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The Food Hit List: October 2023

SDM staff shouts out their favorite food finds this month
Fernside, watermelon feta salad
Fernside, watermelon feta salad

By Alex Dinofia, Emily Heft, Mateo Hoke, Jennifer Ianni, Troy Johnson, Lili Kim, Samantha Lacy, Nicolle Monico, Will Riddell, and Amelia Rodriguez

San Diego is home to more than 5,000 restaurants—meaning that you could eat at a new one every single day for over 13 years before you had to resort to repeats. With all that goodness, it can be tough to narrow down your next dinner spot. That’s where we come in. Here are 15 of our favorite meals (and coffees, cocktails, and croissants) this month. Go get some.

Courtesy of Cafe 21

Cafe 21

Shrimp Corn Cake

Cafe 21’s bloody marys (topped with a salad bar; served in a ceramic head) deservedly get lots of airtime, but the decadent shrimp-and-potato corn cake is an underrated sleeper hit. It’s crowned with a poached egg and lounging in an herby pool of cilantro cream sauce rich enough to stand up to the 10 a.m. vodka. –AR

Saigon Coffee

Hanoi Egg Coffee

Starbucks who? This pick-me-up with Vietnamese coffee and fresh egg foam at Saigon is a richer, more satisfying version of a frappuccino (although, sadly, not blended). It’s breakfast on ice. Saigon started at the Hillcrest Farmers Market in 2012 and now boasts a buzzy new location in North Park. See you in line. –MH

Glutenus Maximus

Butterscotch Pecan Sticky Bun

Suns out, buns out, especially when those buns are covered in butterscotch and dusted with pecan bits. The perfect blend of salty and sweet, this roll is chewy but not overly dense. These buns are huge, so grab two forks in case you need to share (though you probably won’t want to). Check Glutenus’ website to see what farmers market it’s currently stationed at. –WR

Oscar’s Mexican Seafood


On the list of edible items that can be served in a cup, ceviche isn’t usually the first thing that comes to mind. The proximity of Oscar’s to the Pacific means this place is all about their fish. The ceviche menu includes shrimp, fish, scallop, and bluefin tuna served with crispy, hand-sized tortilla chips. This dippable snack has become my favorite post-beach ritual. –AD

Little Asia Sliders

Pork Belly Sliders

With dozens of seductive smells swirling in the air at the OB Farmers Market, it’s nearly impossible to choose a bulwark against hunger-induced overshopping. Allow me to make your life easier: Get the pork belly sliders from Little Asia Sliders. Decadent, fatty pork belly is nestled in a soft bao bun and topped with fresh carrot, cucumber, cilantro, and a drizzle of crunchy chili oil. Is it Wednesday yet? –LK

Courtesy of Lefty’s Chicago Pizzeria

Lefty’s Chicago Pizzeria

Spinach Mushroom Deep Dish

I don’t often jump into the pool that is deep-dish pizza, but at this Windy City joint covered in (admittedly bland) Illinois license plates, it’s a felony not to. Sure, Lefty’s serves delicate, crispy thin-crust, too, but come on. Catch me doing a double-reverse-pike backflip into this deep Chicago dough. –MH

TJ Oyster Bar

Octopus Taco

Decades later, TJ Oyster Bar is still the South Bay taco gem. The smoked tuna fries are like a Baja poutine. But it’s this classic octopus taco—braised until tender but still with that desirable bite, topped with one or three of the sauces (cilantro and chipotle cremas and hot sauce), and served on a good corn tortilla—that epitomizes a simple thing done extraordinarily well. –TJ

Tacos El Trompo


Chilaquiles don’t always hit (too dry, overcooked eggs, no beans?!), but when they do, you might as well write my obit and send me skyward. Two sunny-side up eggs, savory red sauce, sour cream, refried beans, Spanish rice, and avocado, portioned to feed two—all for under $10? Whew, life’s good. –NM

Wise Ox

Smoked Bologna

Brad Wise (Trust, Fort Oak, Rare Society) is famous for his killer marinades and the way he seasons proteins. Wise Ox is the butcher shop where you can buy those gems in a bag to cook yourself. Or you can get a sammy. Like this diet-breaking beauty of high-end couch food. House-made bologna, American cheese, mustard, and mayo. Sleep well. –TJ

Yalla Habibi

Fool Moudamas

When I lived in Bethlehem, fool (also spelled “foul” or “ful”) was my go-to local breakfast. Made with warm, garlicky, lemony stewed fava beans; olive oil; and pita to scoop it up, fool is what comfort food eats when it’s having a hard day. The Lebanese Yalla Habibi in the Gaslamp does fool right, with an extra garlic kick. Shawarma and kebab are the go-to here, but I’ll be back for the comfort. –MH


Watermelon Feta Salad

Salads historically occupy a lonely, shadowy spot on bar-food menus, but South Park’s Fernside gives fruit and veg their glorious place in the sun. The bar tempers the creamy whipped cheese in its watermelon-feta with sweet and nutty stuff like pistachios, pomegranate molasses, and fennel. If you, say, add a side of waffle fries, the salad won’t care—she knows she’s still the star. –AR

Peachy’s Market And Grill

Chicken Shawarma Pita

Tucked in an unassuming strip mall off El Camino, Peachy’s offers a plethora of Mediterranean delights. Containing both a specialty market (touting treasures like rose water, dried limes, and bulk feta) and a counter-serve restaurant, it’s well worth a stop on your next errand run for lunch. The chicken shawarma pita is a star: generous portions; succulent, grill-caramelized chicken; cooling, zesty yogurt sauce. –SL

Cutwater Spirits

Dragon’s Breath

Fruity tequila cocktails on hot days are the way to my heart, so the Dragon’s Breath at Cutwater Spirits’ Miramar Tasting Room really hits the spot: It’s a vibrant, magenta-hued drink made with dragonfruit, muddled strawberries, serrano, and lime juice, served in a glass that’s quarter-rimmed with black volcano salt and garnished with a slice of dragonfruit. –JI

Ramen Nagi

Veggie Ramen

A big-deal noodle shop from Tokyo touched down in SD in August. The cozy sit-down spot, next to Raised by Wolves in UTC, is helmed by chef Ryoichi Nishio, who (literally) wrote the book on ramen—his knowledge is encyclopedic. Surprisingly hearty for a veggie-based soup, Ramen Nagi’s Veggie King comes stacked with toppings (get the soft-boiled egg) and is fully customizable, from salt to heat to noodle thickness. –EH

Parakeet Cafe

Banana Chocolate Croissant

With a new pastry chef, Parakeet is singing. This is basically like if a flaky chocolate croissant and a gooey banana-bread pudding had a baby, then covered that baby in toasted almonds and powdered sugar. Crispy outside, rich on the inside. Delicious, baby. –MH

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