Local Wally's Guide to San Diego

Local Wally's Guide to San Diego


California Burrito Smackdown: Rubios Versus Robertos

restaurantsLocal Wally3 Comments
Rubios California Burrito

Rubios California Burrito


Rubio's is best known for bringing the fish taco to San Diego and subsequently the rest of the world.  No doubt about it, Ralph Rubio nailed that one.  But San Diego is also known for another Cali-Mex creation, the CALIFORNIA BURRITO.  Filled with carne asada, fries, cheese, and typically sour cream, one of the Roberto's claims to have invented it.  Or Santana's?  Or ---- berto's?  No matter, it's a San Diego tradition.  And San Diegans often argue over who makes the best California Burrito with the same passion as In N Out versus Shake Shack (um, come on people, In N Out wins, no contest).  Yes, we love our California Burritos.

So Rubio's, not satisfied to have already claimed the Fish Taco crown, has decided to enter the California Burrito space.  But can they beat Roberto's????  There's only one way to find out and that's with the CALIFORNIA BURRITO SMACKDOWN:  RUBIO'S VERSUS ROBERTO'S!

AND YES, YOU CAN WIN A RUBIOS GIFT CARD.  More on that at the end.



Here are the contenders, side by side.  The Roberto's California Burrito on the left, Rubio's on the right.  Right off the bat the Rubio's appears heftier, fatter, more substantial.

On the left, Robert's. On the right, Rubio's.

On the left, Robert's. On the right, Rubio's.


It's pretty obvious that Rubio's California Burrito is fatter and heftier.   I was going to weigh it but my Biggest Loser food scale was dead, sort of like my diet.  I give this one to Rubio's for shear bulk.  Let's see what's inside these monsters.


Rubio's stuffs their burrito with steak, salsa fresca, guacamole, and fat french fries.  The flour tortilla is legit by taco shop standards and will not disappoint purists.

Inside Rubio's California Burrito

Inside Rubio's California Burrito

Inside Robert's California Burrito

Inside Robert's California Burrito

They may look similar on the outside but not inside.  Roberto's uses skinnier fries, the same meat as their carne asada burrito, cheese, and sour cream.  Roberto's has more meat than fries whereas Rubio's has a 50/50 mix.  Roberto's wins this round as it stays true to the formula - meat, fries, cheese.

Let's roll these back up and cut them in half.

My mom always said it's what's inside that counts.

My mom always said it's what's inside that counts.

Very interesting.   By visuals alone the Rubio's California Burrito is winning the battle with it's fresh ingredients and eye appeal.  This is one sexy burrito.  Roberto's, on the other hand, seems less sophisticated, perhaps even less appetizing.  I tasted the meat of both and both were very good - Rubio's had a more steak taste as if you made a steak at home and cut it into chunks.  Roberto's has a bit more of the carne asada char that you get from a taco shop grill.  'Rubio's wins this round.

Of course, a burrito needs salsa so let;'s see the options.

Roberto's Salsa Options.

Roberto's Salsa Options.

Roberto's has two salsas, a red and a green.  Not much selection but both pretty good. 

Rubio's has a plethora of salsa options!

Rubio's has a plethora of salsa options!

Rubio's has six salsa options - mild, tomatillo, spicy, roasted chipotle, and a couple of jalapeno salsas in squeeze bottles, a green and a red.  Rubio's wins this round!


Rubio's California Burrito

Rubio's California Burrito


The judges included myself and a neighbor I found trimming his own trees.  "Hey You" I shouted - "Want a Burrito?"  He climbed down faster than Curious George chasing a banana.  For me I knew which burrito was which but for my neighbor I didn't tell him anything.  He had no idea who the contenders were.  Yet his results were virtually identical.  The winner of the taste test gains an extra 3 points so it's anyone's ballgame at this point.


1.  We both agreed that while the meat was different in both that they were both good.

2.  Rubio's had more fries and the fatter fries worked against them.  There were bites where all you got were fries. This did not happen with Roberto's where every bite was a delicious combination of meat, fries, and cheese.

3.  The guac was a nice touch but the salsa fresca made the Rubio's burrito less dense and harder to hold onto if you are trying to eat this while riding a skateboard or trying to shift gears on the Porsche.  This is a major concern.

Roberto's California Burrito in hand

Roberto's California Burrito in hand

In the end the winner was.... ROBERTO'S.  It wasn't as fancy as Rubio's but the flavor was classic taco shop, the meat was more Mexican, and the grip was easier.  It is also cheaper, $7.50 versus $8.99.  So while the Rubio's was a VERY GOOD burrito, Roberto's did it just a bit better.  As Mike Love famously said about the Beach Boys, Don't F*ck With the Formula.  And since Roberto's possible created the formula, well, it's pretty easy to keep it going.

But I have to give Rubio's credit for even agreeing to this challenge and doing a take on another San Diego classic.  And don't get me wrong, the Rubio's California Burrito is a fine burrito, one that anyone would be happy to have in front of their face. 


To win a Rubio's Gift Card just go to my instagram page, like the photo of the burrito, and add a comment.  Extra points if you tag someone who would like to win a free burrito.  CONTEST ENDS AUGUST 15TH, 2018!


The Shores Restaurant in La Jolla, Beach Front Dining and San Diego Restaurant Week

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The Shores Restaurant8110 Camino Del Oro, La Jolla, CA 92037 - (858) 456-0600

The Quick:  Incredible beach front location in La Jolla, stunning views, open Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner, and Sunday Brunch.  Family friendly, active patio during the Summer.  Literally right on the beach!

The Food:  Pacific Inspired, meaning mainly burgers, seafood and steaks - figure $15 for a lunch burger to dinner entrees such as short ribs or scallops all under $30.

The Hook:  San Diego Restaurant Week, January 21 -28, 2018 - Get an appetizer, an entree, and a dessert for $30. 

The Shores Restaurant is often overlooked by locals.  Sure, it's not fancy like The Marine Room and the food isn't over the top gourmet like George's at the Cove but there is no denying that the view and location right on the beach - La Jolla Shores Beach to be exact - should get your attention. And the food, yes, it's very good!

Let's talk about San Diego Restaurant Week for a moment.  If you find yourself eating at the same old places time after time again, this is your week to explore the good eats found all around San Diego.  There are deals, great deals, to be found during San Diego Restaurant Week and if you haven't been to the Shores then put it on your list.

San Diego doesn't have that many "beach front" restaurants - the Shores is one of them!

The restaurant sits literally on the beach.  The huge bar faces the beach as do many of the dining tables.  That said, come before the sun sets for the best experience.  During Restaurant Week you get an appetizer, an entree, and dessert for $30.  They invited me in to sample the food and it was very good.  The chef had credentials from Roy's of Hawaii and there's definitely a bit of Asian influence on the menu, from killer Poke to homemade pot stickers.  But let's get on to my dinner - I know you want to see it.

Ahi Poke at The Shores Restaurant in La Jolla

Ahi Poke at The Shores Restaurant in La Jolla

I started with the Ahi Poke and it was perfectly balanced - not to much soy, just enough heat and not drenched in sesame oil, a great way to start the meal.  I regret not getting the Pot Stickers after I found out the chef spent time in Hawaii and knew his Asian cooking.  Oh well, next time.

Short Ribs at The Shores Restaurant in La Jolla

Short Ribs at The Shores Restaurant in La Jolla

My entree was the short ribs, nice and tender and succulent, just perfect.  And my wife got the fish - want to see it?

Almond crusted Butterfish at The Shores Restaurant in La Jolla

Almond crusted Butterfish at The Shores Restaurant in La Jolla

Oh yeah, this was a good one, a bit mild but very flaky and nicely done.  We ordered a couple of desserts and the one that really knocked us both out was the Creme Brulee with poached pear on top.

Killer Dessert at The Shores Restaurant in La Jolla

Killer Dessert at The Shores Restaurant in La Jolla

In the end, a great experience and what a great deal during San Diego Restaurant Week - $30 for everything!  A special Thank You to The Shores for inviting me in - you guys are awesome! 

Remember, come before the sun sets for the best experience.  And if you are reading this after restaurant week is over then put this one on your list for a sunny beach day lunch on the patio!






restaurantsLocal Wally1 Comment
Las Cuatro Milpas San Diego Best Mexican Food


857 Logan Ave, San Diego, CA 92113 |  (619) 234-4460

THE LOWDOWN:  Sketchy location and run down setting doesn't keep the locals and those in the know from lining up from 630AM to 3PM everyday for San Diego's best tacos, tamales, burritos, rice and beans. 

PRICE:  Cheap Eats - You can't spend more than $10 per person here if you tried.

Forget about trendy "street tacos" with tiny morsels that's barely enough for a bite.  This is Las Cuatro Milpas, San Diego's best Mexican restaurant.  OK, sure, it's a bit sketchy.  There neighborhood has homeless people on the sidewalk and you're not quite sure what to do when you get to the front of the line but don't worry, I'm here to help you.

First, be prepared to wait.  Consider yourself lucky if there's no line but there's nearly always a line.  Las Cuatro Milpas opens at 630AM and closes at 3.  The line moves reasonably fast so just come, don't worry about it.

Menu at Las Cuatro Milpas, 2017

The menu is simple enough. Tacos.  Tamales. Burritos.  Rice and Beans.  Honestly, I'm not even sure you can pick what meat goes in the tacos or tamales.  When you get to the front of the line you just tell them what you want and they make it.  No questions, no options.  Their tacos are deep fried and topped simply with Mexican cheese and some lettuce.  The rice and beans are huge portions and served in a bowl.  You can easily share one order with the table.  They do have a spicy version of the beans with chorizo, I believe, but the standard with some hot sauce is good enough for me.

Hot sauce at Las Cuatro Milpas

Here is the salsa bar.  LOL, while other Mexican restaurants have lots and lots of options Las Cuatro Milpas has one.  It's red, it's hot, and it's all they got so take a couple. 


So order your food and watch them cook it in front of you.  Oh yeah, you need CASH.  Do not make the rookie mistake of coming here with your American Express and then getting all negative on Yelp when you have to leave without tacos after waiting so long in line. 

Once they had you the tray of food you can grab some hot sauce and add some onions and cilantro on top.  Drinks are all in the can, waters are a buck, no beer, no wine, and NO MARGARITAS.  This isn't a theme restaurant.  There are no pinatas or ironic black velvet portraits of Elvis.  It's ain't that sort of joint. 

Once you have your food I like to head to the back where they are making tortillas. There's another dining area around the corner but that's my favorite table right there.

Tamale, rice and beans

After all that here is what I got - one tamale floating in a bowl of rice and beans - $5!  The tamale is the best tamale I have ever tasted and I've tasted a lot of tamales.  I even make my own tamales but I'm giving up now and just buying these.  Filled with meat (pork?), nice and plump and the masa is the perfect texture.  The rice and beans are delicious but attack my stomach pretty much within an hour after I eat them so, well, don't come here before getting on an airplane.  Just saying....

Las Cuatro Milpas tortillas

Oh, and every order comes with homemade tortillas! You know those tortillas you get at the supermarket?  Not even close to how good these are. 

TIP:  Bring a cooler as if you are like me you will have leftovers. They have to-go boxes near the cash register you can grab.

SUMMARY:  If you love Mexican food you need to come here.  If you're a local and you haven't been here yet then do it this weekend.  And if you're a tourist do not make the mistake of only eating Americanized Mexican food in Old Town or upscale tacos in upscale restaurants - come here for a taste of the real deal at Las Cuatro Milpas.




Lionfish Modern Coastal Cuisine - San Diego's BEST Seafood Restaurant at the Pendry Hotels & Resorts

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Lionfish Modern Coastal Cuisine

Address: 435 Fifth Ave #2, San Diego, CA 92101

Phone: (619) 738-7200

At a Glance:  Hip, trendy, noisy, lively seafood restaurant that will make you think you were transported to a Las Vegas hotspot.  Food quality top notch, one of San Diego's best new restaurants.

The lively bar at Lionfish in San Diego inside the Pendry Hotel

I'll admit it - San Diego's Gaslamp has never been my first choice for a dining destination, mainly because so many of the restaurants are geared towards tourists and conventioneers.  But that's changed now that Lionfish Modern Coastal Cuisine has opened, smack in the heart of the Gaslamp.

The menu is creative, thanks to Executive Chef Jose “JoJo” Ruiz, notably thechef de cuisine at San Diego’s Ironside Fish & Oyster Bar, one of my favorites in Little Italy.  He focuses on creating modern and creative dishes, some "sharable" and others full size entrees. 

Lionfish San Diego

The seafood is ultra fresh and sustainable, like this fabulous bite of salmon.  A lot of times sushi is disappointing outside of actual sushi restaurants but no worries here.  Grab a seat at the bar, order up off the raw menu, happy happens in San Diego.

Sharable plates at Lionfish, San Diego

Equally impressive was the New York Steak Tataki, lovely bites of thinly sliced ultra premium beef served in a garlic Ponzu sauce.  Delightful!

Insanely delicious steak at Lionfish, San Diego

As for entree's, the NY steak was insane, 20 oz. of deliciousness that, dare I say, beats Ruths' Chris and Flemings.  Tender, perfectly cooked, and spiced and sauced to make this one of the most satisfying and decadent steaks you will ever eat.  I love steak so trust me on this - this is one hellava good steak!  They also have duck, chicken, pork chops, scallops, and fresh catch seafood options.  No one goes home hungry.

Lionfish San Diego

Sides are a la carte and prepared with the same sort of care and quality as the rest of the dinner.  In other words, really good stuff and bit enough to share. 

Lionfish in San Diego is the real deal, a hip and upscale dining experience that should delight both locals and visitors.  It's fun, it's happening, it's the new hotspot in the Gaslamp that deserves your attention and appetite.

Local Wally

Old Town Mexican Cafe Review: Where to Find Good Mexican Food in San Diego

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Old Town Mexican Cafe in San Diego

Old Town Mexican Cafe in San Diego

OLD TOWN MEXICAN CAFE - 2489 San Diego Ave, San Diego, CA 92110 - (619) 297-4330

Quick Overview:  Probably the best Mexican food in Old Town San Diego, their specialty is their carnitas (tender pork) and handmade tortillas.

Tip:  For the most authentic experience sit on the right side of the restaurant, the original seating with booths and colorful decorations. The left side was originally their patio seating, now converted into more dining area. It's sunnier but has less ambiance.

Old Town Mexican Cafe Bar

Old Town Mexican Cafe Bar


Buses drop off tourists, lines out the door, Food TV hosts gushing, but is the food at Old Town Mexican Cafe really any good?  After all, it's located in San Diego Old Town, arguably one of the most touristy places in all of San Diego.

I used to dine here all the time back when I first moved to San Diego to go to SDSU. Back then I was not a Mexican food expert by any means. Heck, I ate canned tamales and Taco Bell (disclaimer: I still would eat canned tamales if you put them in front of me). When I first started coming here you could get a heaping plate of carnitas, slow cooked pork served up with a plate of onions, cilantro, cups of roaring hot salsa, and a plate of handmade tortillas, for $5.50. I was poor, the food was great, life was good.

Carnitas at Old Town Mexican Cafe

Carnitas at Old Town Mexican Cafe

Today that plate costs around $15. That's still a good price but was it as good as my memories? Well, perhaps. The beans were great and unlike some who knock off points for melted cheddar cheese instead of Mexican cheese I'm cool with that.  Tasty, good.  As for the carnitas you can order them cooked different ways, from deep fried chunks to pan fried crispy. I ordered crispy, a mistake as the meat was dry and no longer succulent but the crispy edges were tasty. I think the non-crispy version would be better, or the deep fried chunks. And yes, they have horrible plating by today's standards but this is how it has always looked and it's always been more about the food than the presentation here.

You wrap the whole thing up in a handmade tortilla. Wait, let me tell you about these things. If you've only eaten supermarket tortillas get ready because these extra thick tortillas are the bomb, really delicious. Stuff them with meat and all the fillings and top with salsa and you are good to go.

Salsa at Old Town Mexican Cafe

I forgot to tell you. When they bring you the chips (really great chips, by the way, and free with every meal which is cool) make sure you ask for the hotter hot sauce. The salsa on the left is the hot one and is really tasty. The salsa fresca on the right is good but not quite hot enough, so mix it up and go to town.

Margarita at Old Town Mexican Cafe

Margarita at Old Town Mexican Cafe

You should also get a Margarita.  House margaritas in most restaurants are not very good so upgrade to a Cadillac. I don't remember the price but it wasn't bad and the margarita surprisingly strong, I had two and regretted it later but enjoyed the ride nonetheless.

Mexican Ribs at Old Town Mexican Cafe

Mexican Ribs at Old Town Mexican Cafe

I also ordered the Mexican Ribs, about the same price as the carnitas. I used to love these ribs, cooked on a rotisserie and spiced up with a delicious salty blend. Well, I knew I was in a bit of trouble when they brought out a side of BBQ sauce. And the ribs, while tender, had none of the great spices I was expecting but rather tasted like baby backs tossed on a gas grill. Meh. Don't get these, but the rice, yeah, the rice was really good.

Making tortillas at Old Town Mexican Cafe


Tourist Recommendation:  A

Local Recommendation: B

Ambiance:  B+

Food Quality: B+

Margarita:  A

Wally Comments: I still like Old Town Mexican Cafe and would not hesitate to go back with friends from out of town. There's a nice ambiance here and the food authentic enough to please everyone. The portions are good, the tortillas and margaritas worth the wait. For locals I'm not sure I would wait in the long lines and instead just head up the hill to Ponce's or go to North County to Fidels or Tony's Jacal but overall Old Town Mexican Cafe is a solid pick for authentic Mexican food in San Diego.

Islands Restaurant: Now Serving Paradise Bikini Beach Menu (and great burgers)!

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Screen Shot 2017-01-29 at 10.42.09 AM.png

I watch what I eat.  But I'm very weak when it comes to choosing between deliciousness and low calorie options.  I know, restaurants claim their healthy options are muy bueno, but I've been tricked before. I've ordered salads thinking they were topped with cheddar cheese only to find out its carrots.  And don't get me started on cauliflower mashed "potatoes" or noodles made out of squash.

So I must admit when I saw that Island's Restaurant, San Diego's own burger joint chain, was now offering a lower calorie menu they dubbed Paradise Bikini Beach, I was highly skeptical.  I mean, in my world paradise is not low cal, it's deep fried. But there I was, staring at the healthy menu and trying, really trying, to make a good decision.

Island's Paradise Bikini Beach Tacos

The options are slim (no pun intended).  A veggie taco, a Greek salad, a Turkey Burger, and chicken tacos.  I eliminated the veggie taco immediately as it seemed exactly what I did not want in a taco.  Turkey Burger sounded good but I think it's wrong to get a burger with a salad instead of fries so that was out.  I like salads but not as an entree so that was out.  That left the chicken tacos.  Hmmm, what to do, what to do?

Malibu Burger at Island's Restaurant

And then I looked over at the standard menu.  Big fat juicy burgers with bacon, cheese, sauce, and fries!  Fries!!!  Buffalo wings, onion rings, fried fish tacos!  I mean, there in front of me was temptation.  Do I order the healthier dinner or do I go with something I know I will love?  I had to make a decision and it had to be a good one.  My wife ordered first - she went chicken tacos.  Good call.  Now my turn.  I. Am. Weak. 

I did what I had to do.  I ordered the Malibu burger - a juicy burger cooked medium (still pink) with Applewood Bacon, American Cheese, Onion, Lettuce, Tomato.  And I ordered it smothered with Thousand Island dressing.  Fries?  Of course, do you think I'm crazy not to get an order of delicious hand cut fries??? 

I was feeling a tad guilty when my burger arrived, a giant plate of wholesome deliciousness. But my wife seemed happy as well.  What?  She liked her low cal option?  Gimme that!  I took a bite and you know, it was a pretty darn tasty bite! In fact, if you did not tell me this was a low cal option I would never know.  The chicken was nicely seasoned, the salsa fresca was as good as you'll find in any San Diego taco shop (meaning quite good), there was even cheddar cheese on the tacos.  And the tacos were full sized, not the trendy "street tacos".  They came with a side of beans, not bad, not bad at all.  In fact, while I still think that Veggie Tacos are a crime I give Islands a lot of credit for making a low calorie taco dinner that tastes as good as the real deal.

So we were both happy, my wife with her tacos and me with my burger.  Of course, my wife ate a few of my fries and I let her. I did feel a little guilty, after all.

San Diego's BEST Ocean View Restaurants Review: Eddie V's Prime Seafood in La Jolla

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(858) 459-5500    1270 PROSPECT STREET, LA JOLLA, 92037 (MAP)


Eddie V's in La Jolla - San Diego's BEST Ocean View Dining

Eddie V's in La Jolla - San Diego's BEST Ocean View Dining

I get asked a lot where to go for San Diego's BEST ocean view restaurant dining. In the past I had my usual suspects - George's at the Cove's Ocean Terrace, Marine Room, Jake's Del Mar - but now I have to add Eddie V's in La Jolla, the perfect combination of stunning views, elegant dining and exquisite food.  Think I'm overstating this?  I'm not!

Let's start with the location in La Jolla.  The view is full on ocean, located right above the La Jolla Cave Store (aka Sunny Jim Cave). Waves splashing, seals barking, we're talking full on unobstructed view, one of the best in all of San Diego.  How good is the view?  How about this?

How's this for a view?  Eddie V's in La Jolla.

How's this for a view?  Eddie V's in La Jolla.

When you're done staring at the view you'll be equally impressed with the menu. I love Eddie V's for lunch because unlike so many ocean view restaurants the prices are downright reasonable. Get a burger - I mean a really great Wagyu burger with bacon, avocado, lettuce, tomato, and fries- for $14! And this isn't a "back at the bar" special, this is white tablecloth, ocean view dining.  Or try the Maine Lobster Tacos, two full size, fully loaded tacos, for $19.  Yes, full size, not silly "street tacos".  That's a great deal anywhere in San Diego, even without a view.  Let me put it this way - whether you're a San Diego local or an out of town visitor, you have to come here for lunch.

So lunch it is.  I started my meal with some oysters. I love that they have plenty of oyster options. If you don't know what you want then have the waiter bring out a selection.  The oysters were fresh, clean tasting, a perfect start with a glass of sparkling wine.

And I love appetizers!  And Crab Cakes!  And Asian inspired food!  So when I saw Jumbo Lump Crab Cake and Kung Pao Calamari, well, you know I had to get them both. Let's start with the crab cake.

Crab Cake at Eddie V's La Jolla

Is that not perfect?  The Jumbo Lump Crab Cake at Eddie V's is perhaps my most favorite, a large serving with virtually no fillers. Crispy exterior, moist fresh crab, a spicy Remoulade sauce, if you love seafood you need to get this. Simply the best. Ever.

Next up was the Point Judith Calamari, served Kung Pao style with crispy rice noodles and cashews.

Nice, crispy calamari on top of a bed of even crispier and crunchier noodles, big enough to share with a group of four. I liked it, though if I had to choose I'd stick with the crab cake.  Still, I give Eddie V's an A for effort and my wife loved, loved, loved it.  But by now I was thinking of my entree.

That's right baby, I went for the Steak Frites! The steak was a 10 oz PRIME ribeye (this was lunch, after all) served up with a variety of truffle scented mushrooms and a side of crispy Parmesan-Chive French Fries. Oh, there was a salad as well but who cares about that when you have a giant steak and fries in front of you?  And yes, Eddie V's lives up to the PRIME in its name, the steak was perfectly cooked, tender, very delicious.  Dinner portions are even larger - 22 oz bone-in ribeye, anyone? 

Eddie V La Jolla seafood fish delish

My wife was a bit more responsible with her order, getting the Parmesan Lemon Sole with lemon garlic butter. Very light, crispy exterior, and very fresh.  Good one!  I've heard from others that the Hong Kong style sea bass is outstanding - next time.

Eddie V's La Jolla fried rice

Now for some reason we ordered a side of Crab Fried Rice with mushrooms and scallions.  I mean, I don't know what we were thinking as we already had enough food on the table to feed an Army. But wow, was this good. A bit decadent, a bit rich, a huge portion, really nice addition but oh so stuffed by now.

At night the menu changes up a bit, prices edge up into the $30's but it's right in line with San Diego's dining scene. Live jazz every night in the ocean view bar, Eddie V's in La Jolla doesn't miss a beat and nails it on view, ambiance, service, and food quality. It surely has to be one of San Diego's best Ocean View restaurants and one of our best places to eat overall!  Go there, spend some time at the bar or savoring the view, Eddie V's is one of the quintessential San Diego restaurant experiences.

EDDIE V'S LA JOLLA:  Best Ocean View Dining in San Diego, Classy and Elegant, Best lunch value in La Jolla, best place to impress a date, romantic dining, Best Views.

San Diego FINALLY Gets a Real BBQ Joint - Grand Ole BBQ y Asado

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GRAND OLD BBQ Y ASADO (official site

3302 32nd Street, San Diego (map)  |  619.213.3765 (Click to Call)

AT A GLANCE:  Funky picnic style eatery surrounded by smokers, authentic BBQ, they cook to capacity and when it's gone they close.  Best BBQ in San Diego, hands down.


This is it. Do not be afraid. Instead, rejoice!

I'm picky when it comes to BBQ.  Perhaps it's because in my former life I traveled to Kansas City a lot and got to taste the real deal.  After a plate of burnt ends or smokey St Louis ribs it was always hard to come back to San Diego. Fish tacos we nail, BBQ was more elusive. But that has all changed with the opening of the Grand Ole BBQ y Asado in North Park.

Grand Ole BBQ y Asado at first looks a bit, well, temporary, but don't let that scare you off. Real BBQ is all about the food and let's face it, San Diego can use a little more Portland in it's style. The menu changes depending on what they have cooked that day.

Oh the smoke, so delightful and delicious, I knew this was going to be good from down the block.

There are sandwiches (pulled pork, brisket, etc), of course, but you can also order by the pound and that's what I recommend. The day I was there the meats were going for around $18 a pound so get a half pound of whatever looks good and add a few ribs - you can tell them how many you want and they'll weigh them out.

Beans, pulled pork, more beans (my wife loves them), smoked turkey, cole slaw, potato salad, and pork ribs - and yes, white bread!

This is what I got - here's a quick review:

White Peruvian Beans:  Creamy, almost buttery, very delicious. These are NOT your typical BBQ beans. In fact, you put these in a fancy big bowl and you'll pay big bucks for these at a normal restaurant. Grade: A

Pulled Pork: Slightly smokey, tender, juicy, just aching for a bit of Carolina vinegar sauce which is on the side the way it should be. I'd like a bit more smoke so I'll give it a B+.

Texas Turkey: My wife ordered this and I didn't say anything but I thought this was going to be a disaster. Turkey breast is hard to do right but Grand Ole BBQ nailed this one, so juicy, so flavorful, I loved it.  A+

Cole Slaw:  Nice balance, not too sweet, add some jalapenos and it's perfect. B+

Potato Salad: This deserves an award, perfect potato salad. I could not have made this better if I did it myself. A+

St Louis Ribs: OK, the real test. The ribs without extra sauce had a nice smoke to it, a slightly sweet finish that suggested almost a bit of Asian flavoring, perhaps a hint of Char Sui flavors but not in a way that makes it a crazy fusion rib. No "fall off the bone" fail. Let me just say it - best ribs in San Diego. A++

And yes, for you sauce fans there are plenty of options from sweet to spicy, Texas to Carolina, and they are all very, very good. I also like that you can grab a complimentary pile of pickles or pickled onions or jalapenos to kick it all up. And sure, get a shirt to show San Diego you know good BBQ!

Yes, best ribs in San Diego!

OK, the close up!  Don't you love it that's not all smothered in sauce? White bread included so you can make your own sandwich if you want.

Smoking up some Beef Ribs at Grand Ole BBQ.

At the end I was so impressed I asked to see what was in the smoker and he opened it up to show me the Texas Beef Short Ribs. Oh my, I wanted them so bad but they needed a few more hours on the smoker so come back at 6. Dang!  The menu changes from lunch to dinner and Sunday's there's an Argentinian menu with skirt steak and chorizo and even blood sausage (don't cringe, it's really good). I haven't tried everything but what I had I loved enough to tell you to get yourself over to Grand Ole BBQ and be ready to experience San Diego's best BBQ. 

SUMMARY:  Grand Old BBQ is to Barbecue as Las Quatros Milpas is to Tacos. It's San Diego's most authentic BBQ joint and a must taste to believe experience for anyone who loves smoked meats and a funky fun dining experience.

Local Wally

Islands Restaurant Teams With Left Coast Brewing

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Hula Burger at Islands Restaurant

If you follow me you know that I pretty much avoid nationwide chain restaurants. I mean, San Diego has so much good food that there's no reason to eat average food in an average setting. But while I avoid big chains I cheer on our local restaurants who have made it big.  And that brings me to Islands, a popular burger joint that many forget got its start in our very own Carlsbad.

Islands goes back to the early 60's when founder Tony DeGrazier stepped off the beaches of Oahu after a day of surfing with his Navy buddies and doing what came naturally to him. He went searching for a juicy burger, a hot basket of fries & a cold drink. He never forgot those days of youth and 20 years later in 1982, it was that sense of place & satisfaction he was trying to recreate when he took a little chunk of the islands & plopped it down right in the mainland of Southern California. So while Islands is a successful chain, it's still a local joint, still our restaurant, and still satisfies, whether you're coming off the swells or coming in with the family.

Local Burger meet Local Beer

And this summer, Islands Restaurants and SoCal based brewery Left Coast Brewing Co. are teaming up to create an exclusive new brew. The Hula Bay IPA – which launched in restaurants on June 13 – is a classic West Coast IPA with hints of citrus, grapefruit, tangerine and pine, and will be available for a limited time. That's the combo you want - a great fat Islands burger, a basket of their fantastic fries, and a cold local beer from Left Coast Brewing Co.

While you're there you might want to check out:

  • Heat Wave Burger:  Back on the menu for a limited time, the Heat Wave comes topped with grilled Serrano chilies, grilled green chilies, melted pepper-jack cheese and spicy mayo, and is one of the best burgers to pair with the Hula Bay IPA. Would be happy to pass along other contenders in the area for a list of “hottest burger and beer pairings for summer”, if you see a fit!
  • Colada Sunset:  Adding to Islands’ tropical cocktail repertoire, the Colada Sunset is a twist on the classic pina colada with pineapple, coconut cream and a float of Myers’s Rum.
  • Beach Cruiser Giveaway:  Each of Islands’ 54 restaurants is giving away custom his and hers Freedom Cycle Co. beach cruisers complete with Hawaiian floral designs and bells. Guests can enter every time they visit an Islands, and winners will be selected on August 18.

So go local this weekend and get a burger at Islands!  Great burgers, tacos, fries, even salads, now even better with The Hula Bay IPA.

Bite San Diego Review: Tasting San Diego One Neighborhood at a Time

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BITE SAN DIEGO |  619 634-8476

At a Glance: Culinary walking tour through some of San Diego's trendiest neighborhoods. Spend an afternoon sampling food from 4 to 5 restaurants in a small group of like minded food lovers.

Wally Says: Whether you're a tourist or a local, if you love food and love discovering new places to eat then this is your type of tour.

He cuts the cheese at Venissimo Cheese Shop in Hillcrest - wait, that didn't sound right but you get the idea!

He cuts the cheese at Venissimo Cheese Shop in Hillcrest - wait, that didn't sound right but you get the idea!

This is a pretty good idea! Bite San Diego is a food tour where you walk through various San Diego neighborhoods to taste what their restaurants have to offer. Started in 2010, BITE San Diego is an adventure for locals and tourists alike, really anyone who loves good food and wants to explore the San Diego food scene and maybe even learn a little history on the way.

What's cool about this type of tour is that you discover cool restaurants that you might have walked right by in your past. For example, Red Wing Bar and Grill in Hillcrest has been described as a dive bar by some, a crazy gay bar by others. I'd never been in but so glad I did after sampling their insanely fantastic hot wings, washed down with a giant PBR. Really, you like wings you need to get in there!

BITE San Diego has tours not only in North Park but Pacific Beach, Liberty Station, La Jolla, Encinitas, Downtown/Little Italy and Coronado. All of those areas have well known restaurants, places you've already been to, but that's not what BITE focuses on. Instead they find the eclectic and unusual, you know, the more foodie focused places that make you wonder why you've never been in before.

Walking to our next stop, Crazee Burger

Walking to our next stop, Crazee Burger

Mention Crazee Burger to someone who lives in North Park and they'll tell you that this is one of the best burgers in town. But I had never heard of them. That's one of the problems in San Diego - it's so big, so spread out, that it's impossible to have the insider scoop on every neighborhood. But that's exactly what BITE does - it shows you where the locals in that neighborhood eat, their favorites.

Our next stop was Berkeley Pizza North Park, a Chicago Style pie that has a crispy, buttery crust and lots of fresh toppings. Really great, authentic, and popular with the neighborhood locals. 

Deep dish Chicago style pizza at Berkeley Pizza North Park

Deep dish Chicago style pizza at Berkeley Pizza North Park

By now I was clearly stuffed. They call this a walking tour but you really only walk a mile and a half, maybe two total, over the entire afternoon so it's not like you're burning up calories like this was the Rock and Roll Marathon. So come hungry. Come super hungry, in fact.  But come on, our leader shouted, let's move on to the next stop!

We did a short pitstop to taste some lemonade at a coffee shop and then headed over to Splash Wine Lounge, a cool place where you can purchase a wine sample one ounce at a time. You insert a card, you push a button, and out comes your taste. It's a really great way to try some unusual wines. I wish Trader Joe's had this! And yes, food, more food, so much food that I could barely take a bite but there I was diving into a great flatbread. So. Stuffed! BITE San Diego says that this is supposed to be "bites', not a buffet, but really you need to be John Candy to not leave this tour feeling like you got more than your money's worth of deliciousness.  

So tourists, if you want to do something really unusual, if you love food, if you want to learn more about San Diego than the basic tourist stops, then pick a neighborhood and spend a few hours exploring the food scene with BITE San Diego. And locals, you'll love it too. Go discover a part of San Diego you might have overlooked - gather some friends and spend the afternoon on a BITE San Diego tour. You'll love it!