on. Go get some.

Seafood Charcuterie Board Arlo 15 Things 2

Seafood Charcuterie Board – Arlo

Chef Josh Mouzakes is really cooking at Arlo, making dishes where you can see the creative idea but it doesn’t taste like an “idea.” Just tastes pretty damn great. Like this secret-menu charcuterie board—all the usual turf treats, flipped on their head with surf. The “oh, damn” parts are smoked mussels and clams, smoked salmon dip made with salmon belly and Dijon, and shrimp transformed into paprika- spiked chorizo TJ

Strawberry Shack Shake 15 Things 3

Strawberry Shack Shake – Strawberry Shack

I was the kid who’d eat around the strawberry flavor in a slab of Neopolitan. Recently, though, I’m a convert to berry ice cream, thanks partly to this Carlsbad stand’s shake. The shack forgoes chemically artificial fruit, instead blending frozen vanilla custard with fresh local strawberries. Tastes like summer. –AR

Tomato Provolone Croissant Blackmarket Bakery 15 Things 3

Tomato Provolone Croissant – Blackmarket Bakery

There are sweet people and there are savory people, and while it’s rare to find something they both will agree on, I would challenge anyone to find fault with the Tomato Provolone Croissant at Blackmarket Bakery. Each bite is flaky and buttery, with sweet tomatoes and melted provolone cheese folded into a warm, delicate pastry. Blackmarket Bakery just opened its second San Diego location in East Village. –JI

Oxtail Little Duchie 15 Things 2

Oxtail – Little Dutchie

Oxtail is the super bone, the tastiest cut. It’s the one that makes soups across all cultures taste indescribably good, thanks to all the collagen, which turns into silky, rich umami when cooked slow and cooked right. Don’t often see it at a food truck, though, nor do you taste it as good as Jamaican-Caribbean-African food truck Little Dutchie’s—swimming in a near-jerk sauce. –TJ

Ravioli Di Ricotta E Spinach Solare 15 Things 2

Ravioli Di Ricotta E Spinaci – Solare

Solare is not-so-quietly one of the most consistently good Italian restaurants in the city. Owner Randy Smerik is an Italian wine obsessive, so his list is gold with silky Barolos and rarer varietals from the boot. But this simple ravioli—made in-house; filled with spinach, Grana Padano (like an upgraded Parm-Reg), and ricotta; topped with butter-sage sauce— will make you a better you. –TJ

Mi Xao Tofu Dao Fu 15 Things

Mi Xao Tofu – Dao Fu

Behind a nondescript Normal Heights storefront hides housemade tofu so good it could crack the most ardent plant protein naysayer. Bookended by a complimentary salad (with more tofu!) and free ice cream, your stir fry arrives on a plate resembling Paul Bunyan’s frisbee and sets you back less than 15 bucks. –AR

Surf & Turf “Double Double” – Sea Tavern

A shout out to In-N-Out Burger, the Surf & Turf “Double Double” is so much more. A Waygu-blend burger, a giant crab croquette, and a crispy hunk of pan-fried mozzarella come topped with an onion jam that seals the deal on this tasty DD. DM

Oven-Roasted Catfish Phuon Trang 15 Things

Oven-Roasted Catfish – Phuong Trang

Phuong Trang is the Vietnamese icon. Decades ago, most non-Vietnamese San Diegans discovered pho here. But the real magic is this traditional catfish, cooked whole and caramelized in a clay pot—salty, tender, slightly sweet, eaten with herbs and dipped in fish sauce. Has that deep umami of the best rotisserie chickens. –TJ

Skirt Steak Havana Grill 15 Things

Skirt Steak – Havana Grill

At first glance, you may snub the newly opened second outpost of Havana Grill in Mission Valley based on location. But the skirt steak with rice, beans, and fried plantains is so perfectly flavored that you almost forget you’re staring out at a parking lot. Forget your passport—Cuba is now just a strip mall away. –NM

Carolina Caviar Mad Much Grilled Cheezer Co. 15 Things 2

Carolina Caviar – Mad Munch Grilled Cheezer Co.

Munchies be damned. Mad Munch on Newport Avenue is a friend to glassy-eyed OB stoners and… others, too. With a menu of both meaty and veg cheezers, and fried sides like cheddar bombz and Old Bay–seasoned curly fries, Mad Munch quenches cravings. A recent special, the Carolina Caviar comes with homemade pimento cheese, tomatoes, Colby Jack, and cheddar on sourdough bread. Not mad at that. MH

Rossini Acquarello – Ambrogio by Acquarello

One of the more stunning vegan dishes in the city. Part of the vegetarian tasting menu at Ambrogio by Acquarello—a concept from Ambrogio15 owners and Michelin-star Italian chefs Silvio Salmoiraghi and Choi Cheolhyeok (of Acquarello in Venice). It takes an inherently carnivore dish— tournedos rossini (filet mignon with foie gras)—and flips it, using veggie stock, eggplant, and daikon radish in a miso broth. Plant-based magic tricks. –TJ

Cheese Pupusas – El Salvadoreño

No one makes pupusas like the women in my family. On my quest to find the most authentic ones in SD, I stumbled upon El Salvadoreño. There’s a delicate balance of masa and cheese (plus the right combo of cheeses) along with salty-tangy curtido that makes for a great pupusa and these bad boys get pretty damn authentic. –NM

Paccheri Al Ragu Calabrese Civico 1845 15 Things

Paccheri Al Ragu Calabrese – Civico 1845

This may get me canceled, but personally, I don’t love Italian food. All those carbs, and the napping that must take place after… But the Ragu Calabrese at Civico may have won me over. Made with a garganelli pasta, slow-braised pork ragu, Calabrian sausage, pork shoulder, pancetta, and meatballs, all topped with pecorino cheese—it’s a meat lover’s (and now my) dream. –CN

Mother Earth Buddhe Bowl The Handmade Chef Meal Prep Co. 15 Things

Mother Earth Buddha Bowl – The Handmade Chef Meal Prep Co.

This new, entirely gluten-free eatery offers quick, healthy meals downtown that are packed with flavor. The Buddha bowl comes with an ancient grain blend, red chile–glazed sweet potatoes, charred onion, portobello mushrooms, kale pesto, arugula, and red pepper miso sauce, plus a protein of your choice. –NM

Garibaldi Sheet Music Bread 15 Things 2

Sheet Music Bread – Garibaldi

When InterContinental Hotel first opened, they invested in a powerhouse duo of chefs with strong local-food ethos (Paul McCabe, Amy DiBiase). Now they have another formidable pair in drinks talent Jeff Josenhans and new exec chef Ricardo Herederia (formerly of Alchemy in South Park). Sit on their patio, stare at the bay, and try this sheet music bread (diaphanously thin, crispy flatbread with whipped sheep’s milk ricotta, preserved lemon puree, and white sturgeon caviar). –TJ

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