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The Food Hit List: January 2023

The SDM staff shouts out our favorite food finds this month

By Jackie Bryant, Mateo Hoke, Troy Johnson, Samantha Lacy

“You gotta try this Señorita bread!” yelled managing editor Jackie Bryant, mouth a bit full. 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.


Nomad/Charcoal & Soy Food Truck

Smoked Ribs

Nomad Donuts owner Brad Keiller is transferring his
food truck to young chef Andrew Reyes’ new concept, Charcoal and Soy. Find the truck’s schedule on IG (or just luck into them near center city), and try their smoked ribs with lemongrass ponzu and a pretty incredible seared albacore poke. —TJ

Mochinut (Encinitas)

Rice Dog

If you’re looking to really up your 3 pm snack game, look no further than the rice dog at Mochinut. A hilarious Korean/American meet-cute, this corn dog dressed up in glutinous rice batter, studded with various fried toppings (flaming hot Cheetos anyone? Lego-sized chunks of fried potato?) and filled—or not—with a whole mozzarella stick, will keep you more than occupied between meals. —SL


Balboa South

The Centennial Burger

Third Avenue is to Chula Vista what 30th and University is to North Park. Compelling indie businesses creating a walkable attraction. The Balboa is the spot for burgers. And the standout is the behemoth Centennial: double patty, double bacon, American cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion, and an animal-style- adjacent aioli. —TJ

Bom Bom

BOMBOM Bake House

Nutella Bomboliini

Upon first glance, I would have sworn I was at my fav patisserie on Rue Rambuteau in Paris, buying light, puffy, beignet chocolat. These treats from Chula Vista’s BomBom are more in the Italian 5 vein and come in rotating flavors like apple pie and strawberries and creme. Chase them down at various farmers markets. —MH

Temaki rolls

Temaki Bar

Dre’s Pop n’ Rock Handroll

A gimmick? Maybe. Are there “better” things on Temaki’s menu? Yes. But something about the way fruity pop-rocks mingle amid perfectly warmed rice grains, set off by luscious mango and crunchy bang-bang shrimp, has us hanging up our critic hats and loosening our food morals. It’s fun, it’s yummy, and there’s nothing wrong with that. —SL

Rosanna’s Pasta Shop

Eggplant Parmesan

Tender, custardy eggplant, yielding under layers of melted cheese and zesty tomato sauce, all wrapped in a soft but toasty house-baked roll, this is a classic done right. Rosanna’s has been serving the North County community since 1987, and they’ve stuck around for a reason. This tiny Italian pasta shop and pantry delivers family recipes made from the heart. —SL



Señorita Bread

Bay Area cult-favorite Filipino bakery Starbread made its way to Chula Vista in 2022, boasting its signature item, Señorita bread, which are individual palm-sized bread pockets from heaven with a texture somewhere between classic pandesal and pop- from-the-tube crescent rolls. Served piping hot, the breads are slathered in butter and sugar and are best bought in several multiples of 10—you will eat at least five in one sitting. —JB

Herb & Wood

Grandma’s Mole

Two delicacies I’ve struggled to appreciate in 15 years as a food writer: uni and mole. Chef Carlos Anthony’s beef cheek Oaxacan mole at Herb & Wood is the exception. It’s his grandmother’s recipe, taking days of preparation for a silky almost creamy flavor (not burnt) with pickled onions, cilantro, and sesame. Gateway mole. —TJ


Ambrogio By Acquerello

Linguine With Mint And Parmigiano Reggiano

From the team behind the beloved Milan-style pizza joint Ambrogio15 is Ambrogio by Acquerello, which opened in La Jolla in late 2022. The tasting menu was made in concert with Michelin-starred Italian chef Silvio Salmoiraghi and features a stand out dish: house made linguine with mint and 24-month-aged Parmigiano Reggiano. Simple and perfect. —JB

Golden Mushroom

Golden Mushroom Co.

Mushroom Grow Box

Mushrooms can get expensive, especially venturing beyond button shapes. Kits from SD-local Golden Mushroom Co. go for only $25 and offer a fungi fix without mushrooming your spending. The boxes yield more than a pound of Lions Mane or various oysters. Just spray with water, and wait for the mushroom magic. —MH



Japanese Sweet Potatoes

French onion dip is not just for football-watching parties in the ’80s. Ironside’s new exec chef Danielle Van Steen (formerly exec at Bettina in Santa Barbara) gives us a distant, far better relative of the American classic—a scallion spread for crispy-tender Japanese sweet potatoes. —TJ

Smash n dash 2



Available only by pick-up or app delivery from the Aztec Food Hub ghost kitchen, Smash-N-Dash is a new-ish burger concept that makes—wait for it—smashburgers, some of the best in town. The lacy patties comprise a burger that’s a hybrid between traditional smashburgers and Oklahoma Onion Burgers, so think crisp, flavorful meat, lots-o-grilled onions, and add-ons like nuclear spicy house sauce and tons of jalapeños. —JB

Parakeet Cafe

Parakeet Café

Power Bowl

San Diego needs 1,000 more healthy, real-food lunch options. I sin at night; daytime eating is the make-do. Parakeet owner got into healthy food (she worked with the Mexican government in nutrition) when her daughter got sick. The power bowl is roasted veggies and eggs, but the spicy labneh (strained, gorgeous yogurt) makes it sing. —TJ


Davanti Enoteca

Ligurian Flatbread

What an unexpected knockout. A specialty of Liguria, this Italian flatbread at Davanti Enoteca is stuffed with soft cow’s cheese, then topped with honeycomb. The crispy warm, savory bread, the sweet of the honey, and the cheese right there in between. —TJ

Born & Raised

Born & Raised

Dirty Hash Browns

Few high-end steakhouses will give you a Tetris stick of browned spuds that look like a cross between a brick of gold and fast-food hash browns (a great American intoxicant). But then again, few have framed prints of Ol’ Dirty Bastard. It’s hash browns with creme fraiche and smoked trout roe. —TJ

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! 

Goal is pretty simple—to find the best things to eat and drink in San Diego and tell everyone we know. From mom-and-pop neighborhood gems to the best restaurants in town. From food carts to farmers market stands to upstart food- and drink-makers and brands.

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