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Food Hit List: June 2023

SDM staff shouts out our favorite food finds this month
Photo Credit: Airyka Rockefeller

By Mateo Hoke, Jennifer Ianni, Troy Johnson, Samantha Lacy, David Martin, Nicolle Monico, Amelia Rodriguez

We eat. And drink. A lot. We’re constantly poking our heads into kitchens across the city. We tell the stories of the people in them. And along the way, we taste some pretty remarkable things. So we decided to create this two-page spread—a monthly hit list of dishes and drinks and places and things in the food and drink scene we think will bring you decent if not great amounts of joy. Turn it into a bingo card. Go nuts.

Wayfarer Bread

Cinnamon Bun

Like cinnamon toast refracted through a three-way mirror, delicate laminations of spiced pastry seem to go on forever. Bite through the outer crust, let it shatter into pieces both in your mouth and on your lap, you are not here to be delicate. Then savor the soft inner center, the gooey, yielding heart of the bun. Sit, eyes closed. Reflect on the good decisions you’ve made. –SL

Callie Line Caught Fish
Photo Credit: James Tran


Line-Caught Fish

The fish varies, depending on whatever the freshest thing is on the boats when they pull up to the restaurant that day. It’s done in a signature Travis Swikard way: marinated in Moroccan red chermoula (lemon, green olives, barberries, lemon oil), on a bed of preserved lemon and saffron labneh (basically, yogurt of the gods). The labneh’s the bass note, the chermoula is the hi-hat. –TJ


Pick Your Poison

Youngblood is about letting go. Enter this not-so-secret speakeasy and let the talent behind the bar make the tough choices for you with a three round cocktail experience. Some of the most imaginative libations in the city can be found here among the warm lights and erotic carpet. I asked for amaro and got two kinds, with bitters, rye, and banana liqueur. Call that an easy decision. –MH

White Rice Lechon Kawali San Diego Restaurant

White Rice

Lechon Kawali

That crispy, juicy, fall-off-the-bone lechon on top of a bed of garlic rice with spicy atchara pickles and a sunny side up egg. I instantly became a fan of chef Philip Esteban after trying this dish. It’s a reminder of home, even if that home is nowhere near the Phillipines. –NM


Hyderabadi Goat Dum Biryani

Two styles of biryani are always competing for our love: Lakhnawi or Hyberadi. The latter is spicier, just unloads the collected works of the spice rack. Since biryani is mostly rice, I choose Hyberadi almost every time. To stand up to that atomic bouquet, best to choose a protein with ample personality, and goat is no wallflower protein. –TJ

Q'ero Calamari San Diego Restaurant


Calamari a La Diablada

The best home cook I know pitched this spot as her favorite restaurant in the county—and insisted I try the calamari. Erase your mental image of rubbery, deep-fried suckers. Q’ero’s spicy Peruvian version is tender and lightly crispy, studded with mushrooms, richly sauced with a slow-burn heat. –AR

Shank & Bone

Shank & Bône

Signature Pho

Shank’s signature pho is so good I got a tattoo of it. The shank, oxtail, brisket, and (my favorite) the bone marrow, compliment the bone broth to perfection (simmered for hours until the steam is intense anise and clove). Get the noodles on the side and add them at will, then order a side of the broth to-go and sip on it for breakfast like coffee. –DM

Courtesy of Steamy Piggy

Steamy Piggy

Chili Wontons

First off, order all three soup dumpling options. That’s a given. Then get the chili wontons with pork, shrimp and sweet-spicy chili sauce for yourself. You may be tempted to skip over them, but the tangy and subtle heat of these wontons will hit just right as a precursor to your ramen of choice. –NM

Wormwood Wagyu Tartare Restaurant San Diego


Wagyu Tartare

Wormwood—that antique patio, that beautifully decrepit piano, that secret urban garden—is one of the most romantic rooms in San Diego. And the Wagyu tartare lives up to that brand of special—tossed in roasted bone marrow, spiked with guajillo and Dijon, served in the charred and roasted bone. Spread it on toast, congratulate yourself on being you. –TJ

Courtesy of Yelp

Mr. A’s

Bananas Foster Milk Punch

The greatest part of the Mister A’s reinvention is the new bar overlooking Fifth Ave. It’s no longer just a special-occasion spot (though occasions will still be specialed here). The baris a bit of a scene every night, and on weekends for their new jazz brunch. Order the po’boy and the gumbo benedict over biscuits, and the fairly incredible milk punch—a bananas foster-flavored glass of sweet, mid-morning danger. –TJ

Courtesy of Yelp

Cantina Mayahuel

Blood Orange Margarita

For a marg that verges more towards the sweet versus the sour, the blood orange margarita at Normal Heights’ Cantina Mayahuel is definitely a crowd favorite. And the crowd here should know: the lowkey bar and restaurant is a beloved industry hotspot. –JI

Northside Shack San Diego Juice Bar

Northside Shack

Magic Mushroom Horchata

The thing that makes Northside Shack stand out is that they take their smoothies seriously. Here the blenders aren’t afterthoughts to the espresso machine, they’re the little countertop 2-horse-power engines that keep this place running. Get the horchata—with Lion’s Mane mushrooms, cacao nibs, dates, almonds, and cinnamon—it’s supremely spiced and not-too-sweet. Giddyup.–MH

Are you a restaurant or food- or drink-maker with something delicious that should be on SDM’s Hit List? Send the editors an email at [email protected] and tell us what you think we should try! 

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